I believe that a preacher of the Gospel should know something about everything. Not be a know-it-all, but know something about it all. He should ably extract knowledge from every area and facet of life and use it in his message in an organic and fluid manner. If he cannot, he can only prove himself drone and drudger: competent to do busy work but not to teach.
Are these strong words? Yes. But not my opinion only. George Herbert, in his terse and powerful classic The Country Parson, writes of the parson’s knowledge (Chapter IV):
The country parson is full of all knowledge. They say, it is an ill mason that refuses any stone: and there is no knowledge, but, in a skillful hand, serves either positively as it is, or else to illustrate some other knowledge. He condescends even to the knowledge of tillage, and pasturage, and makes great use of them in teaching, because people, by what they understand, are best led to what they understand not.
Look at our Savior Himself—the original Parson (Person, Man)—who knew something about all walks of life: agriculture, business (Matt. 20:1–16), investment (Matt. 25:14–30), government (judges and judgment), sailing, fishing, travel, geography, etc. His foreshadowing in Solomon presents us a picture of a preacher (Eccl. 1:1) that knows something about biology, botany and zoology (1 Kings 4:29–34), as well as building, business, finance, labor, government, and much more. Paul, as well, had working knowledge of classical philosophy and literature (Acts 17:28; Tit. 1:12), history, sports, soldiery and war, business, and more.
How many times have I heard a preacher go on about justification by faith or some related precious doctrine, and repeat himself into irrelevance because he has no way to explain the faith aside from stating what a confession or a tradition has said? (And yet he goes on for 45 minutes). Even using Scriptural language over and over loses its effect when the preacher has no way to enter into the knowledge and situation of his audience and earn their attention. Please don’t write me and chastise me about the irrepressible power of God’s word; I know what the Scriptures say (Is. 55:10–11; 2 Tim. 3:15–17; Heb. 4:12). But I also know that same Word says the traditions, methods, and other incompetencies of purported spiritual leaders can nullify these effects (Matt. 15:6; 22:23–33; Mark 7:13; Acts 7:51–53).
Herbert urged the preacher to have broad knowledge of every facet of life for the purpose of teaching:
This is the skill, and doubtless the Holy Scripture intends thus much, when it condescends to the naming of a plough, a hatchet, a bushel, leaven, boys piping and dancing; showing that things of ordinary use are not only to serve in the way of drudgery but to be washed and cleansed and serve for lights even of Heavenly Truths.
This parson should go so far as to act (to some extent) as a lawyer among his flock, and thus he should study laws and cases, and talk with professional lawyers.3] He should also act as a physician (again, within reason here), and thus should study some about anatomy, medicine, home remedies, and should talk with doctors frequently; this if for no other purpose than using knowledge in teaching, but also for practical purposes and having contacts with doctors in time of such need.
When God decided to deliver the ultimate revelation of Himself to man, to came as a man (John 1:18). God entered man’s condition and spoke to him as a one of his own. Jesus Christ, in all that He says and is, is the exegesis of God. Those gifted and indebted with carrying on that exegesis must also enter into man’s condition and speak to man where he is.
So how much does your preacher know? Can he infuse the Gospel into every area of your life because he has taken care to know much about your life? If he cannot take knowledge from every area and facet of human thought and action, and apply it to his message in an organic and fluid manner, then I just wonder how competent to lead he really is.
Granted, I speak as one from the pew. I can anticipate now that many preachers who read this will grow infuriated with me and want to respond. They will certainly point out that Joel McDurmon has no pastoral experience, and has no idea what it takes to lead a flock. Granted. But I know something about being a sheep, and I know something about sitting through pointless, uninteresting sermons and lectures that do not inform, do not relate, and do not inspire. I also know something about a few gifted men who have radically transformed my life because they knew something about women, or fishing, or gardening, working on engines, or failing in their own lives, or marketing, or weightlifting, or a dozen other things.
This is one reason I share in the mission of American Vision: “Restoring America to its biblical foundations.” If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do? (Ps. 11:3). And so we pursue this vision: “An America that recognizes the sovereignty of God over all of life, where Christians apply a Biblical worldview to every facet of society.” And how can we, as Christians, rebuild foundations for every facet of society if we have no knowledge of every facet of society. If, in the face of social turmoil and human sweat (Gen. 3:19), we stand speechless and answerless; or worse, we address the political and economic stresses that consume most of daily life by teaching Christians not to get involved in it, or to hope for some form of escape? How shall we reform a life we are taught constantly to run from? How shall we build and maintain “foundations” if we know nothing about foundation building and maintenance?
If your preacher lacks in this area, or if you are a preacher or officer in a place of leadership, then you should take action. Buy your preacher a book on politics or economics from our webstore. Buy one for yourself. Get a download on how Christians should view the future, business, etc. Or a book. This is our mission. Let us help you. If not us then do it some other way, but do it. Take action. Get a broader vision of redemption: expand God’s Word into every area of life.
God has called His shepherds to higher standard of applying His word to all good works (2 Tim. 3:17). They must learn and study every facet of life so that they can competently do this. They must learn to speak man-to-man and life-to-man as God does, not tradition-to-man as so many do, and this includes many in the “Reformed” tradition who have diluted that tradition to the rudiments and elements of that tradition. It also includes the wildly popular megachurch tradition, which fools people into the trap of tradition in the name of anti-tradition. A trend is nothing but a tradition made palatable to the fashion conscious.
The classic from which I quoted begins with this blunt bit of truth: “A Pastor is the deputy of Christ for the reducing of man to the obedience of God.” This “reducing” is not a slavish big-brothering, but an entering into man’s life in a way that he understands. To reform the whole man means that we enter into the whole of his life. Herbert wrote to his brother in Paris: “Let there be no kind of excellency which it is possible for you to attain, which you seek not.” All pastors, and all Christians, should have this attitude. Those preachers who refuse to broaden their knowledge will not attain the height of the calling God has given them. Their flocks will remain classic “Sunday Christians,” whom we should hereafter identify as “14% Christians” because that’s all one day a week amounts to. And I’d say that’s not a very good return on our Savior’s investment.
 George Herbert, The Works of George Herbert: In Prose and Verse, ed. Robert Aris Willmont (New York: Appleton and Co., 1869 ), 222.
 Herbert, 259.
 Herbert, 262–264.
 Herbert, 264–266.
 Herbert, 217.
 Herbert, 222 footnote.
Article posted May 15, 2009