By Dennis D. Tucker
Since last fall I have “tried out” at a number of congregations and feel as if something should be said about this whole process. This article is not motivated by anger but in hope of bringing some things to light. I started to preach because brethren encouraged me to do so. It is a privilege to preach and I have worked with some very good and kind brethren. However, there are problems in the attitudes and practices of some congregations.
1. Lying. As Christians we are to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). We need to make sure that our “yea” is “yea,” and our “nay” is “nay.” I had one congregation tell me that they decided to not look for a preacher for the time being. Previously, they had sent men to “interview” me. After telling me of their decision to not look and to preach themselves, they put the word out at a lectureship that they were still looking. Within a month they had located a preacher. Please notice that the problem is not that they had decided to look else-where. They just lied. If a congregation decides for whatever reason not to ask a preacher to come, they have that right. They do not have the right to lie.
One congregation decided on a certain preacher. In discussing a monthly salary they gave a dollar amount and said that was all they could pay. When the man said that he would need more, they suddenly had more money and gave a counter offer. If a congregation thinks a preacher is asking for too much money, they should say so. Do not lie by saying there is no more money while there really is. We need to remember Ananias and Sapphira who lied about the amount they received for their land. “You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:4).
2. Professionalism. We denounce the clergy/laity system in denominations. Yet some of our brethren seem to have the same concept. They want a professional speaker who will take over the work at a congregation. I agree that a preacher must be able to communicate, however, brethren seem to want more. They want a big name or someone who will wow their friends and neighbors. They want a man to do their work and act as their elder. They want a Bible degree from a Bible college. A number of good men who have stood for the truth in the past and present are discouraged by such an attitude. The church will lose many strong preachers.
Brethren, if a man can preach and you can trust him to stand for the truth that should be enough. Numerous congregations have fallen into a “preacher parade” because they did not want to “settle” for the first preacher. On different occasions I was told, “We do not want to get into a preacher parade.” Yet they have tried out a number of preachers and are still looking. Do not get into the trap of thinking, “Yes, he can do the job but there may be someone better.”
I remember reading an article by James Adams a couple of years ago. He said a congregation called him and asked if he might be interested in the work. They then asked him to send a resume. He respectfully declined and stated that he had not needed a resume before. He always preached the truth and if brethren wanted to ask him questions they could. I am not trying to be overly critical. I realize that brethren need to know the background of a man before they ask him to work with them, however, I wonder if we have not developed the attitude of the secular world. We are sup-porting a preacher and he should apply for the job just like any other job. I’m afraid the apostles would not be welcomed today in some of our pulpits.
3. Finances. Both sides must be realistic in this area. I will admit that I am not comfortable when brethren ask me how much I think I will need to live. Yet we must think in such terms. Preachers have the same cost of living as other people. I have to pay my taxes just like you. When my children get sick they need medicine. J.C. Penney has never written off a debt because I am a preacher. My car needs tires and gas just like yours.
In addition I have a number of added expenses. Preachers generally pay 15% for social security. Medical insurance is sky high. For a number of years we had health insurance. Our premiums were $500 a month with a $1000 deductible and no maternity. During that time we had three children. The hospital and doctor bills for the three children totaled around $18,000. I also must allocate money for my retirement. If I set aside $150 a month for an IRA that will total $1800 a year. I have been preaching twelve years and last year was the first time that I could put $1800 into my IRA. By most estimates that will not be enough for my retirement. How many refuse to support their preacher and then condemn him when in financial need?
One congregation called me and in the conversation mentioned that they were “self supporting.” They had a house and could pay $530 a week. For a man with a family that is not enough money. They were really saying they wanted me to live on that amount and not get any other support. Another congregation told me what they would pay. In addition, they did not want me receiving any money from any other source. I would have liked to have moved there, how-ever it was just not possible-due to the salary. If a congregation cannot pay a man enough to allow his family to live fairly, they should either allow him to work at an-other job or look for outside support. They should not expect him to starve his family.
A congregation should not expect a man to deprive his family when they can support him better. They should not expect other congregations to support their preacher when they can do so themselves (2 Cor. 11:8).
We have preachers that have worked for the Lord many years. They have nothing to live on when brethren feel they are no longer effective. Brethren then remark, “They should have planned better. They should not beg.” Brethren should be ashamed.
4. Treatment of family. How many of my brethren have ever gone on a job interview understanding that his family must come along? Can you imagine a company asking to see your children and wife before they will consider you? I understand that a man who preaches and is married should have a good home. He should treat his wife with love and be the head of the home.
I have felt at times that the brethren want to inspect my children. It is hard to travel all day in a van with young children, sleep in a motel or stay with a strange family,and get up on Sunday morning and feel relaxed. There have been times I have apologized to my children because they were on display. They understand when they are being “looked over.”
I also had a congregation send out questionnaires to my references. One of the questions asked if my wife conducted Bible studies. Brethren, my wife has the same responsibility as other godly women. We are not hirelings or the shepherds (John 10:11-13). Another questioned if I projected well on video. Does it matter if I am tall and handsome or short and dumpy? Such treatment is unfair!
Let me close on a personal note. Most of the time my family has been treated well. I have enjoyed getting to meet brothers and sisters. However, trying out is not a vacation or a picnic. It is costly, time consuming, and nerve racking.
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: No. 22, p. 14-15
November 16, 1995