By Burl Young
Now to you city boys, the above will not mean a whole lot, but those of you who have been blessed with a life in rural America will probably know what it means. For those that do not know. I will try to explain. It means that even a hog with no sense of direction, without the use of his eyes, and just groping along in the darkness, will occasionally find an acorn to eat. I wish to make application of this to the preaching of the gospel.
In 1 Corinthians 3:7, Paul stated that he planted, Apollos watered and God gave the increase. It seems that this is often used to make apology for preachers that sometimes preach several years without any responses to the gospel. It is my conviction that the gospel always gets results. For a preacher to preach for years and years in a local area, taking full-time support for this work and not having any results ‘ is to border on the absurd. At the very best, it is bad judgment on the part of those supporting him and at the worst it is intentionally failing to do God’s will with his money. Because I have preached for some of our larger congregations and some of the smaller ones too, I feel I can be fairly objective in this matter.
I have stated above that the preaching of the gospel always gets results. If this is taken to mean that it always, on every occasion results in a conversion, it is taken other than the way I meant it. On the other hand, if one preaches for years and years in a given area and has no results at all, I believe some things should be examined. First, as a preacher, I must start with myself. Am I doing my job well? Am I using the proper style in my preaching? Do I hurt people’s feelings by my demeanor before I can teach them? Not all men have the proper attitude, demeanor and ability to preach the gospel. Not all men can be carpenters, salesmen, teachers or factory workers. Thusly, not all men should be preachers.
On the other hand, it may very well be that the people you are working with in the local church are such as are not liked by those around them. If this be the case, one should attempt to teach those persons first, before looking toward teaching others.
Getting back to the “style” of some preachers, let us examine some things we might do to help people understand. We should remove all barriers that we can in this area. If it is needful for you to “give in” just a little on matters of expediency, such as length, subject matter, or mannerisms on your part, perhaps you should care enough to be concerned for the feelings of others and do your best to accommodate brethren in these areas. However, one should always preach things that are needed and should never compromise on truth. This is not the issue under consideration. What is under consideration however, is your effectiveness with the congregation. If everyone is irritated At you because you are offensive in these matters, you will have little or no effect on matters of importance, even though brethren should be more patient many times.
When was the last time you preached a “first principles” sermon? Are you afraid that the members will think you are shallow? This may be what is needed to convert the children and visitors to the Lord. Simply because you have had a course or two in logic and know what a syllogism is, doesn’t mean your hearers do. Preach things that they can understand. Perhaps the greatest compliment I ever get in my preaching is that I am so “simple.”
Of course, all the blame for lack of conversions must not lie with the preacher. Jesus taught that preaching the gospel is like sowing seed; some will take root and some will not (see Lk. 8). If you find yourself in a place where all you seem to have is wayside hearers, you should seriously consider going elsewhere. Jesus taught his disciples that when they went out to preach, if the people refused to hear their words, they should shake the dust off and leave (Matt. 10:14). Having worked with larger churches that supported men in hard places, I have often heard the remark that brother so and so sure has a hard work. Well, it may be that he is not working at all and should be dropped from support. On the other hand, good faithful working brethren have been refused support because the large church was “full up” on supporting men. Brother, if you are working for a small church and there are no results at all, no one is receptive to your preaching and the future looks dim, consider going elsewhere. Conversely elders should examine the support of men who are having no results and consider using the money to support men who do produce. Brethren, souls are at stake, and this should not be taken lightly. How many salesmen would be kept at work receiving full pay if they never sold any goods? That answer is inherent in the question; none would be kept. Is the preaching of the gospel any less important than selling merchandise? I think not.
Finally, elders who are involved in the decisions to support or not to support men in the field should not treat these men as beggars! Dear elder friend, do you feel that a man is a beggar if he asks for wages in support for the work that he does? If you do, you should study again the fact that a preacher is worthy of his hire and is due wages and not benevolence. Many times a man is working with a small church because he chooses to work in hard places, not because he is unable to do any better. When asking for support men are often told that the church has no money and that we have to examine the budget. Brother, it may be imperative that the preacher have help now. He may not need to wait until a month later for a regular elders’ meeting. These are just some things to think about in that area.
In conclusion, let me say that preachers should convert people to Jesus Christ, and if you are not doing it, please examine your ability, your desire and your location. If any of these is lacking, get a job, make more money and be happy, you can still be saved. But if you are preaching the gospel, be effective, demand the money you deserve, and good elders will see that you get it.
And remember, “even a blind hog gets an acorn once in a while.”
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 23, p. 718
December 7, 1989