Preachers and Preaching--No. 6 God's
Concept of the Preacher's
J. P. Needham
INTRODUCTION: In our previous article we discussed God's concept of the preacher's duty to the gospel. In the present article we shall discuss God's concept of the preacher's duties from other standpoints. Let us look at the preacher's duty to:
1. His Work
We have in mind now, an individual who gives his "fulltime" to the work of preaching the gospel, and receives his physical support from the church. That Timothy was such a person is hardly debatable. Any other conclusion is inconsistent with the itinerant nature of his life as well as certain admonitions Paul delivers to him. We find him often accompanying Paul in his travels and being sent by him from place to place to do special work as recorded in various N. T. references (Rom. 16:21; I Cor. 16:10; 2 Cor. 1:1; Phil. 2:19; 1 Thess. 3:2; Heb. 13:23; 1 'rim. 1:3). Paul admonishes Timothy to "flee" the "love of money . . ." (I Tim. 6: 10, 11), and said, "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strives for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully. The husbandman that laboreth must be first partaker of the fruits" (2 Tim. 2:3-6). (Compare I Cor. 9).
Such a person is free from worldly entanglements (2 Tim. 2:3). He ha; the 4, power to forbear working" (I Cor. 9:5), (The right not to hold a secular job and receive his support from the church - 2 Cor. 11:8) and should "give" himself "wholly" (I Tim. 4:15) to "the work of an evangelist" making "full proof of his (thy) ministry" (2 Tim, 4:5).
This naturally raises the question as to what is the preacher's work. Paul told Timothy to "do the work of an evangelist" (2 Tim. 4:5). What is this? In a former article we pointed out what the preacher's work is and is not. As gleaned from Paul's letters to Timothy, the work of an evangelist, generally speaking, is to live an exemplary life (I Tim. 4:12), and to read, study and teach (2 Tim. 2:2, 15; 1 Tim. 4:13). Anyone who has ever tried to be what we call a "full-time" preacher will readily admit that this is a tremendous task. I have also heard many who tried to mix preaching with secular employment say that they had to sacrifice one for the other; they could not do either as well as they would like.
Those who complain that "the preacher spends too much time in his study" have never understood the duty of an evangelist, nor the heavy mental load it entails. These same people often complain of the inadequacies of the preacher's pulpit efforts. They want him to do the work of a modern pastor (spend most of his time serving tables) and always have worthwhile sermons too. One cannot do both. One's pulpit efforts are the best index as to whether he spends enough time in his study.
I have had a little to do with training a few preachers, and am often asked by younger preachers for pointers as to how to become more efficient and effective. My advice is always, "read, study, and preach." It is very hard for a preacher to over-do these activities, and when he gives attention to them, we will hear from him. If he neglects them, his opportunities will be greatly diminished, and he will always remain "a poor excuse for a preacher." One cannot teach what he does not know.
It is distressing to me to hear of preachers who do not want to preach. They are content to piddle around all week and preach a couple of sermonettes on Lord's Day and teach a Bible class or two. I have heard one or two say they did not want to hold meetings! There are communities all around them which have no churches in them, or have small inactive groups which need encouraging. Such preachers do not take advantage of these opportunities for various reasons. Some are just down-right lazy. They had rather be idle than to preach. Others realize that such efforts are often gratis, and they, as one preacher said, "do not hold free meetings." Brethren, how we need to "make full proof of our (thy) ministry" (2 Tim. 4:5)! I know there are churches which look for free meetings when they are able to pay for them, but there are many which need the held of an evangelist which cannot remunerate him. The preacher who would refuse to help such a group because they cannot pay is a hireling and a time-server. There are some preachers who manifest a terrible lack of dedication to their work. They are more interested in other things than in reading, studying and preaching. They spend more time on the golf course or fishing trips than in their studies. Some are more interested in selling some physical commodity than in preaching the gospel. Indeed, some preachers use their situation as preachers to create leads to sell something. Some have done both themselves and the church immeasurable harm by such entanglements. It is pretty disgusting to see anyone use the church to further his own physical selfish purpose.
Men who give full time to the preaching of the gospel, should do just that. It is sad but true that many who are known as "part-time preachers" do more for the Cause than some "full-time" ones. For this reason some have concluded that "full-time preaching" is a soft job. Let us face it - in some cases it is just that. Some (not all) "full-time preachers" feel no obligation to use a reasonable portion of their time in spiritual work. They do not read, study or preach as much as some "part-time preachers" I know. They feel that as long as they make a few social calls, and fill their time in the pulpit and Bible classes, they have done what they are supposed to do even though their preaching and teaching efforts show lack of depth due to insufficient preparation.
I have not said this to argue for "part-time preachers." I think there is a great need for such men, but there is always a greater need for more who can devote all their time to spiritual pursuits. There are many "part-time" men who need to become "full-time" men. They have the ability to be excellent preachers of the gospel. Some hold back for lack of faith; others for greater monetary remuneration. As one very able man said, "I could never be satisfied with a preacher's salary." Another one said, "I would have to give up my seniority and insurance benefits." There have been many "full-time" men who have become "part-time" men for the same reason. I say without fear of successful contradiction that MATERIALISM is one of the greatest hindrances we face. The church today suffers from a tremendous lack of spiritual dedication on the part of all of us, INCLUDING PREACHERS. We do not "seek first the kingdom of God" (Matt. 6:33), and we are trying to perform the impossible task of serving "God and mammon" (Matt. 6:24).
