Pastor Gutierrez brings God’s Word to us this evening.

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The Dangers of Picking Favorite Preachers”

1 Corinthians 1:10-15; 2:1-5

June 11, 2023

Faith Presbyterian Church – Evening Service

                                                                 Pastor Gutiérrez

Tonight’s sermon title is “The Dangers of Picking Favorite Preachers.” But I think we must have left off the tagline. It should have read “The Dangers of Picking Favorite Preachers – unless that favorite preacher is of course Pastor Gutierrez.”

Obviously, I’m joking. We don’t even need to say it. We all know who our favorite is.

No, but in all seriousness, there are now three full time pastors here at Faith Presbyterian Church, and a Pastor Emeritus who pastored here for 41 years. As you hear from four very different preachers and personalities, some who are familiar to you, some who are new to you, others who think like you and still others who don’t think like you, it is only natural that you would want to compare and evaluate the ministers who speak from this pulpit and to pick your favorites.

And that is why I chose this passage and theme tonight. And before I read our passage this evening, I would like to take one more moment to frame this message.

In 2012, after thirty-two years of pastoring Bethlehem Baptist Church, John Piper decided to preach a sermon to prepare his church for the arrival of a new pastor who would take his place. Piper saw the wisdom in preaching what he referred to as a “preemptive” sermon to ease that transition. A sermon on division and allegiances to pastors.

Piper noted that he chose to preach on 1 Corinthians, because it was a text designed by God to “teach a church how to think and feel about a situation in the church where…leaders have become a flashpoint of pride and division.”[1] He explained that while that was the case in Corinth, to his knowledge it is was not the case at his local church. Nor do I know it to be the case here at FPC.

So, his message, and my message this evening, is a preemptive message.

Piper noted, “I am not aiming to remove a problem [that already exists]; I am aiming to prevent one. If the truths of this text take hold of us as a church, what a wonderful, peaceful, humble, God-exalting season this will be. That’s my aim.” [Piper]

And that is my aim this evening as well. To remind us all why we are here, and to be on high alert against the devil’s schemes to divide, and to seek to have a unified, God-exalting focus on the preaching of God’s Word.

With that in mind, let’s turn now to the reading of God’s holy, inerrant, and authoritative word:

1 Corinthians 1:10-15, 2:1-5

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.

1 Cor. 2:1   And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

This is the Word of the Lord. (Thanks be to God.)

Let’s pray together.


As we heard from Pastor Nicoletti this morning, there can be a danger in reducing church leaders to their role, so that they are no longer seen first as Christians or as human beings.

The point this evening, is that within the specific role of pastor/preacher, God has called his ministers to a particular role of leadership and authority in the church. And in their role, they do not speak for themselves. They speak for God.

The Conflict in Corinth

The reason for the conflict in Corinth was that people were confusing the person for the role.

They were attaching themselves to their favorite leaders, and by picking their favorites, they were causing division in the church. Some liked Paul best, because after all, he had planted the church, he had started everything.

Then there were others who seemed to think more highly of Apollos, because he had discipled them – he had watered them. But then others wanted to follow Peter, perhaps because he was from the original group of the apostles – he was from the original guard.

Then there were those who I imagine thought of themselves even holier than all of them who would say, “I follow Christ.” It makes you wonder if this was perhaps another way of saying that they didn’t listen to corrupt men. They had seen the corruption of the Pharisees, and for them, their relationship was directly with Christ. They didn’t need a minister. Just “me and my Bible” or “me and my scroll.”

These Christians were claiming allegiances to particular leaders, to the exclusion of the other leaders, and in so doing, were dividing Christ’s church and mission. Paul responds to the conflict by confronting those who held their allegiance with him: “Was I crucified for you?!”

Paul, in no uncertain terms, was demonstrating that preaching was not about him, or allegiance to him. They were not to follow him, nor were they to follow Apollos.

While they were tools chosen by God to plant and to water, they were not what the Corinthians neededto be focusing on. They needed to be focusing on and following Jesus.

So here, we get our first point this evening:

Preaching is Not about the Preacher

Now, Paul was a gifted speaker. And even so, he understood that preaching was not about him.

We see this on display in Athens – the native city of Socrates and Plato and a city leading the world in sculpture, literature, rhetoric, and philosophy – even there, where Paul could have held his own, he chose not to. [Bruce, F.F. Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, 237.]

Paul explains that he did not use lofty speech or extravagant eloquence in his preaching. His preaching wasn’t about bringing attention to himself, but rather, about exalting Jesus.

Paul writes in chapter two:

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. …. 4 “my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”

Here Paul shows that the preacher’s job is not about showing his talent, nor is the goal of preaching about giving general wisdom or making people moral. Preaching is not getting people to do the right thing, or giving people good advice as a life coach. The goal of the pastor’s preaching is not the congregants’ personal improvement.

