By Denver Niemeier
Many things that not too long ago were plentiful are now in short supply. There are many shortages in evidence today that affect our daily lives.
While these shortages are of concern to all of us, there are others that should be of greater concern to every child of God. They are those “Shortages” to be found in the body of Christ. These “Shortages” are not the result of anything that is lacking from the divine, but they exist because of human failure. 2 Tim. 3:16-17 shows us that every instruction man has need of has been provided by God, so, therefore, anything that is lacking is because man has failed to follow that instruction and thus “Shortages” occur.
The “Preacher Shortage” as it has been called is one that most members of the church are aware, and is very widespread. Various factors have contributed to this shortage. One factor that I call “taking advantage” of the preacher has discouraged some men. Many times brethren have no idea of how to support a preacher, and as the result preachers make sacrifices that others of the church do not. Most of those who have to do with deciding what a preacher is to receive as his support have never had the experience of trying to live on “what the brethren give him.”
Those who preach have had the experience, as they have gone forth preaching, of some brother slipping up to him and quietly saying “here is a little something for you,” and too many times that is what it is-“a little something.” Preachers are asked to preach somewhere, are put to the travel expenses plus the time involved preparing and presenting the lesson, and are sometimes paid and sometimes not.
Brethren, we should not let “preachers” take advantage of the brethren in regards to the support he is to get; however, let us not be guilty of being involved in taking advantage of preachers: The lack of fair, adequate support has discouraged some from becoming preachers.
Another thing to consider is that too often we are reluctant to use men who are “just starting” or do not possess a degree or have at least attended a certain school. Too often the inexperienced preacher finds himself working with a small (many times new) group while the man of some years’ experience usually commands a place in a well-established congregation. Encouragement should be given to all to study, learn and apply oneself to teaching God’s word, and the fellow just starting out needs to be used. By the setting up of such unnecessary standards, men are discouraged from preparing themselves to preach.
The impression is given at times by members of the church that only those who depend on the brethren for all of their support are “full-time” preachers. Men are needed who devote all of their time working for the growth of the kingdom; men are also needed who support themselves in secular jobs to work in the Lord’s vineyard. Every Christian should be preaching (teaching) everywhere, all of the time, to every person, regardless of the manner they are scripturally supported.
There is also a shortage of “Qualified Leadership” in the church. Numbers of congregations are, and in some cases have been for years, without elders. The organization of the church is important; it is a part of God’s plan. However, liberties are taken with it that brethren would not stand for in respect to things such as worship, work, etc. It is not uncommon to find substitute arrangements being used. We should be as concerned (if not more) about the “Elder Shortage” as we are about the shortage of preachers. But, very little concern and effort sometimes seems to be found where there are no elders that such a shortage exists. Elders are qualified men (1 Tim. 3 and Tit. 1), and, of course, if the qualifications are not found in men then there can be no elders. The spiritual qualifications are those that are developed, and every Christian is to possess them. If men do not have them, they should be working toward developing them.
The New Testament speaks of elders in every church (Acts 14:23), and in every city (Tit. 1:5). If that was the way in New Testament times according to God’s plan, then why isn’t it the way now?
We are rightly concerned that our teaching, worship, work, and name is as God’s word reveals. We are concerned that congregations are independent and self-functioning. But, are we as concerned as we should be about how the congregation is organized? In congregations that are without elders, who actually does what the elders would do if they had them?
Some are convinced that no one can fulfill the qualifications that have been given. The qualifications of being “the husband of one wife,” “having faithful children,” “not accused of riot or unruly,” “having his children in subjection with all gravity,” are those that some do not possess because they are not married, or if they are they have no children. Now take a look at the rest of the qualifications – compare those spiritual qualities for the elder; how different are they from those things that are to be characteristics in the life of every Christian? God has not given a list of qualifications that cannot be met by men.
Some just do not want, or think they do not need elders. But, if we are interested in pleasing God we are to do as He wills, and His will sets forth that there are to be elders in every church in every city (Acts 14:23; Tit. 1:5).
Some prefer to have preacher-oversight. This even happens sometimes where there are men who are supposed to be elders. There is no conflict in God’s plan between elders and preachers. Both are called for, and for his plan to be as he would have it both are needed.
When elders do their work, the congregation will be growing and developing as God’s children. Men will be trained and encouraged to preach God’s word, and as members of the congregation develop, men will come forth who possess the spiritual development needed by one to qualify as an overseer of God’s people.
Brethren, if a congregation has no elders, have you ever stopped to think that someone is doing the work of the elders? It is not unusual to find congregations both small and large using other arrangements in carrying on their work.
The church is in a sad state of affairs when we find Christians unconcerned about being and doing what God required.
Elders: “I have often stated, and do not now have cause to retract, that if there cannot be found in the church of Christ today, men who meet Paul’s requirements of an elder, we have a very poor set of Christians on earth today and that righteousness has reached a very low ebb” (The Eldership by Herbert E. Winkler, Page 86).
How concerned are you? Are you doing what you can to relieve these shortages?
Truth Magazine, XX:19, p. 11-12
May 6, 1976