James P. Needham
The present attitude of the church toward preachers, and preachers toward churches and the work of preaching is a source of many problems among us. Some things need to be said very badly.
QUALIFICATIONS: It is interesting to go through first and second Timothy and Titus and pick out the qualifications Paul required of these men as evangelists then compare them with the qualifications required of preachers today. Without doing such at this time, I’ll just quote a statement I recently heard in a business meeting of a congregation which was searching for an evangelist:
"I would like to see us try to get brother _________ . He is well qualified: He has a photogenic mind, a dynamic personality, is a good mixer, EVERYONE likes him, and he never goes over the head of the elders . . ."
You will note that nothing was said about his knowledge of the scriptures, or his ability to preach the gospel. Everything mentioned has to do with his ability to impress people with HIMSELF, and thus build up a congregation around himself. This is the prevalent trend among the churches, and unless it is changed it will become a greater source of trouble to us as the years come and go. The church will wake up to find itself under the thumbnails of a few good mixing, dynamic photogenics without the power to do anything about it.
QUOTING SCRIPTURE: Many brethren are prone to praise a preacher according to his ability to quote scripture in his preaching. This is not to discourage or disdain quoting the scriptures in preaching-this should be done-but it is much better to use six or eight passages and thoroughly impress their meanings upon the hearers than to quote fifty passages just to show folks we can. Anyone of normal intelligence can memorize anything he can read, but not everyone memorizing understands what he quotes, and this is especially true of the scriptures. It is one thing to quote the scriptures and quite something else to explain them in such a way that others can understand their meanings. Let’s be more interested in conveying what was in the mind of the Spirit by pointing out the meaning of His words than in showing how many of His words we can recite in thirty minutes. Brethren with mixed-up values may not praise us for having photogenic minds, but people generally will receive a better understanding of the meaning of God’s revelation.
BEATING THE BUSHES: Most of us owe a debt of gratitude to the preachers of a century ago who, with a pioneering spirit, planted New Testament churches all over this country. They travelled the length and breadth of the land preaching in whatever facility was available to them: school houses, tents, brush arbors, etc. As a result of their efforts churches stand in large numbers in many sections today. To be sure, the spirit which planted many such churches has long since died, and well-to-do brethren now sit back in comfortable meeting houses in a state of indifference and gloat over "their successes" while people die within twenty miles of their so-called "plants" without ever hearing a gospel sermon.
Many modern brethren have some sort of a sophisticated idea that a tent meeting, or open air effort is below the dignity of the church. It is not uncommon to hear some brethren or sisters making light of tent meetings, black boards, and "rag" sermons (charts).
We need to get back to the good old down to earth methods of reaching the lost. More genuine Christians are made in those ways than by any other. The most successful work of my preaching life was done with tent meetings. I admonish you, brethren, get out under the stars this summer-take an old black board, a piece of chalk and some rag sermons and preach up a storm. You’ll be surprised at the results, and the great commission will have been obeyed in a greater degree.
Truth Magazine II:11, pp. 3, 14