What Is Expected of a Preacher?
Donald P. Ames
It seems that as of late, there has developed a great deal of interest in just exactly what is expected of the local evangelist. Several have expressed their views, objecting to a lot of things that are presently being shoved off on the preacher that are not in reality his obligations, but have come to be regarded as his. However, it seems to me that some of these articles have missed other points of equal value that also need emphasizing.
Work Falsely Expected
Certainly in our modern society there has been a strong tendency to pattern ourselves after denominationalism. This has manifested itself in efforts to consolidate, do everything under a centralized control in a big way to get a big name among those about us. It has also manifested itself in work expected of the preacher. In many places, when the local evangelist has been selected, the rest of the members seem to feel he is the church worker. So now that they are paying someone else to do their work, they can sit back and judge whether or not he is getting everything done that needs to be done.
However, the work of the church is not to be carried on by the preacher alone. In I Cor. 12:12-31 Paul compares the church to the human body and stresses the necessity of all parts working together for proper functioning. So it is with the body of Christ. When the members sit back and expect the preacher to do all the personal work that is accomplished, they are hindering the growth of the church. Paul points out in I Tim. 4:15 that the evangelist is to give himself wholly to his work and teaching. This does not mean though that he is to do all the personal work --that is not his job. Each and every individual member in the church sustains a relationship to his fellowman that makes him individually responsible for striving to lead him to the Lord. This also applies to wayward and weak members of the church. (Gal. 6: 1-2.) When all such work is turned over to the preacher to be done, not only are the members not studying and growing by experience as the Lord expects of us, but the preacher in turn is limited in his time available so that often either members are not visited or prospects missed or many sermons may show too much visiting (social and teaching) and not enough studying--hence handicapping the evangelist in his very purpose of preaching the word. Such circumstances should not prevail in a congregation that is striving to be pleasing to the Lord. Active personal work programs ought to be set up and put to work to keep all members active and growing.
Not only do some expect the preacher to do all the personal work, but also expect him to also be the local socialite. By that, they simply mean that they expect him to be there every Sunday to make sure he personally shakes the hand of everyone present--and are often offended if they are missed (although the idea of introducing themselves to visitors and shaking hands never occurred to them as also being an obligation of theirs). They expect him to give parties for the young people and adults, to pay a lot of social calls, support the civic clubs, take care of the visiting preacher, and many other such social obligations. The apostles well answered this themselves, saying, "'It is not fit that we should forsake the word of God, and serve tables. Look ye out, therefore, brethren, from among you seven men... but we will continue steadfastly in prayer, and in the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:2-4.) If a gospel preacher is going to hold a meeting, it is accepted almost without question that he will stay at the preacher's home. Although this may be often desired by preachers who have lots they desire to talk over mutually, yet members would also do well to consider meals and bedding, etc. are not exclusively the preacher's job and strive to get in their share also. As for the social activity, the question can well be answered by merely asking if we are hiring a man to give himself to the preaching of the word, or to forsake such for the desires of some to be a leading socialite? Again, it is the preaching of the word, and not the social back patting that is going to save men's souls. (Rom. 1:16.)
It is also good to give consideration to teaching too, in addition to personal work, social activities, etc. All too frequently, particularly in smaller congregations, it is accepted that the preacher is to do the teaching as well as preaching. Now it is acknowledged that the preacher should teach and certainly such is a fine arrangement, but again, for personal member growth and activity, such could and often should be handled by the members themselves. All too often such an arrangement means the members sit from Sunday to Sunday to hear the preacher do his work--and put out no effort of their own. Member teaching would strengthen the congregation as a whole and also activate more members.
Work Properly Expected
Paul makes it clear from the epistles that he wrote that the preacher has a job to do. In writing to Timothy, he said, "Do the work of an evangelist, fulfill thy ministry." (2 Tim. 4:5.) To the Colossians he also passed word on to Archippus to "take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it." (Col. 4:17.) Being a minister or servant of the Lord, he has an obligation to God to do that for which he is being supported to do. This obligation is not to man, nor regulated by man (in the sense of doing equal with what my fellow-man may do), but is an obligation and relationship held jointly between the minister and the Lord. So, certainly God has regulations and instructions for what a preacher is to do also.
First of all, the preacher is under obligation to study, that he might be found acceptable to the Lord. (2 Tim. 2:15.) However, although quick to object to the social work, etc., many preachers are very slow to be ready to give themselves diligently to the study they so often emphasize should be the primary work of the evangelist. One of the leading problems in the brotherhood today is the very fact that we have a lot of preachers who just plain and simply are not studying. Why are there a lot of fence-straddlers relative to the problems of institutionalism? Is it because they can not read and understand the word of God--or because they just aren't interested in studying to see whether or not these man-made institutions have any authority therein for them and then stand up and say so? The big problem in the church in general is that all too often, preachers are sitting back and preaching material learned in college or early years, and have plainly quit studying. If a doctor were to rely on college knowledge, we would probably change doctors quickly, but yet a congregation will continue to pay a preacher $400, $500, or even $600 monthly (all too often for his name's sake rather than ability too--how else can such fluctuation be accounted for in many areas) for doing exactly that.
