By Irven Lee
Over the last several years I have written several articles that have been made available to the brethren through this and other journals that are published to encourage spiritual growth. A few telephone calls, letters, and comments made by people I see either commend or criticize these articles. Almost all responses, even those that are critical, have been made in a courteous manner. All reactions from the readers help me and are appreciated.
One such pleasant letter came in response to an article published in the June 20, 1985 issue of Guardian of Truth concerning preachers. The letter was carefully written, and it is my impression that it will help those who read it. It follows, and it will speak for itself.
“In a recent article you asked the question, ‘Do some preachers who are in the “mission field” spend their time much as retired people do? I’m afraid the sad answer to your question has to be, “yes.” It is even sadder when you realize how little an individual member or an elder can do about it.
“I’ve struggled long and hard with the problem and have come to the following conclusion as to what I can do as an individual to help solve the problem: (1) Be hospitable and friendly with the preacher but do not involve him too extensively in your recreational activities. If the preacher involves himself in each member’s favorite recreational activity, then it leaves little time for him to do his work. Don’t make the preacher your favorite hunting buddy, fishing friend, golf partner, tennis rival, or whatever. (2) Even if he offers, do not allow the preacher to help you build or remodel your house, refinish your antique furniture, baby sit your children, or do anything else which keeps him away from his work. (3) Try to involve the preacher in meaningful religious conversational topics rather than talking about sports, fishing, the weather, or your own job or business. (4) Ask the preacher to show you how to do personal work, involve him in the personal work you are doing, try to get him to go door to door with you inviting people to the services. (5) Quiz the preacher often and tactfully on what he is doing. Know how he spends his time. Know what kinds of problems he has as far as accomplishing his ‘mission.’ (You’ll probably know all about his financial problems and what kind of deal he made on his last car trade, etc., whether you want to or not.) (6) Above all be tactful and confidential, avoid the appearance of being a critic. Do not discuss the preacher’s attitude toward his work unless it gets to the point that the congregation must take action and then only discuss it with others after you have discussed it with him personally and have given it plenty of time to soak in. My observation is that a preacher can split a congregation quicker than any one else and if he feels that you and others are ‘closing in’ on him, he may actually split the congregation in self defense. (7) Praise the preacher, both publicly and privately, every time you have an honest opportunity to do so. If he sets up or attends a Bible study, tell him how very much you appreciate it (even if it is his job. You probably like to be praised for doing things that are your job).
“In summary, use whatever management and leadership tactics that are available to you, realizing that firing the preacher is usually not a viable solution and also realizing that it is almost impossible to use constructive criticism. (Walk on eggs!)”
That closes the letter except for some personal notes which do not pertain to the article I had written. I commend this letter to all preachers, elders, and members of the church as we all work together to make our efforts in the Lord’s kingdom more effective.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 17, p. 527
September 5, 1985