The Preacher Shortage (2)
Is there really a shortage of preachers of the gospel? Well, I suppose there will never be as many as there should be who are willing to go out into the highways and by-ways of the whole world proclaiming Christ. But usually what we hear about a preacher shortage is not a consideration of the needs of destitute fields, but it pertains to the obvious fact that there are not enough qualified men so that each congregation here in America can have a "full-time" preacher.
Yet I don't believe there really is a preacher shortage. Almost every congregation in the world can have the services of a capable and devoted man in preaching the Word of God. Many congregations will have to utilize the abilities of all the Christians to run the errands visit the sick and do much of the personal work, but there are plenty of men who are able to do the preaching of the Word.
Many such men want to support themselves. Some do this because they want financial remuneration comparable to other Christians so that they can provide the niceties of life for their families. Others do it so that they can provide security for the later years for themselves and their wives. But is that wrong? Surely we have not imposed an unwritten, implied vow of poverty upon a man just because he preaches the gospel.
One Christian was showing me the acreage and house he had recently purchased for his retirement. When I expressed appreciation for his wisdom and then remarked, perhaps wistfully, that I didn't own one square foot of land anywhere he exclaimed, "Oh well, you don't need it!" It took a moment of reflection for me to accept his statement as a compliment. I think he meant that my children, my brethren and my God would take care of my wife and me. And I believe it is so. But it would surely also be right for a preacher, if he so desires, to work with his own hands and supply the necessities of life, at the same time using the abundance of leisure which our modern way of life provides to study the Word and to preach the gospel.
The preacher who supports himself can do effective work in many places, and at the same time he can thus help congregations that are unable to support a man. In other places he can do the local preaching while the congregation supports a man in some destitute field. I am aware that the Bible teaches that the one who preaches the gospel may live of the gospel and I am grateful that brethren generally are eager to provide his necessities. Yet, realistically, I know that many, many congregations will just have to be content without a full-time preacher. I hope such brethren will not be disappointed, but that they will, without complaint work enthusiastically with the men who support themselves.
There are plenty of full-time preachers who regularly preach to congregations in which several men sit and listen who are just as capable as the speaker. Why not activate the men to help fill the supposed shortage? Indeed, there is not a real preacher shortage, but rather only: (1) In some cases considerable inactivity on the part of many very able men who could be busy preaching but who are content to sit and listen to another, and (2) In other cases there is a desire on the part of the congregation to hire a man to be a full-time administrative executive who also will do enough visiting and personal work so that the members of the congregation will feel relieved of this obligation. Oh, yes, they will also let him preach 2 or 3 times per week.
Indeed, if those who are able to preach will do so, and if congregations will be willing to work with and use a faithful man who supports himself, there will be no preacher shortage.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XIII: 2, pp. 15-16