By Johnie Edwards
Gospel meetings include keeping and feeding the visiting preacher. Where to keep the preacher and what to feed him often becomes a problem with lots of churches. Preachers are easier to keep and feed than most guests you will have in your home. Often the preacher stays with whoever happens to volunteer to keep him. One place I remember going to stands out in my mind. When I arrived the lady of the house said, as I knocked on the door, “Come on in, you are going to stay here. Since we have air conditioning, we got stuck with you.” I knew I was in for a delightful week!
There are usually two extremes in keeping and feeding the preacher. Some go to too much trouble and then there are those who make little or no preparation for a decent place for the preacher to stay.
Where Should We Keep The Preacher?
Shall we keep the preacher in a motel or in a private home? I assure you up front, that with most preachers, they fit right into whatever the local church decides. I have stayed in motels and I have stayed with some of the finest people on earth.
1. Don’ t put the preacher in a place where gossip might start. Often a family will offer to keep the preacher where the man of the house goes off to work early in the morning and the preacher is left alone with the man’s wife during the day. This is not a good arrangement. Some are just looking for something to gossip about and here is a good place to get something started. We must “give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully” (1 Tim. 5:14).
2. Let the preacher know where he will be staying. Sometimes the preacher has no idea where he will be staying until he gets to the place of the meeting. Knowing the place to stay may help the preacher in determining what to bring with him. Some churches wait until the last minute to make preparation for keeping the preacher and the place of stay is not ready for him!
3. Keep the preacher where he can have privacy. Everyone needs privacy whether at home or away. I have stayed in homes where you had to go through someone’s bedroom to get to the bathroom! This is not good. I recall staying in a home where a little boy kept coming into my mom and trying on my ties. If I decided to rest or take a nap, this same little boy would always come into my room and ask, “Mr. Edwards, are you asleep?” I would politely say, “Well not now!”
4. Keep the preacher where the family is comfortable with guests. Some people are nervous when guests are in the house, especially the preacher. I recall being in a home, that, when we sat at the table to eat, the lady of the house made sure that I sat in a certain chair facing a certain wall! Later her husband told me, “You know why my wife made you sit where she did? She made me paint that one wall before you came, so it would look clean?” I was more interested in looking at and eating the food, than the wall. Don’t be up-tight when you keep the preacher. He is only human as you are. Often the children keep the parents upset, afraid they will act-up or say things to embarrass the parents. A little girl set the table, one time, as the preacher was dining with the family and the little girl did not give the preacher any utensils. When the mother asked, “Why no utensils for the preacher?” The little girl replied, “Mother, I heard you say the preacher ate like a pig!” Thank God for honest children. Learn to treat the preacher nice you want to be treated. Jesus said, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12).
A Family Who Kept The Preacher
The Bible tells us of a family who kept the preacher in the Old Testament. Please take the time to read these verses: “And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread. And she said unto her husband. Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither. And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay them. And he said to Gehazi his servant, call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him. And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with this care; what is to be done for thee? Wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people” (2 Kings 4:8-13). A great deal can be learned from this Old Testament story:
1. The Shunammite woman was full of hospitality. Preachers enjoy staying where the people “use hospitality one to another without grudging” (1 Pet. 4:9). This family in 2 Kings understood hospitality.
2. She recognized the Holy Man of God. Preachers need to learn to behave properly when they are guests in the homes of others. Pick up and put up. Make-up the bed and leave the bathroom clean when finished with. Be kind and courteous to the host. Display the spirit of Christ always; practice what we preach is essential on the part of the preacher. Set a good example that the hosts realizes a “holy man of God” is a guest in their home!
3. The preacher felt welcome. Evidently he did, for he kept “turning in thither to eat bread, as he passed by.” When feeding the preacher, let him eat as he deems best. Don’t try to overfeed him or stuff him. Most preachers like to eat and an enjoyable part of a gospel meeting is visiting and eating with the brethren, but don’t overdo it. Eating two meals and perhaps “cake and coffee” after services keeps the preacher so full, that he can hardly breathe, due to being overstuffed! Help the gospel preacher live longer by not insisting that he over-eat!
4. Knowing the needs of a preacher. Preachers need some basic things in the place where they stay. I have stayed in places with no closets, no lights, no chair or table, only a bed! This lady of Shunem recognized the needs of a preacher. She made ready for him, a bed, a table, a stool and a light. Wasn’t she thoughtful? A preacher needs to study everyday (2 Tim. 2:15); so, a table and a chair sure do come in handy, along with good lighting.
5. She showed care and concern. The preacher said, “Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care” (2 Kings 4:13). Folks who keep the preacher need to show care and concern. Most of the places I have stayed over the years have done just that. Those who do not know how to show care and concern ought not to be keeping the preacher in the first place.
6. The family expected nothing in return. When Elisha asked, “What is to be done for thee?” The woman said, “I dwell among mine own people.” She was saying, “You don’t owe me a thing; I expect nothing in return for what we have done.” Isn’t that a great attitude? The family who keeps the preacher usually gets far more out of the gospel meeting than anyone else. What better person do you know of being in your home than a dedicated holy man of God? The gospel preacher ought to be a man of knowledge concerning the Word of God. It is a good time to discuss some Bible subjects and ask questions that you have always wanted to ask.
Learn to treat the gospel meeting preacher as you do home folks. He doesn’t expect to be entertained. Just use the regular bed sheets and bath towels. He will sleep better and dry-off easier, than if you buy all new linens.
Preachers need to show appreciation for those who go out of their way to keep them and make them feel comfort-able while away from home.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 16, p. 9-10
August 19, 1993