In Paul’s own historic context, the Greeks/Gentiles wanted this. Paul explained that they didn’t understand the gospel because they were looking for “wisdom.”

One writer notes that “Greek philosophy was obsessed with the good life and how to best attain it.” But instead of using the opportunity to preach to give them a better life now, Paul called them all to repent from their worldly wisdom, and to turn and follow Jesus, who is true wisdom. [Michael Horton, Christless Christianity, 103.]

See, Paul demonstrates that preaching is not about the preacher. The minister’s job is to be willing to preach what is uncomfortable and difficult. Not to simply teach about the preacher’s preferences or reputation. Sound preaching means not caving into preaching what makes the preacher popular or easy to listen to.

And Paul was very aware of that temptation. He warned Timothy of it when he said, “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” [2 Tim 4:3-4]

Michael Horton, in his book Christless Christianity, argues that “smooth talk and flattery is part of the staple diet of successful American religion today.” The self-help gospel of the prosperity preacher downplays sin and eternal damnation, and replaces it with an encouraging moralism that is easily accepted by anyone anywhere. [Horton, Christless Christianity, 66-69]

But biblical preaching is not to be what makes people feel good. See, the preacher’s job is not just to share his thoughts, or his ideas, or even his research. He is not here to teach about the Bible, or to lecture. He is there to preach the whole counsel of God.

Preaching is not about the preachers, and yet, at the same time, preaching is not about people’s personal preferences.

Preaching is Not about People’s Personal Preferences

We moved a lot as missionaries. I’ve lived in more houses and cities than I can remember. We moved a lot. But I had a friend, who moved even more than I did. And the reason he moved was because he and his family got tired of their local preachers. They moved from church to church because there was always a better preacher somewhere else.

Wherever they moved, they would always rave about the exceptional preaching – at first. But then after a little while, it was not good enough and they would move again. New homes, new jobs, new church.

My friend and his family always had a “legitimate” or reasonable reason to move churches. But even when I was very young, I remembered questioning the legitimacy of their discontentedness with their local church.

Was it really that the preaching had become so bad, or was it their unwillingness to sit under preachers who were limited and human – who had feet of clay – or who, perhaps, didn’t move them as much as they imagined they would?

It is of course rare to be able to see the beam in your eye. It is much easier to evaluate and critique and move on to greener pastures.

And our passage this evening teaches against this very idea.

Paul teaches us that preaching is not about people’s personal preferences.

Preaching is Not about Who you Personally Prefer

While we might not be tempted to move from church to church like my friend did, if you have ever heard a sermon at a conference or on the internet from one of the more popular reformed preachers of our day, you know the spiritual high and encouragement we can feel when we hear such exceptional preaching and then to return to a local church, where your pastors may never preach to the thousands.

If your pastors aren’t as gifted as the greatest orators of our day, should you be doing what my friend did?

Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about heretical, false, or moralistic teaching. That is a different issue. But if your reformed, Christ-centered, Bible-preaching pastors just aren’t as good as the guy online, should you move? Should you attend online church and stop attending locally?

Should you find a Paul if you don’t like the Apollos God has put in your church? Should you ditch both Paul and Apollos if Peter’s sermons are better? Or should you just read the Bible at home, because after all, all preachers are flawed, and wouldn’t it be better to just have you and your Bible?

I pray that you can hear this question and realize that this is exactly what Paul was addressing. Picking your favorite preachers and not taking into account that God has chosen specific preachers to be in your midst for a reason, is dangerous. It is a sign that you are being picky with the diet of preaching that God has given you. And perhaps a sign that you are seeking to hear what your itching ears want to hear.

Last week I served on a commission from presbytery to install Rev. Martin Hedman.  Pastor Spencer Murphy was also part of that commission, and he reminded the congregation that their pastor cannot do everything. He reminded them that, churches are always looking for a batter pastor – some sort of imaginary ideal. He says:

“Churches often want a pastor who has the evangelistic gifts of a Whitefield, the theological depth of a Calvin, the intellect of an Edwards, the piety of a M’Cheyne, the missionary zeal of a William Carey, and the preaching gifts of a Spurgeon – all in one person. To that, I say, “Get real.” The truth is a pastor is limited in terms and giftedness. A pastor cannot do everything.”

While God could create his ministers to be all of these things, he has chosen not to. He has chosen to give you human men with limited giftedness, and he has done so on purpose.

To pick favorites, and to follow them, ignoring others, for the various legitimate reasons we create in our heads, is not how Scripture teaches us to value the preaching of God’s Word. After all, it is not about the preacher, nor is it about our preferences.

John Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, explains that sitting under an inadequate preacher is actually an extremely useful exercise in humility that glorifies God. Listen to what he says here:

“…even though it (God’s Word) be preached through men like us and sometimes even by those of lower worth than we. …when a puny man risen from the dust speaks in God’s name, at this point we best evidence [or see] our piety [or holiness] and obedience toward God if we show ourselves teachable toward his minister, although he excels us in nothing. It was for this reason, then, that he hid the treasure of his heavenly wisdom in weak and earthen vessels [1 Cor. 4:7] in order to prove more surely how much we should esteem it. [Calvin, 1054]

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” [2 Corinthians 4:7]

In God’s perfect plan, he has given us to each other at this point in time. He has given us, his ministers, to you. And he has given you to us.

As God’s ministers, we are all puny men, risen from the dust to speak in God’s name. And it is actually in these jars of clay, (through what Paul calls “the foolishness of preaching”) [1 Cor. 1:21] that God shows you that all the power belongs to him and not to us. And in so doing, he reminds you that he has placed us in this place for one another, at this time. Though you may want an imaginary, sort of unicorn pastor who has it all, God has given you “puny men.”

But of course …

God’s Purpose in Preaching is Not to Provide you with What You Like, but What you Need

On our church website we let visitors know that our preaching seeks to “work through books of the Bible carefully…. [That] it is our great desire not to bend or twist any passage to fit a particular theological view, but rather to expound the original meaning of each text. We do not shy away from any passage or theme in the Scriptures, but have heard from our pulpit over the years the exposition of every book of the Bible.” []

Preaching is about not shrinking back from declaring the whole counsel of God in all of Scriptures. [Acts 20:27]  This is what we need, though it may not always be what we want.

In a time where the mindless flick of the finger on a screen can bring you more interesting and engaging content, it can be difficult to keep your mind and heart focused on hearing a sermon about a passage of Scripture that is difficult to understand.

The solution, however, is not that we should find better or more exciting content. The preaching of God’s Word is not meant to entertain us. It is given to us that we might be taught, corrected, and trained in righteousness so that we might be complete.

Instead, for many Christians, Sunday worship has become a time to evaluate, critique and compare. It is easy to do, and we might think, well, someone has to do it!

And, as a side note, it is true. We do need people evaluating preachers. This is why we have seminary professors evaluating students over the course of three or four years, a search committee listening to candidate’s sermons, a presbytery committee examining sermons and also a presbytery assembly determining whether or not a man is suited for a preaching ministry.

Of course, if you have a serious concern (not a matter of preference) about a minister’s preaching, you can bring it up to the minister. And if it is not serious, let it go.

But, brothers and sisters, we must be careful about how we choose to speak about sermons. For preaching is God’s revealed way of making himself and his saving covenant known to us. It is a serious matter.

God communicates with us, his human creatures, through his messengers. “By being made God’s spokesmen and mouthpieces for His message, the messengers become…embodiments of God’s personal address to each of their hearers.” [Logan, The Preacher and Preaching,16]

The fact that Christians, instead of reflecting on how they must change, often leave a church service commenting on whether or not they “liked the sermon,” as if it was a social media post, or a YouTube video, and in so doing these comments reveal how we think about preaching.

What does it say about us that we treat sermons like wine tasting, sampling messages only to settle on the very best of the best, and spitting out anything less than ideal?

Brothers and sisters, preaching is about God’s Word to us. It is about listening to what God has to say to you. And how you must change.

Even if the pastor’s communication is lacking, or boring, or has bad illustrations or is disorganized, God is still working through him in your heart.

Someone once said: “The mature worshiper is easily edified.”

In contrast, the idea is that the immature worshippers will typically dismiss a message because they wish the messenger to be more exciting.

Because we live in a time when the best content in the world is at our fingertips, you must learn to stop browsing and sampling sermons, and start approaching sermons asking what God is saying to you, rather than if you like the way he has said it, or the tool he has used to say it with.

We’ve heard what preaching is not, but what then is preaching?

Preaching is God Speaking to His People

Throughout my ministry, I have encountered many who have left their church for one reason or another. Several were valid, and some felt less valid. When I talk to someone who is no longer attending any church, it is usually not because they have stopped believing in God, or that they no longer believe in heaven or hell. Rather, they have come to the conclusion that church is more or less optional for the believer. That reading their Bible and praying at home is better and preferable to joining together as God’s people.

Now, aside from being providentially hindered from joining God’s people in worship – if you are home bound and/or ill – that is a very different scenario than the person or family who is physically able to attend.

For those who can attend and simply prefer to be on their own, or for those who tune out to certain preachers, the Scriptures speak specifically to your situation and insist that you do not neglect the important duty of the Christian to gather together and to encourage one another to fellowship, to pray, and to hear the Word of God. [Hebrews 10:25; Acts 2:42]

This is so important to the Christian life because, as Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4, God specifically called some men to be ministers of God’s people. To build up and encourage Christians.

