To Young Preachers
Fred E. Dennis
(Note: This good article is a reproduction of a tract, a copy of which Brother Dennis sent, giving his permission for its publication in TRUTH MAGAZINE.)
It is my happy privilege to number many young preachers among my dearest friends. God knows I have nothing but love and encouragement for every true gospel preacher. For more than a quarter of a century I have been traveling among the churches. I believe that I can offer some observations that will be beneficial to all young preachers.
Preaching the gospel is the greatest work on this earth. Your preparation for this work must not end with a few years of schooling. You must be a student of the grand old Book always. Make it a daily practice to read and study the Bible. Try to know a little more about it today than you knew yesterday. Read the best books of the brotherhood. In the course of a year you should read many books. Read carefully our best gospel papers. Some of the best preachers of the brotherhood contribute their ripest thoughts to the columns of the religious press. You cannot afford to miss this great source of spiritual help.
Do not preach the gospel because of the financial remuneration you may receive for thus preaching. If you are faithful to the Lord, the brethren will see to it that you receive sufficient money to keep yourself and loved ones. Do not desire too much. Your living habits should be simple. Do not seek the best-paying places. The poor need the gospel. Jesus was poor. Do not forget that. Never turn a place down because the pay is not big. Try to really earn what the brethren give you. If you cannot earn it, do not accept it. You cannot earn it by lying in bed half the forenoon. Have regular habits. Retire at a reasonable hour. Rise at an early hour. Do not waste precious time. Make every hour count. Do not ape some "big" preacher. Be yourself.
Stay out of the kitchen! The sisters will appreciate that. They will get the meals and wash the dishes. It is not meet for you to leave the word of God to serve tables. Give yourself continually to the ministry of the word and to prayer. You can help your own wife in the kitchen. Do not be too friendly with women, especially the young women. Be discreet. Give the enemy no room to talk about you.
Tell no dirty stories and broad jokes. You may crack a few clean jokes, but do not be given to too much levity. Saving souls is a serious business. Seek for opportunities to talk with folks about their souls. Let them know you are really interested in their salvation. This interest cannot be feigned. It must be real. It will be real if you are a Christian.
Have no questionable habits. The church and the world are watching every move you make. Have no habits that you would not want your own child and the children of the brethren to follow or imitate. Do not use tobacco in any form. For your own sake and for the sake of dying souls you cannot afford to do this. One cigarette might keep some poor soul out of heaven. They expect better things of a gospel preacher. That might cause an honest soul to stumble. You cannot afford to use tobacco from a financial standpoint. You have other and better uses for your money. It is not treating the Lord and the brethren right. You have no moral right to use money given to you for preaching the gospel for any such purposes. You cannot afford to do it from a physical view point. Preaching is very tiresome and exacting. You cannot afford this extra drain on your physical stamina.
Be punctual. Get to the services to time. Greet folks with a warm handshake and a friendly smile. Let them know you appreciate their presence. Be appreciative of every act of kindness shown you. Do not take everything as a matter of course. The brethren are good to preachers. They given them the best they have. The least we can do is to let them know we really appreciate it. Do not cause too much bother in the homes. Make your yourself congenial.
Preach the gospel. Do not preach your opinions too much. When you do express a personal opinion, be sure to put the right label on it. Do not take part in church troubles. If the gospel of Christ will not straighten out the trouble, there is not much you can do about it. Do not take sides Preach the truth. Do not allow personal friendship to blind you to the truth. The best friend anyone can have is the one that will kindly and firmly tell him the truth. Do not forget that in most church troubles there are three sides viz., "my side," "the other side," and the Lord's side. Try to stay with the Lord. Reason kindly with the brethren in the spirit of meekness. Remember that many folks are not as bad as they are painted, and many others are not as good as they are painted!
Pray much. Spend much time in prayer. Do not allow very many hours to go over your head without sweet communion with your heavenly Father. Work hard on your sermons. Have them well in hand before you go into the pulpit. Pray over them. Do not seek to please men in your preaching. Seek to please God. If you succeed in pleasing God, all good men will be pleased. You cannot help what others may think and say. Say what you believe the Lord would have you say. Do not be a moral coward. Be instant in season and out of season. Be firm in your preaching. Be kind. Do not be ashamed of your tears.
Do not be easily discouraged. Remember, there are always some who have not bowed to Baal. Do not be too much interested in "success". Be interested in being faithful. Do not try to excel some other preacher. Try to excel yourself. Learn much by observation. Watch the ones who have great influence for good. See where the secret of their power lies. Try to inculcate these principles into your life and work.
Makes friends with the young. Try to help them over the hard places. Remember, that little boy will be a man tomorrow. He will not soon forget the interest you took in him and the kind words you said to him. They will shape his destiny. Be doubly kind to the old. They do not have much longer to stay here. They can give you much good advice.
Be scrupulously honest. Owe no man anything. Make no financial obligations you cannot meet. Leave no debts behind you. This will kill your influence, and it ought to kill it. You have no right to be preaching if thus you do.
"Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example to the believers7 in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity... Give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. 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. 4:12-16.)
"In all things strewing thyself a pattern of good work: in doctrine strewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you." (Tit. 2:7,8).
May God bless you abundantly, my dear young brethren.
Truth Magazine VII: 10, pp. 10-11