By Kathleen M. Berendt
Why is it so, that when you hear the young people of the church tell you what they want to do with their lives, one seldom hears, “I want to be a preacher,” or “I’d like to be a preacher’s wife”? As I’ve asked repeatedly, the usual answer, heard time and time again, is, “But a preacher’s life is so poor; so hard; it’s just. . .”
Could it be that our children have received such “negative press” from us as parents, that this “career choice” is simply out of the question? Or could it be, that what they see brethren put the preacher and his family through just isn’t for them. Could we not make the life of a preacher and his family more appetizing or appealing? For that matter, maybe preachers and their families need to examine how they’re coming across to the young people.
It sounds to me, like I’m living “the impossible lifestyle,” yet I live it each day. These are things I have heard brethren comment on — could this be you? “It takes a certain kind of woman to be a preacher’s wife.” When asked, “What kind?” the answer comes back, “One who can live in a fishbowl. . . Have no private lifestyle. . . Raises perfect children. . . Always studies the Bible. . . Caring for the needs of everybody in the church. . . Never having a perm-anent dwelling place, or owning their own home. . . Never going on ‘big’ vacations. . . You’re never to have anything of ‘real’ material value. . . Can’t drive a nice, new, expensive (red) car. . . Entertains constantly, always ‘at the drop of a hat’. . . hardly can afford to get sick. . . The list goes ‘on and on.”‘ But the very top of “the list” is always the same one, “Preachers don’t make good money; they have to live such a rough life.”
Why is this? I’ve actually heard some brethren say to preachers, “You’ve given up all the fine things that life has to offer, when you ‘went into’ preaching.” Being raised in the Catholic Church, I realize that nuns and priests have to take a “vow of poverty,” but so far, I haven’t come across this stipulation in the word of the Lord, nor the “job description” of a gospel preacher. Some make the life of a preacher look so hard and horrible, no one would dare volunteer to such an undertaking. Even preacher’s children are heard to remark, “I sure don’t want to be a preacher (like my daddy); it’s too hard.”
Putting the Lord “number one” in our lives, is to be the task of all his children (Matt. 6:33; 1 Cor. 15:58). Attending all the worship services is mandatory for all who truly love him (Heb. 10:22-25; Jas. 4:17; Psa. 110:3), as well as being prepared and ready for Bible classes, and studying the word of God (Acts 17:11; Jn. 5:38-40). Being kind, caring, and considerate to all others (the sick, elderly, downtrodden, weak and otherwise needy) is enjoined upon all disciples of the Christ (Rom. 12:9-16; Matt. 25:31-46; Jas. 1:21-27). Also, being hospitable to one another, is a widespread requirement (Heb. 13:1-2; 1 Pet. 4:8-9). The pursuit of worldly gain and wisdom is forbidden (Rom. 12:1-2; Col. 3:1-15). And finally, living a life without sufficient income is also for all of us. . . Oops — there’s the stopper! It really isn’t for all of us after all, or is it? Is this the ultimate hardship?
God has promised to care for all of our needs, provided we trust in him (Matt. 10:28-33, 6:19-34; Phil. 4:4-9; 1 Pet. 5:5-7). With that thought, I’ll say this: A preacher’s salary is “ordained” by the Lord, but decided upon, by the brethren (1 Cor. 9:3-14). If a preacher’s lifestyle is so hard, it probably is because the brethren believe it must be so, not our Lord (Gal. 6:6-7; 1 Tim. 5:18). The Lord especially wants the hardest of his workers to be cared for. If preachers and their families can’t be provided for, the way the rest of God’s children would like to be, something is seriously wrong. All of the brethren have their needs, but it never ceases to amaze me, how the preacher’s needs are measured by a “different” standard. Some preachers don’t even have insurance, or if they do, it’s such poor quality, that his family waits until they’re practically on their death bed before they see a doctor! An eye doctor, dentist, or orthodontist is a luxury which many preachers’ dependents rarely see. When vacation time comes around, too often the difference in the brethren and the preacher’s income is seen. As the family struggles to make their month-to-month “regular” bills, often getting a bit behind on their budget, that finding sufficient cash even for gas money is a difficult task. Grandma and grandpa seem so very far away at such times. A “worn out” preacher is seen, along with his tired family, who are barely able to get away, to visit their relatives. Of course, this type of visit is wonderful, but not always very restful, especially when you travel through the night, with the family sleeping in the car, for lack of funds for a motel.
If brethren are “early risers,” they expect their preacher and his family to rise early even though his work may have caused them to stay up late. What is often found, is that usually a preacher and family are both early risers and late nighters.
If the preacher decides to take one day off, out of a seven day work load (as did his Lord) and he doesn’t get away from home, his “day off” can easily become a full day’s work, including late night hours. It only takes a few calls from brethren to fill a “lazy” preacher’s daily schedule.
A church with any amount of members, considering all the different needs of each person with all the preacher and his family must do to please each of them, could leave a preacher and his family in an endless battle of no private lifestyle. “No rest for the weary!” A preacher has to protect his family and himself, making choices as to what they will and will not do, to make sure they have a good family lifestyle. This includes spirituality, eating, work, fun, and resting; preferably done together (as in — “a family unit”). Too often they find time for only one.
If it sounds like a “hard life” — it is, or at least it can be at times. These hardships, of course, are not limited to preachers and their families, as everyone who is diligent and active, doing the Lord’s work will find themselves with plenty to do at all times. But you simply live it each day — and pray to the Lord, turning to him for the strength and energy to make it each day (Phil. 4:13). For he is the pillar of all families who diligently serve him daily, the world over.
But my main concern is this — I am rather young myself, and already I ask this question (usually of myself, and my God), “Who is going to take my husband’s and my place, in the service of the Lord, when we are gone off this earth?”
“Who will live this hard life?”
Let us pray together, brethren, on these matters. I believe it is a great concern of the Lord and should be to his children as well. I thank the Lord each day for providing me with the strength to serve him. That such a worm as I can be enabled to do his work on earth, but through “the foolishness of preaching,” he chose to get his word out. We all need to live “the hard life” — for him. To quote a wise man, I love dearly, “His people may (at times) not seem to be worth it — but our Holy Father always is!” And that is why we live the hard life!
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 2, p. 8
January 21, 1993