Are you a Root or a Pipe?

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  • Dr. James Borror formally introduced me to homiletics at an upstart Bible college I attended in Anaheim. Professor Borror’s classes had an immediate and long-term influence on my life and ministry. In the succeeding years, he continued to mentor me by his godly example, wise advice, and faithful preaching.

    I still have the handwritten notes I took in Dr. Borror’s classes more twenty years ago. But I don’t really need them. I remember so much of what he taught me, as though it was just yesterday.

    But there is one word of counsel Dr. Borrow gave that has stuck with me most especially over the years. It was not about preaching, per se, as much as it was about the kind of men we should be as preachers. He challenged us to carry out our ministries as roots and not pipes.

    Do you know the difference between a root and a pipe?

    Water passes through a pipe without having any positive effect on the pipe. In fact, the water will begin to corrode the pipe over time. But as water passes through the roots of a plant or tree, the stronger the roots becomes.

    So it is with those who proclaim the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

    The first time an older preacher called me “a preaching machine,” I took it as a great compliment. I took him to mean that I was always ready to preach. In light of our charge to be ready in season and out of season (2 Tim. 4:2), I thought it was a cool thing to have said about your preaching.

    But then I began to think about it another way. Machines carry out their work without any internal connection to what they do. They just do what they are programmed to do.

    In that sense, the last thing a pastor should what to be is a preaching machine. The life of the preacher must not be disconnected from the message he preachers.

    A key part of sermon preparation is the preparation of one’s own heart, not just the preparation of the sermon.

    Our roots should go deep in communion with God as we minister to others. God forbid that we preach to others without allowing the word to rebuke, reprove, and exhort our own hearts.

    So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.  – 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 (ESV)

    What do you do to keep your roots strong? What do you do to resist becoming a lifeless pipe? Join the conversation in the comments section. 


    H.B. Charles Jr.

    Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.