It is certainly true that most "full-time preachers" live on inadequate salaries, and the brethren generally are either ignorant of or indifferent toward their needs, but the world is still lost without the gospel and it needs to be preached night and day. Whatever hardships one suffers here for the Cause of our Lord will be abundantly repaid in the world to come. Did not Paul say, "I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:12, 13). Preachers need to be men of faith. As Paul admonished Timothy, we should "be example(s) in faith" (I Tim. 4:12).
II. To the Church
A gospel preacher also has certain duties to the church. Let us consider them as follows: 1. "Set in order the things that are wanting" (Tit. 1:5 - ). This is a general duty, and it involves correcting by the word (2 Tim. 3: 16) anything and everything that is out of order in the church. As Paul said, "I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly and from house to house" (Acts 20:20). He told Timothy to "watch thou in all things" (2 Tim. 4:5). As a gospel preacher sees things that are wanting in the church, whether on the part of the congregation or individual members thereof, he must set them in order or be derelict in his God-given duty. The philosophy that says, "Hear no evil, speak no evil" has no place in the life of a "man of God" (2 Tim. 3:17). When he hears, or sees evil he must speak of it. Timothy was told, "Them that sin rebuke before all that others also may fear" (I Tim. S: 20), and in the very next verse Paul said, "I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality" (I Tim. 5:21).
It is easy for gospel preachers to fail at this point, especially if they are more concerned with popularity than with purity, or have their minds more on a position than on pleasing God. If one's heart is not right it is easy to turn one's head when one of the elders or a close friend in the congregation gets out of order. If an elder's child is dancing with his approval, it is much simpler to preach about baptism. If certain influential members are known to take a social drink, a sermon on the Lord's Supper looks very attractive. As one preacher is reported to have said when certain congregational sins were brought up in the business meetings, "Oh, let us not get into that now." Or, as another one said, "We cannot fight all our enemies at once."
Paul said he left Titus at Crete to "set in order the things that are wanting." Wanting where? In Corinth? Hardly! He wanted him to "set in order the things that are wanting" in the Cretan churches. Some preachers are always talking about what is wrong "where I used to preach." They will really "lower the boom" on the sins of which nobody in the audience is known to be guilty, but tread lightly over those characteristics of the local church.
Paul is a great model as a preacher. When he spoke his farewell address to the Ephesian elders, he said, ". . . I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you . . . I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God . . . Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears . . ." (Acts 20:20, 26, 27 31). When one can truthfully make these statements concerning his labors with a church, he can say he has fulfilled his duty to it.
2. "Ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee" (Tit. 1:5). This, of course, is not unconditional. The next verse says, "If any be blameless, etc." The point is, it is the duty of the evangelist to teach God's organization for the local church and ordain elders where men meet the scriptural qualifications. This is a duty the preacher has to the church that is often neglected. There is a tendency for the preacher to say, "Well, that is the church's business; I will stay out of it." It is the church's business to determine if the men have the qualifications, but the preacher's duty to ordain them (cf. Acts 6:1-6). He must not take an indifferent attitude about the matter. Everywhere we go, we should seek to ordain elders if they do not have them. This is God's arrangement, and no church is everything God wants it to be until it is properly organized with bishops and deacons (Phil. 1:1). The existence of scripturally qualified elders and deacons is a sign of maturity in the congregation. Every church should strive to attain unto it. Until it does, the preacher's work is "cut out" for him. Let him shoulder his responsibility to "ordain elders in EVERY CITY."
III. To Himself
Paul also told Timothy of his duty to himself. This has to do with his own personal conduct. Notice what he says: "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine: continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee" (I Tim. 4:16). ". . . exercise thyself rather unto godliness" (I Tim. 4:7). "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 2:1). "Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure" (I Tim. 5:22). "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine" (1 Tim. 4:12, 13). "Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Tim. 2:22).
These and many other passages show something of the preacher's duty to himself. Keeping his personal life and work "up to par" is a tremendous task. Every man who does so is to be "loved for his work's sake." His influence for good is invaluable, and the eternal results of his work known only to God.
IV. To False Teachers
Paul gave special instructions to Timothy and Titus concerning their duties to certain false teachers. He admonished them to "instruct those that oppose themselves" (2 Tim, 2:25), and if they refused it, to "reject" (Tit. 3:10), "turn away from" (2 Tim, 3:5), or "withdraw thyself" (1 Tim. 6:5). All this means that the gospel preacher must be careful of the relationships he forms. He is to live an exemplary life (1 Tim. 4:12), and this he cannot do if by forming unwise relationships he becomes a "partaker of other men's sins" (I Tim. 5:22). For this reason, he cannot join the ministerial alliance, or do anything that will bid "God speed" to the proponents of error (2 John 10). The truth is too valuable, yea precious, for anyone to allow it to fall to the ground, much less a gospel preacher. He dare not wink at error or hobnob with its proponents lest in so doing the clear distinction between truth and error become blurred, and souls be lost as the result.
CONCLUSION: The duties of gospel preachers entail some of the weightiest responsibilities known to man or God. Let us never be guilty of substituting man-made duties for those stipulated by God, or seeking to restrain gospel preachers from doing that which they must do to please God. Let every gospel preacher everywhere come to a greater realization of his duty and responsibility, and be more determined than ever before to "do the work of an evangelist." Souls are at stake!
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XI: 10, pp. 15-18