I’m reading Fred Craddock‘s book, Preaching, for a class on, well, preaching. In it, it notes – while avoiding the Augustine dispute with Donatus – that the preacher’s moral character is a part of the sermon.
I see the same thing in 1 Thessalonians 2. Paul is intent to give a good account of himself. He is no Sophist, he declares, using his talents to make money, to trick people, to be lazy. What he is has to give is too important to hold on too and to prevent by simply being lazy. He works to contribute to the community he is in. Sure, he says, he could sit and let people pamper him, fawning all over him, but his gospel is too powerful to recline on a sofa.
So, I was thinking… maybe Augustine is right. The efficacy of the preaching outweighs the moral character of the preacher, but if the preacher does not care about the moral character of him/herself, then this will get in the way of the message. The message will work, if given space… by a poor leader, a contemptible character will take up that space around him/herself so that nothing can work. If everyone is paying attention to the character of the speaker, the message will cease having a place to take hold.
By the way, the book thus far is awesome.