By William C. Sexton
Preachers, elders, and Christians in general are not immune to the common pitfalls of life. That concept, it appears to this scribe, deserves some serious consideration. Over the last forty years, I’ve seen many fall from grace, often into disgrace for themselves, and often affected many other’s lives. At this juncture, however, we’ll limit our expressions to preachers!
First, men who are preachers need to recognize that they can all fall into Satan’s devices (2 Cor. 2:11). Therefore, they need to beware, prayerfully consider situations in which we may be “overcome” in faults (Gal. 6:1ff).
Secondly, people (members in particular) need to recognize that preachers are human beings, with all the potential for evil as everyone else has. One is not to expect them to be iron horses, above temptation, etc.
Thirdly, preachers need to recognize that we are watched by many. Consider the apostle’s instruction to Timothy: “Be thou an example of the believers” (1 Tim. 4:12). A preacher’s family is often under a greater scrutiny than others, and some appreciate that and others resent it! Both the wife and the children are expected to live on a higher moral plane than others! How do you evaluate that? I hope we see it as a good thing; rather than a negative element.
I remember reading some writings of the late brother C.R. Nichol, to the effect that preachers at one time could ride trains free. Once, he occupied a seat with a reporter, and in conversation, he was critical of reporters being harder (more critical) of preachers than on other people. They will write a preacher up for things that other people engage in and escape the attention of the newspaper. The reporter said something that is significant: “You should be appreciative of that! When the average person commits such an act, it isn’t newsworthy! When a preacher commits such, it is news! There is a higher expectation of preachers!”
1. Preachers do neglect their families! I remember reading about one of the highly respected preachers of long ago, who was know for his soundness and effective preaching. But reading about his life, I have said and heard others say: “He was a great preacher, but he sure was not a family man. He sure did neglect his family!” A preacher’s wife was expressing to my wife once that she told her husband: “Why don’t you come home and take care of your ‘home work.’”
2. Often, perhaps pride, stands in the way: a preacher won’t admit that he can be tempted as other men! An older, more experienced, man told me of his conversation with a younger preacher, suggesting that he (the younger preacher) be careful and not get too close to those of the opposite sex. The younger man was offended, saying, “Why, I’m a Christian, you don’t need to warn me about that.” I’ve made it a practice, not to visit a woman alone! Even, if I knock on an elder’s door, and his wife is home alone, I’ll stay outside.
Once I had a young lady whom I had baptized recently, come to see me at my home, and I was there alone. She was innocent, studious, wanting to find the answer to some Bible questions. I told her we would sit on the porch. We sat there and studied. Years later she said she told her mother, that I didn’t invite her into the house. She thought that was strange. Her mother said: “Don’t you see why he wouldn’t?” Maturity, helped her to see the prudence of that, but at the time she didn’t understand why! She thought I was impolite, or something.
How many preachers have we known who lost their dignity, spiritual standing with God, hurt a congregation as well as their family by being imprudent in getting involved with a person they are studying the Bible with! Did they start out to get involved? I don’t think most of them did. But they were unwise, failing to understand that the sexual drive can be stimulated and carry one out of control, so beware! Flee fornication (1 Cor. 6:18)!
3. It’s easy to get so many things going that we neglect our families. I recall a time when I was holding down a 48-hour a week job, taking sixteen hours of college, and driving sometimes a hundred miles to preach each Sunday. From one perspective, I accomplished more in that time period than any others, because I had to meet deadlines! On the other land, looking back, listening to my wife, I see that I could have very easily lost my family (had they not been of the character to continue to be faithful, even though I was spending little time with them). Thank God they still love me, and “respect” me for the most part, I believe. However, I regret that I didn’t spend more time with my children as they were growing up. That time passes and can never be regained. I’ve found myself trying to give my grandchildren the attention I didn’t give my son and daughters!
4. Scheduling is a problem. I remember a preacher (O.C. Birdwell) suggesting to me early in my preaching experience (as I was about to embark upon the “full-time” preaching course) that a preacher needs to take some time off — say a Monday or some certain day of the week and be at home with the family. I can attest to the wisdom in following that advise. However, it’s not easy to do!
I was never one to spend as much time on vacation as I could (although we did occasionally go on a few day’s trip — to parks, visiting relatives, sight-seeing, etc). A preacher needs some change-of-pace activities; his family needs to be attended to, also. I have known preachers who scheduled their work so tightly, that they couldn’t go for lunch or alter their time slots for hardly anything. I have never been that tightly scheduled. I try to be flexible. But, there is so much time that one has to spend studying, preparing, etc. even if it is late at night, or whenever one chooses. So, get started early, but make yourself available to changing circumstances, etc.
Remember that we are not immune to the common pitfalls of men! Thanks for allowing me this time in your life!