Practical Christianity (IV): Preacher Problems are Your Problems
The preacher had always been a very busy man. Between meetings, debates, writing, study, and time spent with preaching cronies little time was spent home with the family. The preacher's wife made a life that cared for the more "mundane" parts of life without her husband. She had always been taught that it was her lot and duty in life to "make-do" while her husband "sacrificed" for the Lord. Actually, she could have told anyone that the sacrifice was hers to make, and not her husband's. He was doing what he enjoyed without a feeling of guilt for his neglect of such "non-exciting" duties as nurturing and admonishing his children and demonstrating, due benevolence to his wife. His wife assumed the duties of home and household because she had to.
The preacher sacrificed for the Gospel when he bought the sophisticated tape deck, amplifiers, and speakers to record his own voice. He bought books, tapes, file cabinets, typewriters, overhead projectors, printing presses, cameras, and other various expensive "aids" to help him in his work. His children wore hand-me-downs and ate beans. His wife took a job to make ends meet. While the wife and kids often "made-do" with their clothing, the preacher needed well tailored and attractive suits "for his work." In some cases the preacher went to the beauty parlor more often than his wife for a razor trim and styling. It was quite a scene: the preacher in the pulpit exhorting brethren "to love your wives as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it." Later, his wife struggled down the aisle with arms full of babies, Bibles, and diaper bags while the preacher "shakes 'em out" the door.
It is a tribute to the godly nature of women such as these that they endure and persevere, still reverencing their husbands, submitting as unto the Lord. But is this the marriage God engineered in the garden (Gen. 2:24)? Is this the marriage that Jesus compares all marriage to (Matt. 19:4,5)? Can we look upon such a relationship and say with the Lord, "Behold, it is very good"?
The preacher's family is often vulnerable because of confusion surrounding his work and place in the church. His wife is expected to be "first lady" in the church and must initiate and be included in all social functions. (Some may laugh, but this writer once heard a preacher seriously teach that while speaking on "The Preacher's Wife.") Is there a word in all of the Bible about "Preacher's Wife" qualifications apart form the exhortation given all women and wives? His children are often used or abused by the brethren in attempts to win the parent's approval, or wreak their vengeance upon the parents without having to personally confront them.
Some men of great ability receive a promotion above "local work." They become preachers at large -- meeting preachers -- "prominent" preachers. As one of these brethren once sought to explain it to me, "There is a place, mind you, for the local preacher -- the one who deals with problems and teaches only on a local level. But there is a place as well for those men who have the opportunity to deal with the bigger picture-those errors that are brotherhood wide. There have to be brotherhood preachers as well!" Often, these men do not actively seek this larger role, but have it thrust upon. them. But, however it is obtained, is there any precedent, example or authority for anything but a "local preacher?" Like personal work, preaching that is so broadly based as to be addressed to everyone, is addressed to no one. "Brotherhood preachers" seldom if ever touch and change as many lives as the man that takes them one at a time.
Too many times the problem is complicated when the preacher's wife reacts emotionally to such presumptuous neglect by selfishness on her own part. The wife may refuse to anything that needs to be done, except as it pleases her. She has often developed her own way of life and living apart from her husband and family. It is from this world that she seeks what she feels she needs. The children are neglected, housework is not done, meals are not prepared, the family's solidarity dissolves as everyone goes his own way and does as he pleases. The T.V. becomes the babysitter, teacher, and companion to the young. The adolescent turns to his friends and peers for love, approval, guidance as he sees only benign neglect form his parents. Resentments from unresolved anger and hatred build up in the marriage till all mutual feeling of compassion and love is smothered. Divorce is not a way out for godly Christians, so the preacher and his wife lead a grey, passionless existence having long past shed their tears of loss over their loneliness.
It Is A Problem
Anyone who does not believe there are such family problems among God's servants is not too observant. It would be possible, if it were necessary, to take the specific lives of many families within the church to document this composite picture. The problem is not confronted and dealt with as a problen within the church because we are so loathe to recognize it to start with.
We owe much of this problem to our collective fuzzy thinking on the work of the preacher. Talk with any group of brethren for very long about the work of the evangelist, and soon he will have more qualifications and duties than an elder!
In the minds of many brethren, the preacher must compete with and parallel the denominational "Reverends." Since we cannot have a Pastpr, we have a "Minister" and "Christianize" a denominational clergy. Our clergy must be well-dressed, well educated, on constant call, always on display, and set apart. The preacher is seldom considered a part of the local congregation where he worships. He is an employee of the church to be controlled, or who exercises control.
What is this man's responsibility? What is his responsibility before God to the church, the sinner, the unbeliever, his family, his wife, his children? The questions and problems raised in this article cannot be answered in a few words-but they do have an answer. God's word has an answer for every relationship of man (2 Pet. 1:3).
Truth Magazine XXI: 22, pp. 345-346