by Larry B. Elrod
"The highest honor of all honors on the face of the earth is that we should have a calling that links us in this intimate way to a great and infinite Being."
"When I think of the call to preaching and try to reduce it to one pregnant statement that best describes it, I cannot rise any higher than man of God," declared Conrad Mbewe.
"I would venture to say that the church's greatest need and, therefore, the world's greatest need, is men of God-men who are known to be so not because they wear dark collars, but because of godly characters and a ministry of the Book that is transforming lives and bringing honor and glory to the living God," he added.
A Zambian who has been called "the Spurgeon of Africa," Mbewe is pastor of Lusaka's Kabwata Baptist Church. His message, to students and faculty at Midwestern Baptist theological Seminary at Kansas City, Mo., was drawn from 1 Timothy 6:11 and from 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
Mbewe noted that the two passages in Timothy are the only ones in the New Testament to use the phrase "man of God." However, the phrase "man of God" is used in the Old Testament no less than 80 times. Moses, Elijah, Elisha and David were all called men of God.
"What I find as a common denominator in all of this is that each one was a prophet of God," Mbewe said. "He was an individual who spent time in the presence of God to get a message from God. Then he would appear before God's people and say, ‘Thus saith the Lord.' There was an authority in his ministry because of his relationship to the Creator of the universe, the Governor of history, the Savior of his people and the coming Judge of the living and the dead."
Such men, though not voted into their positions, were listened to by the people because each of them was aligned with "the One who matters," God himself, Mbewe said. The title "man of God" is not one a pastor should demand from his people, but one that reflects his character and the fruit of his work, the speaker added.
"The very first responsibility that this great honor gives to all of us is that of pursuing holiness," said Mbewe, referring to 1 Timothy 6:11.
"Our chief call is not so much to put together messages and deliver them to God's people. It is to be sure that we ourselves are being conformed more and more into the image of the ever-blessed Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ," Mbewe declared. "That is our first call. Our first business is not so much with the message as with the messenger himself."
"Our pulpits will grow in power and strength when they are occupied by men whose power is derived from godly character."
Regarding the work itself-another aspect of being a "man of God"-Mbewe noted that in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 "Paul is saying that Timothy is accountable to God for a work entrusted into his hands."
Describing the image created in this passage as one of a tradesman who has the job of repairing a particular kind of equipment, Mbewe said: "Those who have trained him and equipped him have given him a box in which all the tools necessary for the work are enclosed….What the Apostle Paul is saying here is that you had better be sure you are doing God's work and you are doing God's work His way because at the end of the day you will have an account to give to Him," Mbewe said.
"The work of being a preacher is not one we volunteer for. It must be the fruit of a divine call," he said.
"Remind yourself, ‘My instructions are from God. I do not get my cue from the spectators. I am a man of God.'" Mbewe continued, "My job is the salvation of sinners and the sanctification of saints. I must play on that one-string banjo to my dying day. God help me to do it justice. I have a charge to keep, an account to give on that great and awful day. I am a man of God.
"My plea is that we may cry to God every day of our lives, Lord, make me and keep me a man of God."