One of the New Testament images for a preacher of the gospel is the image of the steward. Stewardship has come to be equated in our minds with financial giving. Yet it encompasses more than that. This word is an accurate description of what a preacher must do to fulfill his ministry.
In essence, the preacher is a “trustee and dispenser of another person’s goods.” (Stott, The Preacher’s Portrait, 17) What a preacher delivers to his congregation is not his own. He takes out of the storehouse of Scripture and gives this truth to the household of God.
How does the preacher/steward provide for the household of God with what they need? In what manner do they deliver it to those in their care? Several descriptors come to mind, such as:
Timely. The steward feeds those in his charge in a timely fashion. Breakfast is served at breakfast time, and so on. Likewise, there are seasons in life of a congregation when they need to hear a particular word from God on a particular subject.
Contextual. This is related to timeliness. The steward can recognize if the household seems malnourished. A shepherd of God’s flock must know his sheep in order to be able to feed them in a wise manner.
Measured. Not all of the contents entrusted to the steward are distributed at one time. The household consumes its portions at meal times, not all at once. Many a good sermon has been marred by a preacher’s attempt to cram more content into it.
Planned. Much thought is given to the provision of a household. This supply is not simply thrown together in a haphazard manner at the last moment. Preachers must spend time and exercise great oversight in the preparation of teaching that will feed hungry souls.
Preserved. Care is taken by a steward to make sure that what he sets before his wards is not spoiled, so as to do them good and not harm. Likewise, a preacher of the gospel must guard the word of God so that it is not spoiled but is set before the church in its purity.
However, taking all of this as a given and necessary in the care of souls, we still affirm that the steward plays a secondary role in relation to the master of the house and what He provides. Stott says it well: “What really feeds the household is the food which the householder (master) supplies, not the steward who dispenses it.” (Ibid, 30, parenthesis mine)