By Larry Ray Hafley
Brother Olen Holderby, a faithful evangelist in Alameda, California, gave me a copy of a guideline for selecting a preacher which had been drawn up for use in a local church. Brother Holderby withheld the identity of the church involved. It is not germane to our purpose, so we shall pass it along and make a few observations.
Things of Interest in a Prospective Preacher for the Church In . . .
1. Member of the Lord’s Church
2. Good References
3. Resume Should Be Provided
4. Good Pulpit Speaker
A. Simple Speaker
B. Capable in Presentation
D. Shows Good Preparation
E. Know the Truth and Presents it Well
5. Interested in Beginning Cottage Classes
A. In Addition Has Demonstrated Himself as a Capable Teacher
6. Good Reputation
7. Has a Sincere and Strong Desire to Serve the Lord
8. Has Experience in Young People’s Classes
A. As a Teacher
B. Some Suggested Subject Matter
9. Has a Good Outlook on the Following Items:
A. Visiting Those Who Have Fallen Away
B. The Potentials for this Congregation
C. Working with the Group Here In . . .
D. Has a Desire for the Work In . . .
10. Is Ready to Work with the Group (as the group should be ready to work with him and his family)
11. Has a Desire to Teach the Word of God by Scriptures and Not By Man Made Design
12. An Individual Who Does Not Feel as Though Divorce and Remarriage Is a Platform for the Lord’s Church
13. One Who Loves the Lord and Does His Will
14. In General, a Man Around the Age of 45-50 Years
Observations And Reflections
First, since divorce and remarriage are not to be considered as “A Platform for the Lord’s Church,” it will help us to know what a “platform” is. Webster says it is “a declaration of the principles on which a group of persons . . . stands.” If the preacher should not feel that marriage and divorce is one of “the principles on which” the church, “the pillar and ground of the truth” stands, should the elders, deacons, and brethren “feel” the same? If gospel preachers can “feel” Matthew 5:32; 19:9 are not part of the principled platform and pattern of the truth on divorce and remarriage, how do we deny the Baptist preacher the right to “feel that baptism is not part of the platform for salvation” (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16)? I thought we were to walk by faith, not by feeling (2 Cor. 5:7).
Second, if one should critically comment on the guide- lines above, would he be violating that local church’s autonomy? If “yes,” must he remain mute and not question item number “12”? If “no,” how do we qualify an issue to see whether or not criticizing it will result in a violation of a church’s autonomy — music in worship, premillennialism, institutionalism?
Third, if an “Individual . . . Does Not Feel as Though Divorce And Remarriage Is a Platform For The Lord’s Church,” may he also feel the same about homosexual marriages and polygamy? If he “Does Not Feel as Though (Homosexuality And Polygamy Are . . .) Platform(s) For The Lord’s Church,” should he be regarded as a “prospective preacher”? If not, why the one and not the other?
Too, along this same line, what shall we say about social drinking, dancing, immodest apparel, gambling, “and such like”? Is “An Individual Who Does Not Feel as Though Opposition to Social Drinking Is a Platform For The Lord’s Church” a prospective preacher?
Fourth, just how does one who “Knows the Truth and Presents it Well” (qualification # 4E) avoid the truth and application of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9? If one “knows the truth”; namely, that “whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commiteth adultery,” shall he be permitted to “present it well,” or not at all?
If a couple in an unscriptural marriage (as per Matt. 5:32 and 19:9) should present themselves for membership in that local church, would their petition be a “platform” for reception or rejection? Would the preacher who “Knows the Truth and Presents it Well” be allowed to do so? (What if a well-known preacher who endorses the marriage of the couple living in adultery were preaching that morning? Could the brethren accept their widely known brother but reject the couple who practices what he preaches?)
Fifth, how do we “square” items number eleven and thirteen with item number 12? Surely, “One Who Loves the Lord and Does His Will,” and who will “Teach the Word of God by Scriptures and Not by Man Made Design,” will insist on applying the Lord’s teaching to those who are living in marriages contrary to it.
Sixth, if a brother in that local church puts away his wife and marries another without the cause of fornication, should the preacher “Feel as Though (That Man’s) Divorce and Remarriage Is a Platform for the Lord’s Church”? Or, shall that man be allowed to divorce his wife without the cause of fornication, marry another, and still be received? When (and for whom) is divorce and remarriage a “plat- form” and when is it not? Perhaps those responsible for the standards above will favor us with an answer.
Worse yet, what if a “prospective preacher” comes for a “try out” and what if he fits their bill of particulars in every area, and, then, as they are about to offer him the work, he says, “Brethren, now that we agree that ‘divorce and remarriage is not a platform for the Lord’s church,’ let me tell you that my present wife is my second one. I put away my first wife because we just could not get along. I’m sorry for that, but now I’m happily married, and I’m glad this second marriage is not going to be a problem with you brethren.” What then? Does divorce and remarriage suddenly become a platform? Or is it only a “platform” for accepting a preacher but not a “regular” member?
Seventh, the “prospective preacher” must be one who visits “Those Who Have Fallen Away” (# 9A). Have those who have divorced and remarried without the cause of fornication “fallen away”? If a single, young brother marries a lady who has been put away, has he “fallen away,” since “whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matt. 19:9b)? If so, does divorce and remarriage then become a “platform for the Lord’s church”? If so, what if the preacher who was employed because he did not consider divorce and remarriage a “platform for the Lord’s church,” refuses to treat it as such in the case of the young man cited above? What if the preacher does not view the young man as having fallen away while the rest of the church does? Can divorce and remarriage suddenly become a platform for the brethren but not the preacher?
Eighth, item number five says, “Interested in Beginning Cottage Classes.” Suppose the preacher “Who Does Not Feel as Though Divorce and Remarriage Is a Platform for the Lord’s Church” begins a “cottage class” with a couple and teaches them the truth. After much study, they ex- press a desire to become Christians. As they prepare to be baptized, they inform the preacher that they have both been unscripturally married and divorced and that this has kept a Baptist church from accepting them, and they wonder if it will be a problem “in the Church of Christ.” What, then?
This very thing has happened to me. I have taught folks who were interested in becoming Christians and who, suddenly, spoke about other churches refusing them over their “marriage situation.” Tell us, ye who say that marriage and divorce should not be a platform for the Lord’s church, what shall we say to such a couple? Do we baptize and accept them without repentance and allow them to continue living in adultery? What should the preacher do? If he refuses to baptize them until they repent and cease living in adultery, has he made “divorce and remarriage . . . a platform for the Lord’s church”? These are real predicaments of sin. They cannot be shrugged off by refusing to face the issue and by dismissing it as a matter that should not be a “platform for the Lord’s church.”
Ninth, will someone explain to me the difference between placing divorce and remarriage in Romans 14 and the acceptance of the stipulation of qualification number 12? Just tell me how that item 12 is wrong but that placing the issue in Romans 14 and accepting the same people in adulterous marriages is right.
Finally, how many things can you insert in item number 12 above? How about baptism? Max Lucado would insert it into number 12. What of mechanical instruments of music in worship? Rubel Shelly would place it in number 12. Like unto baptism, music, and divorce and remarriage, what else could be placed in item number 12? How many things shall we refuse as “a platform for the Lord’s church”? No matter how broad is your list, the next generation will expand it — “they will increase unto more ungodliness” and “evil men and seducers shall wax.