As the WLC reminds us:

“The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of… establishing … hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation (emphasis added). [Westminster Larger Catechism q. 155]

Michael Horton explains that the preaching of the gospel is not just the way that God calls people to faith in Christ, it is the means by which the Spirit creates faith in their hearts. [Horton, 754-755]

In other words, the preaching of God’s Word is not just instructional or pedagogical, it is actually a creative work. It is creating faith. He continues:

“God’s words are event-generating [speech or] discourse; they are not only enlightening or informative, but fulfilled. In fact, the scene of the prophet preaching to the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37 vividly portrays this living and active Word that creates the reality of which it speaks.” [Horton, 754]

This type of language helps us see the power of preaching in a fresh new light. Preaching is not just a spiritual Ted Talk, or an inspiring lecture on God’s Word. Rather, we see that God actually acts, creates, and builds up his church through the miraculous power of God’s preached Word.

When God speaks through a minister, it is not just that human words simply coincide at certain points with God’s Word, but rather that they are in fact God’s breath (2 Tim 3:16). For God’s words “go forth” and are sent out on their missions, and they are made effectual by the Spirit. As we read in Isaiah 55:11, God’s speech never returns to him emptyhanded. [Horton, 753]

The preacher’s call, therefore, is more than speaking on his own behalf. Rather, he is a representative, a herald and ambassador for God. And as “ambassadors for Christ,” God makes his appeal through us. [2 Cor. 5:20]

Charles Simeon put it this way, “Ministers are ambassadors for God and speak in Christ’s stead…we ought therefore to receive the preacher’s word as the word of God himself.” [2]

No doubt, it was for this very reason that Jesus taught his disciples that their preaching was the same as Jesus’ preaching. For he said, “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me….” [Luke 10:16, emphasis added]

Many Christians have said how much they long for God to show them his will, to teach them, to show them the way. But what they do not realize is that every Sunday, God has provided a way for his people to hear his voice through his ambassador and herald.

Knowing how seriously God treats the preaching of his word, our view on preaching should change. For it is, as Paul states, not about Paul or Apollos, but about Jesus Christ’s words being preached. The arguing over leaders and preferences and allegiances is contrary to the purpose of preaching and the work of the kingdom. For the Kingdom work is not about the means or the method, it is about the God behind the means and the method.

There is no place for the preacher to promote himself, “for the messenger neither invents his message nor asks for attention in his own name. He is a minister – that is, a servant – of God, of Christ and of the Word.” [Logan, 24]

What should we do with all this?

If preaching is, “the speech of ‘a king through the mouth of his herald’ and is meant to be received as God’s own address,” how must we respond? [Horton, 761-762]

Rather than sit in criticism of the pastor or his message, sampling sermons, and deciding what to keep and what to spit out, we must instead “come to church expecting nothing less than God’s gracious assault on the citadels of our autonomy…as God addresses us here and now.” [Horton, 763] For it is through preaching that God speaks into our lives and rebukes and corrects us, guides us, and feeds us.

“Though seemingly powerless and ineffective, the creaturely mediation of his Word through faltering human lips is the most powerful thing on earth.” [Horton, 761]

Therefore, as God’s children, we must value it as such and offer it the reverence and obedience Jesus has called us to.

It also means, that though you listen and respect the messenger in his office as God’s mouthpiece and herald, you do not mistake the herald with the king.


Brothers and sisters, as we close, I exhort you in God’s name, to resist making preaching about your pastors or your preferences, but rather, remember that your faith rests not in ministers, nor in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Therefore, be united with one heart and mind as you seek to follow Jesus and listen to him each and every Sunday. Prepare your hearts before you come to worship, and remember that it is not about the man behind the pulpit, but it is about the God the man represents.


Sources Referenced

Bruce, F.F. Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free.  Grand Rapids, MI: William Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997.

Bucer, Martin. Concerning the Truth Care of Souls. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009.

Burchett, Steve. “When Your Preacher is Not John Piper” Desiring God Ministries (January 5,


Horton, Michael. Christless Christianity, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008.

Horton, Michael. The Christian Faith. A Systematic Theology: For Pilgrims on the Way. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2011.

Logan, Samuel. The Preacher and Preaching. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1986.

Mindlin, Alex. “Short Attention Spans for Web Videos” New York Times (Oct. 11, 2010).

Piper, John. “I Planted Apollos Watered but God Gave the Growth.” Desiring God Ministries (March 21, 2012)

Smith, Dana G. “How to Focus Like Itʼs 1990: Smartphones, pings and Insta-everything have shortened our attention spans.” (Jan. 9, 2023)]

[1] Piper, John. “I Planted Apollos Watered but God Gave the Growth.”

[2] Charles Simeon, Let Wisdom Judge,  ed. Arthur Pollard. London: Inter-Varsity Press, 1959. (pp. 188-189.)