By Denver Niemeier
The events that touch our lives and the lives of others can be a source of knowledge to us if we profit from them by using them to make the future better for us.
It is to this end that I call attention to the following. A father was telling his son of some of the lessons that he had learned from his life in an effort to make the son’s life easier and better than the father’s had been. The son then told his dad, “Why don’t you just let me find out for myself?” At times there are those who do not or will not benefit from what others have learned. I trust that you will at least consider these things I write.
I have learned that preaching the gospel of Christ can be a heart-rending, difficult task. I have learned that serving as an elder is even as difficult, if not more so. In an ever increasing way I appreciate what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11:28 “about the care of the churches.” An elder has to be among other things a practical steward of God’s money. He has to continue to be a careful student of God’s word, not only for his own soul’s sake but also for the benefit of every member. His own spiritual growth must continue, and he has the responsibility for helping others to do so also. He has to be a mediator, diplomat, counselor, advisor, planner, arranger, and example. He must have a level head and broad shoulders.
I have learned that children of members of the church are not always encouraged to prepare themselves to be preachers or preachers’ wives, elders or their wives, deacons or their wives, Bible class teachers or even good faithful Christians. I can remember when I obeyed the gospel I set two goals that I wanted to reach in this life, one to preach and the other to develop spiritually to be the kind of man who had those qualifications of an elder. I have learned that far too many have no goals such as these.
A couple, both members of the church, were having problems with their marriage. They met several times with the elders as efforts were made to keep them together. The man had fallen short in many ways of being the husband and father he should have been. The woman was “fed up” with this and was thinking she could do a better job as a mother without him. The man remarked several times to the elders that they would make her stay with him if they were the elders they should be. I have learned that elders cannot force people to do what the elders would have them do. If that were true there would be a lot fewer problems and every member would be faithful.
I have learned that some members are not going to work for the good of the church. They expect everything to be taken care of, but they will not get involved. They come to services expecting the building to be comfortable, either warm or cool depending on the weather, the lights to be on, the Lord’s table prepared, etc., then get up after services with no thought that someone has to close up the building and that someone is going to have to clean the building before next week. They never visit the sick, never speak to the visitors, never seek out those to study with, invite to services and many times do not even prepare themselves for the classes. This type attitude reminds me of one I once knew. I was working with a church which wanted to build a building on top of the basement they had been meeting in. They realized that to do so was going to require the members to make a commitment over and above what they had been giving. All agreed to this except this one person. However after the building was up and they were meeting in it, he was pleased with what we had done. Many will not help with the efforts but are happy with the results.
I have learned that some members are “floaters,” that is they float here and there, never getting involved any where. For some years we have had a couple coming to the morning worship services about once a month. They informed us they attended services here and there, going to one church (they claim to be members of the Lord’s church) one Sunday and a different one the next, etc. They never come to Bible class, do not attend any time except on Sunday morning, but would have you think they really love God and want to go to heaven, but they don’t get involved with his work. People who will not commit themselves to God as they should, will do so to other things. The one I have just spoken of is very much committed to another organization. I have learned that some “talk a good religion.”
I have learned that elders who keep the church well informed of the plans, problems and affairs will have better cooperation from the members. I know of elders who, at frequent intervals, will visit with the members in their homes seeking comments, criticisms, questions and suggestions concerning the work. One question they always ask is concerning the preacher and his work. They also provided an opportunity for the men to meet with them an hour before the evening service on the first Sunday of the month. During this meeting the men are made aware of the current events and future plans. The men are asked for their comments and these are taken into consideration when the elders make their decisions. After the service that same evening one of the elders gives a brief summary of the things talked about in the meeting with the men. This keeps all informed of the affairs of the church. Of course the members are encouraged to feel free to meet with the elders at any other time that they have need. Elders need to keep things on an open communication basis.
I have learned that preachers sometimes become so popular with the members that the preacher can do no wrong in their sight. A preacher moves to work with a church, down the road something happens that causes the preacher to be dissatisfied with the elders, he gathers his forces around him and sets out to get rid of those unqualified men. It is amazing how fast, at least in the eyes of some, qualified men can become so unqualified. This kind of a situation came about in the church where I was a member not long after I obeyed the gospel. At the suggestion of one of the elders, I had a conversation with Roy Cogdill who was in a meeting a short distance away. After talking with him concerning this matter he told me, “It is possible for one man in an eldership who was qualified to become unqualified, but for all of them to do so at the same time was very unlikely.” With some who preach the attitude is “my way or else,” even if it means tearing up the church, and so here comes trouble.
I remember a preacher who closed his lessons with words to this effect, “If you disagree with what I have said, don’t come talk with me about what I have taught until you have spent as much time as I have in studying this subject.” I have learned some will expect others to listen to what they say, but will not give others the opportunity to say what they want to. Some have open mouths and closed minds.
There are those who have a history of having trouble wherever they go. The church is usually left in a mess as they move on. Again I refer to something brother Cogdill said, “A preacher can be in trouble once in a while and be right, but he cannot be in trouble all of the time and always be right.” I have learned that as the result of this a lot of moves take place. Moves cost money, so a lot of the Lord’s money is used to move preachers that could be used otherwise. Because of the attitude and disposition shown by some who preach some of the Lord’s money is wasted.
I remember a preacher who carried a brief case containing letters from people at places where he used to preach, praising him as a man and preacher. A preacher who used to preach where I serve as an elder, once asked me if he could use me as a reference. I told him he could, but then ma& this suggestion to him. Take a copy of the directory of this church and give to the brethren where you are interested in going and tell him to get in touch with anyone listed therein to find out about you. If one has conducted himself in the way a child of God should, he will not be afraid of what anyone would say about him. Isn’t that a better way than just picking out a few?
I heard a remark made at a debate a few years ago that went something like this. “Be careful of what you say around here because you might get written up in a paper, especially if you are in the first hundred preachers.” First of all I am uncertain who decides who are the first hundred preachers or who is the last hundred for that matter. Be that as it may, the statement says something. There are those who are just waiting to get an opportunity to pounce on someone who writes or says something that they don’t like. I have learned that some are “brotherhood keepers,” who seem to be more interested in keeping up with the brotherhood and give more interest to that than they do the local work where they are. If you want to know what is going on where and when just get in touch with them. I heard recently of a preacher who did not want to do any writing because he did not want to put anything in print that he might change his mind on later, and that some one might dig up what he had written before and raise a fuss about it. I don’t know about you, but I do not know everything in the Bible, I am still learning after all these years, and hope to continue to do so. Why is it some give the impression that they have always known everything?
Several years ago I was talking with the elders of a church that was looking for a preacher. They told me that in times past they had asked the preacher working with them not to preach on certain issues because the church there was not bothered with them. They went ahead to say that all of a sudden they were bothered with them and they were not ready to meet them and that, as the result, they almost lost the church to these issues, because they had not been taught the truth on those things. They said they had changed their mind and now wanted the preacher to teach on things that could come before that church. I have learned that preventative teaching is a must. The man who knows the truth is less likely to be turn aside than one who does not know the truth.
It has been my purpose to be helpful. If we can learn from the experiences of the past, then the future will be better.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 15, p. 458-459
August 6, 1987