By Brent Hunter
A few months ago members of the church of Christ in Pekin, Indiana, were somewhat bewildered when the phrase, “Brent is coming, ” began to appear in their bulletin. It was not until several weeks after it appeared that a full explanation was given that the elders had hired a student to work with the congregation for the Summer. Upon my arrival I was greeted with, “Oh, so you’re Brent!” My summer at Pekin had begun. We all worked hard together and kept busy; consequently, the time flew by quickly and now I can hardly believe that my stay with the Pekin Church is over. It all seems like a fleeting memory as I now attempt to evaluate my stay there. So much can and needs to be said. I now, for the first time, truly appreciate the words of the apostle Paul, when he said. to the young preacher, Timothy: “I thank Jesus Christ our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me in His service” (1 Tim. 1:12).
Many churches are now trying to decide whether it would be profitable for them to hire a young preacher to work with them for the Summer or on a longer basis. Many churches are already using such a program. The duration of their stay has ranged anywhere from two months to two years. If you have not ever considered the merits of such a program, or would just like to know more about its possibilities, then read on. The program’s effectiveness at Pekin will be evaluated from two viewpoints. This article is from the young preacher’s viewpoint and the corresponding article on the opposite page is from the local preacher’s standpoint.
First of all, let me say it will be a worthwhile investment, if you are willing to plan for the program and utilize the available time wisely. It is my conviction that if a project such as this fails, it is not because the ones involved planned to fail, but because somehow they failed to plan. You will get out of the project exactly what you put into it! The benefits that can be attained through this type of program are worth giving great consideration. Let us .begin by talking about some of the advantages available to the universal church, the local church and also the young preacher.
Advantages to the Universal Church
There are three important advantages that need to be considered: (1) We have all been hearing about the preacher shortage, both in number and quality. It would be a tremendous service to the Lord’s kingdom if men could be encouraged to preach via this means and help remedy this situation. (2) The Lord’s body has been split and splintered many times since its restoration. At a time when we are once again under attack and wrestling with various isspes, the added stability given younger preachers by their association with men that have preached for a few years cannot be underestimated. It could very well prove to be an invaluable aid in maintaining the purity of the New Testament church. (3) I believe the program helps to strengthen the local congregation, and as each local church is built up, the universal church is made just that much stronger.
Advantages to the Local Church
There are a multitude of things that could be listed here, but once again I have decided to list what I see as the three most important: (1) The general spirituality of the congregation will be enhanced with “new blood” being brought into the work. (2) The members will be able to hear different and varied preaching while the local preacher is free to do more good old New Testament evangelism. Additional home studies, personal work programs, and correspondence can be undertaken. New innovations are also made possible. A good example of this was the booth the Pekin church had at the County Fair. The elders at Pekin planned to have the booth while I was there so I could help with this new project. (3) Another big advantage is that it should prove to be especially helpful in building a fire under the teen-age group in any congregation. Enthusiasm is contagious!
Advantages to the Prospective Preacher
This is the area that I feel most qualified to comment on. I can personally testify to the help it has given me as a Christian and a young preacher of the gospel. It has caused me to grow ever closer to Him, and I could never put a price tag on something of that nature. The three basic advantages I see for the young preacher are as follows: (1) Many begin preaching, get discouraged and quit. This Summer program lets beginning preachers know what to expect before they get into it full-time. (2) It gives him experience to work with (in most cases) a church with elders. This is an invaluable experience. (3) It enables him to work with a more experienced preacher which will help him get and stay on the right track. He is given invaluable pointers on sermon preparation, the writing and assembling of the bulletin, and in what books he should begin to add to his library. Surely, it is a very worthy endeavor to help train and assist young preachers in beginning a life of service to the Lord.
How To Begin
We all know how important first impressions are. As soon as possible after arrival, have a meeting with the elders. The elders should get a calendar and basically let the young preacher know what is expected of him. Things such as when he is to preach, when and how many articles he needs to prepare for the bulletin, what classes he is expected to teach, etc. Naturally it should be kept flexible, but this session is a must. The time will fly and usually if this is not done, many things you had thought about doing will never become a reality. This meeting should be of great help to him also in that he can plan accordingly and not find himself swamped one day and little to do the next. In the meeting you might make it clear you understand that he is new and you do not expect perfection. If possible, encourage him to preach as many different types of sermons as possible. A purely topical type of approach should be avoided. Encourage some expository preaching.
I have heard it once said that there are seven words which will kill the church: ‘We’ve never done it that way before.” Be careful of falling into this trap. New things can and often are taken to an extreme. This program, however, is a scriptural and effective program to build up the church. Consider its possibilities! It is a noble endeavor to help train young men effectively to preach the word. If ever there was a worthwhile investment of the Lord’s money, this is one. It is a worthy endeavor.
Truth Magazine XIX: 11, pp. 169-170
January 23, 1975