The Beautiful Feet of PreachersBy Tony Caffey
December 3, 2020
Recently I stumbled across the whole “PreacherNsneakers” controversy. This whole movement (can I call it a “movement”?) strikes me as pretty silly. Don’t get me wrong—I love me some basketball! And I love my sneakers. At the same time, I also love preaching. Can these great passions be combined? Is it like peanut butter and chocolate? Or is it like those weird people who dip their French fries in ice-cream and call it good? I think it’s more the latter than the former. Maybe some passions should be kept at a distance from each other.
I can understand in this era of “video-based social-media platforming” why pastors are thinking through what they wear more and more. Honestly, I’ve put way more thought into my “pulpit garb” in the last nine months than I have in the last ten years. Thank you very much, COVID-19 and Facebook Live! I’ve wondered at times whether I should just go back to the black robe of the preachers of old. Simple. Grave. Unimpressive. Boring. Uncomplicated. Sigh. Those were the good ol’ days.
Last week, I preached Romans 10:15, which brought up the feet of a preacher. Paul talks about a way that we can actually beautify a preacher’s feet. “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Now that’s a movement I can get behind! That’s the best way to make these bulky, size-13 feet of mine beautiful. How do we do this? How do we get beautiful feet into the pulpit? It’s not by putting anything on. It’s by getting the gospel out. Paul says in verse 14, “[h]ow are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
To fulfill the gospel-preaching task, the preacher showcases something beautiful. It’s really not the feet that are beautiful, it’s the gospel. When someone sends me a birthday present via UPS, I might wax poetic, “O how beautiful were the feet of the UPS delivery driver!” But the “beauty” of that experience was really more the gift given by the giver. The UPS employee just got to share in something beautiful by delivering it.
Who does the Preaching and to whom is it Beautiful?
The broader context of Romans 10 tells us two more important things about beautiful feet. First, we should understand that beautiful feet are not limited to preachers. Even the Greek word for preaching here (κηρύσσω) should not be limited to the pulpit. Every person in a church community should be committed to “preaching” (i.e. proclaiming, heralding, sharing) the gospel. This is a church-wide task, not something limited to the pastor. And it shouldn’t be limited to the walls of the church either.
To clarify, the gospel should be preached from the pulpit and within the walls of the church. Praise God those “walls” are digital now as well as physical. The pastor’s message is getting even greater traction in this post-COVID-19 era. But the gospel is meant to be heralded by everyone in the church. Every Christian’s feet can be beautiful to the world.
And secondly, we need to specify that our feet won’t always be beautiful to everyone we share the gospel with. This is a sad truth that even Paul recognizes in Romans 10. “[T]hey have not all obeyed the gospel” (10:16). But even when gospel-preaching isn’t beautiful to our listeners, it’s still beautiful to God. Evangelism still glorifies God, even when some reject the gospel.
Wisdom on Witnessing From an Unlikely Source
Recently I came across the writings of Juan de Valdés, a 16th Century Spanish protestant reformer. If you know anything about Spain and the Protestant Reformation, you know that Spanish protestant reformers are pretty rare. I imagine that Valdés shared the gospel with a lot of Spaniards who rejected him. Yet Valdés says, “The feet of those who preach the gospel do not cease to be beautiful, because not everyone believes what is preached to them.” Just because people reject your message, that doesn’t mean you didn’t do a beautiful thing by bringing the gospel to them.
I know it’s incredibly satisfying when people both hear the gospel and believe. I live for those moments! But God is still glorified when we share the gospel, yet it doesn’t take. God is always glorified when we share the gospel, even if people reject it. Your feet can still be beautiful to him even if they aren’t beautiful to the person you are sharing Christ with. God give us beautiful feet in our pulpits, in our churches, in our communities, and throughout the world because truly, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
 Quoted in Philip D. W. Krey et al., eds., Romans 9–16: New Testament, vol. VIII, Reformation Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016), 78.