By Roy E. Cogdill
A professional attitude is one seriously destructive mistake that especially needs to be avoided. When a preacher begins to feel in some respects toward his work as a doctor or lawyer does toward his profession he ceases to be a safe teacher for anyone. The promotion of my own welfare and position into the highest possible plane from the viewpoint of influence, popularity, demand, earnings, or rank is an ambition that evidences a professional disposition that is unsafe and unsound all the way through.
Some indications of such an attitude can be seen in the way a preacher talks about his work. When you hear one talking too much of “my work – “my job” – “my usefullness” – “my influence” – “my elders” – “my church” – “my members”, etc., you may know that he is at least in danger and likely has already contracted the ailment.
When a preacher becomes a hireling, paid so much to do what the brethren want done, rather than supported that he might give his time to reading, exhortation, or wholly to the work of the Lord, both the preacher and-the brethren have put his work on a professional basis. When it is upon such a basis the brethren can prescribe what he preaches right along with the stipulations that govern the rest of his work and he becomes a pleaser of men instead of a servant of God. His main purpose and effort becomes a struggle to keep his “job” and prevent himself from being ousted by another job hunter.
Some have about the same attitude toward the elders of the church that a corporation president has toward the board of directors. If one or more will not go along with his “program” he is minded to start a campaign of maneuvers that will get him or them out of his way and others in who will be more agreeable.
The preacher’s attitude toward his support sometimes betrays that he is a “professional.” The t4oition seems to be to measure it by what another preacher is getting or by what some other church might pay rather than the need and ability of the church where he is laboring. Some are on a constant search for a higher salary and such a consideration will move them almost inevitably. Then too, if he can get an offer of a higher salary from some other congregation, he can probably get a raise for preachers are not so easy to find.
The idea of “making tents” to enable him to do a greater work in some needy field or place would be beneath his dignity for that would seem to put him in the class of “part time” preachers and besides he wouldn’t have enough time to study though he does not use his time that way when he has it.
“Professionalism” is the primary cause of jealousy among, preachers. If one really loves the cause of Christ and wants to see the truth advanced he would rejoice to see all other preachers more successful in accomplishing good than he. But as we measure ourselves by others, we can see many reasons why we should be reocgnized above others. A preacher who has a degree and has attained quite a standing scholastically frequently will resent the fact that he isn’t called for as many meetings, or doesn’t preach for as big a church, or receive as large a support as one who doesn’t have those attainments. He has been educated to think that such attainments in the sight of the world are really the measure of greatness in the Kingdom of God.
What is my purpose as a preacher anyway? Is it to “guard my influence and usefulness” so as to be kept busy and have a good living out of my work as long as possible? Is it to advance myself in the eyes of the brethren until I am in demand and can require the most liberal support? Is it to be recognized as. a scholar and ranked high in the esteem of men? Is it to be able to control others and wield the greatest power? None of these are worthy of even our weakest efforts.
They should not enter into our consideration for a moment. Surely we need to use the best possible judgment in all our affairs and with the utmost skill strive to serve the greatest good of the cause of Christ. But can we say with Paul, “I hold not my life of any account as dear unto myself, so that I may accomplish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). [Originally appeared in Bible Banner, 10, 5 (May 1948):13]
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 18, p. 565
September 15, 1983