Preacher, Take Heed unto Thyself
Guthrie D. Dean
Fort Smith, Ark.
Paul said to Timothy: "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). As a preacher I realize the great responsibility I have, both in life and in teaching. The following are some of the pitfalls that preachers must avoid.
I. The tendency to say and do not (Matt. 23:1-2.) If we want the church to work, we ourselves must get up, and out, and at it. We are to set an example of action. Paul went about daily teaching and preaching (Acts 20:20, 31).
II. The tendency to preach one thing and practice another (Rom. 2:21-23). We are to keep our own skirts clean as we go forth to fight against sin.
III. The tendency to be jealous of other preachers. Some get as "hung up" as king Saul did when the people began praising David's good works. We are not in competition with one another. We are "laborers together with God" (I Cor.3:9).
IV. The tendency to have an implacable, rigid, and unforgiving spirit. Cross some preachers, and you have gained an enemy for life. Some will go out of their way to seek to undermine the work of other gospel preachers, because they have "aught against them." The spirit of Christ teaches: "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye" (Col. 3:13). Or, if "thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone" (Matt. 18:15).
V. The tendency to think more highly of self than we ought (Rom. 12:3). Jesus warned of the hypocrites who sounded their own trumpets. (Matt. 6:1-8). If any praise is forthcoming, let someone else give it (Prov.27:2).
VI. The tendency to look down on others. Some manifest a holier-than-thou attitude (Isa. 65:5); and when dealing with others they leave the impression of condescending and patronizing.
VII. The tendency to be bitter. Some preachers are natural born pessimists, while others are trouble makers. These are sometimes prone to bitterness. Perhaps they have had a whole chain of unpleasant experiences with the brethren, and they are not very well adjusted in the first place. Their work has been almost fruitless and they have seen a number of churches "go dead" where they worked. But they continue to plod, halfheartedly, along; striking out at everyone and everything that gets in their path. We are warned against the root of bitterness (Heb. 12:15).
VIII. The tendency to be unique and different. Like the ancient Athenians, some preachers are ever seeking to learn or tell some new thing. They glory in "springing new ideas" from the pulpit, and in "sending up trial balloons." This is noticed, especially, on the part of some brother who thinks he is "slipping" and is not "bringing out the crowds like he once did." The tendency is to bring attention to the preacher instead of the message. Paul said, "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord" (2 Cor.4:5).
IX. Some try to be colorful. They think that by wearing the shirt-tail out in the pulpit, perhaps they will be classified along with J. D. Tant or some other pioneer preacher of the gospel. But it should be remembered that brother Tant and others like him were what they were by being natural, not by trying to mimic someone else. (I do not know that brother Tant ever preached with his shirt tail out. Perhaps he did). But those men were humble, sincere, and genuine to the very core, and did nothing deliberately to call attention to themselves.
X. The tendency to be obnoxious in attitude and manners. Some are just plain opinionated and disagreeable. Others glory in telling how rude they are to people. Some are totally lacking in good manners. I have eaten at the table with preachers who consumed their food with little more grace than an Arkansas razorback hog. We are told to be courteous, and to consider one another (I Pet. 3: 8). Some have the bad habit of talking while others are talking, of butting in on someone else's conversation. Let us be thoughtful. People have to listen to us in the pulpit; let's hear what they have to say when we are out of it.
XI. The tendency to have the "know it all" "Hebrew-Latin-and-Greek" attitude. More preachers have soured themselves with churches by their "much learning" than most anything else. It is good to read books and to learn languages, but we must not let these "helps" get in our way when we get into the pulpit to preach the gospel. We want people to believe something because it is in the Bible; not because we fished it out of a dusty bookshelf. Paul states: "And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (I Cor.2:4-5).
XII. And if there is anything else, it is briefly comprehended in the words, of 2 Timothy 4:1-5. May all gospel preachers live the Christ life, maintain the Christ spirit, and preach the Christ message. And may their number be legion. Preacher, take heed to thyself!
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 10, pp. 7-8