By Louis J. Sharp
Much has been written concerning the preacher and his work. There is often a misunderstanding in regards to the same. This misunderstanding can, and does, gender strife and division. This may be an unwelcomed and unnecessary article, but I ask for your indulgence of the few minutes it takes to read what we have to say!
Not being personally acquainted with brother Doug Seaton does not prevent me commending his fine article to you. We refer to “The Joy of Winning Souls” in Guardian of Truth (January 7, 1988, p. 3). Among many good things he said, we especially note the following:
The gospel message is to be taken to the world (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16). A lot of men would do well to put down the denominational commentaries and take up the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, and seek some sinners (GOT; Ibid., p. 4).
1 doubt that any soldier of the cross would deny that statement! Surely, it is worthy of the consideration of all.
However, noting that brother Seaton resides in the state of Indiana, my mind recalled something written by an earlier preacher from the “Hoosier” state. His name was Benjamin Franklin, that worthy warrior of the “restoration” period. I could not recall the source of the comment running through my mind. So contrary to brother Seaton’s advice, I did a little research (spent some time in my books). Pulling out my copy of The Life of Elder Benjamin Franklin, I searched diligently for the quotation. Not finding it there, I looked in the Book of Gems (quotes of Franklin), and discovered what we were looking for. Following is brother Franklin’s estimate of a preacher’s working day:
He should be a man of no idle habits, such as lounging upon cushions, loafing on the streets, at the corners, in shops, stores, or other places of business, or idleness. He should rise early, unless prevented from getting to rest sufficiently early, by preaching at night, dress himself out and out for the day in fifteen minutes, and spend at least five hours in his books. This should be a regular work, an every day work. Five hours only brings him to about ten o’clock in the morning, about the proper time to see sick persons, the poor, or any whom it may be his duty to visit. Three hours can now be devoted in this way. This brings him to one o’clock. Allow him two hours to take refreshment and rest himself. Now it is three o’clock, a good hour for him to be among the people, where he may frequently spend two hours profitably.
If the preacher is a man of enterprise, so he can have an engagement for a sermon, a lecture, a meeting for prayer, or something of the kind almost every night, either in the church, or some place in a short distance in the community, where he may be waking up some interest among the people. It is the business of the preacher to seek an opportunity for something of this kind, and have some work all the time going on round him. . . (All emphasis mine, US, Book of Gems, pp. 453-454).
Brother Franklin, do you not realize you left no time for golfing, hunting or fishing, football, or baseball games? Well, of course, golf and football were non-existent, and baseball was in its infancy, but they did love their hunting and fishing. Preaching the Word, to him, was serious business. It should be the same with us today!
Like brother Franklin, we still believe we should spend some time in our books each day, and not to “leave the other undone” (Mt. 23:23).
A beloved brother, preacher, and teacher of our time has written on this subject. Reference is made to Homer Hailey. In Hailey’s Comments, Vol. 2, we find:
This disposition to steal is not confined to secular workers. How many could at this moment name gospel preachers, men who should be an example for good in all things, who set the example in stealing. Not that they would take the property of another; but men who, in the improper use of their time, and in the failure to give a real day’s work for what they are paid, steal from the Lord and the brethren. True, these are in the minority among preachers; but this minority is hurtful to the cause of Christ.
When the preacher uses the week to help his wife about the house, to run here and yonder for himself, to look after matters of no worth to the cause of Christ, to the neglect of the work laid upon him by the Lord, he steals. The Lord said, “give heed to reading, to teaching, to exhortation. . . Be diligent in these things; give thyself wholly to them.” The preacher’s work is definite, as set forth in the epistles to Timothy and Titus. . .
Many a sermon falls flat and many a soul goes hungry because preachers have stolen valuable time from study and work, only to squander it on trifles (all emphasis mine, LJS; Hailey’s Comments, (Vol. 2, pp. 660, 661).
In his article, brother Seaton places the emphasis upon personal work (and we need more of it). Brother Hailey emphasized proper use of time, that entails proper preparation. Brother Franklin emphasized proper preparation and work. Brethren, do not fail to prepare yourselves so that you may. be capable of doing the work that needs to be done. The lost need the message of salvation! The saved must be nurtured in the “admonition of the Lord” (2 Tim. 4:24).
As for the schedule, I guess we have to work out our own! Not many could measure up to brother Franklin’s crowded schedule. Not many get up early enough to put in five hours work by 10:00 a.m.! But let’s be diligent in doing the work of an evangelist.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 8, pp. 227-228
April 21, 1988