Oh, but the preacher will often object, I know more than they do anyway, they don't know the difference, I went to school so I have the right to be supported for that for which I prepared myself. Says who??? No man has to go to school to preach the gospel, and if a man so elects to do so to learn more about the Bible, this obligates no congregation to pay him for what he himself elected to do. If churches actually paid on the basis of work turned out, there would no doubt be many well-paid preachers on hungry street. Yet they will sit back and draw a big check for turning out no more than about 10 hours a week (in many cases a liberal allotment-- how much time do they actually spend in studying and work of the church per week?), which amounts to about 40 hours per month --or in other words, they are being paid a monthly wage for a weekly output.
There are many areas in the church today where the members are wholly unprepared to go out and meet the real problems of denominationalism, etc. Why? Well, partly because they have not studied. But, also a lot of the blame can be brought back to weekly, watered-down, memory-repeated sermons on nothing but faith, repentance, confession and baptism. How long has it been since a good sermon was delivered on evidences of Christianity? By that, I don't mean the ridicule of evolution, assertions of the tremendous evidence testifying to the Bible being the word of God, and a couple of timeworn arguments that there must be a God; but a genuine sermon dealing with just exactly why the Bible is the word of God, why we know it has not been corrupted, the nature of revelation and inspiration, and the error in reasoning in modernism (the up and coming problem today). We are so accustomed to saying "the Bible says"--then along comes someone from the school of Bultmann, Barth, Ludwig, Niebuhr, or Tillich and says,
"so what--the Bible is a man-made book anyway;" then what happens? Not only are the members unprepared, but so are many of the preachers. There is a big difference in studying to be prepared to meet such problems before they arise, and repeating a couple of memorized statements that the evidence is in favor of the Bible and only the foolish question it. Such assertions are not proof (and if Cecil will permit, may T also here recommend Evidence Quarterly edited by Ferrell Jenkins, $2.00. P. O. Box 8182, St. Louis 3, Missouri).
But, someone objects, if I start talking about Niebuhr, Barth evolution, premillennialism, predestination, etc., no one will know what I am talking about. WHY??? Simply because that is exactly what has been done. We have contented ourselves with these watered-down milk sermons for so long we are afraid to study and turn out something of a deeper and meatier quality. They are ignorant of them because they are being kept ignorant of them--yet many are desirous of such actual digging and evidence to not only bolster their own faith but also enable them to meet some of these modern-day evolutionists and atheists. But, instead of such study and work, many preachers are content to get by on a week's work for a month's support and feel God is going to be pleased with how they enjoyed living off His money. If we put the time in studying and working for the church that we would in turn expect from someone else (doctor, factory, or any other secular job) in which we were paying the bill, there would be no evolution taught in schools, atheists ridiculing the word of God, members giving way to denominationalism, nor small struggling preachers against the forces of modernism on the march. But, do we?
Secondly, having objected to the abuse of some to make the preacher the sole personal worker, others have flopped to the other extreme of doing no personal work at all. They sit back and content themselves with the view that the preacher is to study (and put out about 10 hours per week on such while drawing a nice fat salary) and not to spend all his time running about. Members of the church do not need to be visited because they are already members, and the members ought to be active in bringing nonmembers to church instead of leaving it all to the preacher. First of all, we grant the preacher is not to do all the personal work, BUT HE IS TO DO HIS SHARE. This includes not only visiting the members (Gal. 6: l-2; Paul even visited with churches and elders to strengthen and encourage them), but also to turn out his share in bringing new converts to Christ. Just as the members err in expecting the preacher to do it all, so the minister errs who expects the members to do it all. Not only should he do personal work? But being supported full time, like it or not, he must not only give time to study (and this need not mean 8-hours per day-- but a good deal more than many do), but being in the position of having more time available, he should certainly be expected to turn out as much personal work as any other active member in the congregation. They are doing it in addition to their work, but he is doing it as part of his! Upon whom will the greater responsibility and requirements be laid? Regardless of whether or not the others do their share, this does not excuse the preacher from his individual obligation. Again in analyzing what is being turned out in study and work of the church, it might do well for many to consider if they are being overly supported.
In passing, while many preachers also edit the bulletin as a further means of teaching (though they may use members to mimeograph it for their activity too), this "Mr. Selected" who has written so many articles shows only further evidence of the do-as-little-as-possible attitude in many places. First of all, if they are so ashamed of the source from which they may have gotten it, they shouldn't have printed it in the first place. Secondly, these bulletins that are "Mr. "Selected" every week also lend strong support to the belief that the preacher is not interested enough to write some good and pointed lessons in a bulletin and is probably not interested in the amount of study he puts out either. If he studied as he is expected of God to do, he would have material for the bulletin as well as personal work, preaching discussions, or any other obstacle that might arise. In fact, if preachers were supported for their work's sake instead of their name, those working would be rewarded in the Lord more justly, while those doing a hundred and one other things to the exclusion of the work of the church would be left out.
True, the preacher is worthy of his support (I Cor. 9, Phil. 4: 15, etc.), but there are many preachers who are drawing such for little in return. This writer does not claim perfection, nor is this article designed for any specified one person, but is a consideration of a condition far too prevalent in many areas today. In conclusion, though, there is one thought to keep before us: a man worthy of his meat should be so supported and encouraged--and if a man were worthy of his meat, in many cases such support would be forthcoming as the church would grow and be strengthened by results of study and teaching.
Truth Magazine VI: 12, pp. 4-7