By Donnie V. Rader
Gospel meetings are about preaching the gospel. There-fore, preachers are a vital part of the meeting. The wrong preacher can destroy a meeting while the right one can help make the meeting instructive and edifying.
It is not only important that his sermons be true to the book, but his conduct must be appropriate. His behavior while in the church’s midst can determine how effective his preaching is.
Selecting A Preacher
1. Qualifications. In a broad sense them are only two qualifications for a gospel preacher (2 Tim. 2:2). He must be (a) faithful, that is faithful in his personal life and faithful in his teaching. He must also have (b) the ability to teach. While there are many qualities and characteristics that come under one of these two major qualifications, there two summarize what he must be. If a man meets these two criteria, he is worthy to be used in spreading the gospel, including gospel meetings.
2. Know the man being invited for the meeting. Just as it is important for a local church to know something about the one it is going to accept into fellowship (Acts 9:26), it is important to know something about the man it invites to hold a meeting. Some brethren are so careless about how they determine who to schedule for meetings. Some brother hears a preacher one time or hears some word of commendation about him and he is ready to put him on the schedule. To say the least there would seem to be a lack of wisdom in that.
In this day of a lot of “uncertain sounds” we must be careful in selecting a preacher. There are enough sound men whose lives and teaching are solid that churches do not have to use men whose teaching is questionable. Before inviting a man for gospel meeting, know where he stands and the kind of teaching that he does.
3. Select a man who can best deal with the topics that need to be preached. There are some areas of Bible study that any preacher can cover as well as any other. However, there may be some subjects like evolution that may require finding a man who has done more research than others have done. A study of the home may be better (though not always true) if presented by a man who has many years experience as a husband and father.
4. The preacher doesn’t have to be young, old or even well-known. There are many young men, whose schedules for meetings are far from full, who would do an excellent job in a meeting. They may bring some youth and excitement to the local church. On the other hand, there are many older men who are not used as much as they once were who would present some quality lessons and add some wisdom and maturity at the same time. There are many relatively unknown men who would do an excellent job. The people of the community and some of the Christians wouldn’t know the “well-known” men anyway. This is not to cast off on the well-known with a lot of ability. The reason they are well-known mostly likely is because they are good preachers. The point is that there are others who could also do a good job.
5. A church could use their own preacher in a meeting. One of the advantages of a meeting is that the local church has an opportunity to hear a different preacher with a different style and a different approach. He may be able to accomplish some good that the local man has been unable to do.
However, there may be times (when trying to reach some in the community) that using the local preacher would be helpful. When the members bring a visitor he has an opportunity to hear the preacher he would regularly hear if he came on Sunday. Furthermore, the man he hears would be the one who would probably visit him after the meeting. He is the one he will see in the community, hear on the radio and read after in the local paper or bulletin.
The Preacher’s Conduct
The preacher’s conduct in the meeting can help or hinder the effect of his preaching.
1. In the pulpit. The servant of God must preach the word in season and out (2 Tim. 4:1-4). Yet, he must be gentle (2 Tim. 2:23), kind (Eph. 4:32), treat others the way he would like to be treated (Matt. 7:12) and be considerate of the feelings of others (Phil. 2:4). He can do all of this and still call sin, denominations and false teachers by name.
Yet, his charge to preach doesn’t not give him a license to be rude, offensive and embarrass others. His comments in addition to his preaching can render his sermon ineffective. There will be times that noise makers and those who distract will need to be called down. Mothers who don’t know when to take their babies out may need some advice. (Seldom does that advice coming from the preacher in the pulpit help him or her!) In these cases the preacher needs to ask himself whether his comments or actions in the pulpit will help or destroy the effectiveness of his teaching.
Preachers need to be reminded that they have mounted the pulpit to preach God’s word (2 Tim. 4:2). They are not there to entertain or be cute. He is not there to inform the brethren what his judgment is on all matters. He is a messenger of the word.
2. Where he stays. During the meeting the preacher may stay in a motel. Quite frequently, he will stay with the local preacher or one of the members. While there he must remember that he is a guest. He can make himself at home and still be a courteous guest. It takes very little effort to be neat and orderly. He can make it easy for his hosts to keep him. Even though brethren sometimes treat the visiting preaching like a king he must not act like he is one. To demand the treatment of royalty, like he deserves it, is to become a pain to those who keep him.
Sometimes a preacher can do and say things that make others uncomfortable. He doesn’t have to be the center of attention. He doesn’t have to give his advice on all that he sees. He doesn’t have to correct every mistake he sees in his hosts. As I have traveled in meetings, I have heard brethren tell of preachers they have kept who were rude, inconsiderate and just plain ingrates. A man who is trying to show others the way of God can do better than that.
3. In the homes where he visits and eats. It is customary for some of the members to have the visiting preacher into their home for a meal during the meeting. If the preacher holds many meetings, he will find himself sitting down to more tables that his body needs. It is easy to take this aspect of the brethren’s generosity for granted. He must remember that those who have invited him have put a lot of time and expense into the meal they have prepared for him. With that in mind he certainly can be polite and kind and use common courtesies like “please” and “thank you.” He need not act like it is a path to accept their invitation.
Here, just as in the home where he stays, he must be careful of his comments. His comments, though well-intended, may offend and may be taken as a sign of ingratitude.
The Preacher’s Time
The preacher must be a good steward of his time. How he spends his time during the meeting depends a lot on the plans of the local church and the family he stays with.
1. Use his time for the most good in the kingdom. The visiting preacher has come to help people with the gospel. It would be helpful if the local church would consider how they could use the preacher for the most good during the meeting.
Having morning services takes advantage of his time. He will be there waiting to preach that night. If just ten or twenty people could come it will be time well spent. Having a full-week meeting is another way to use his time. I have held meetings that were Sunday through Wednesday or Friday through Sunday. Those were good meetings. However, it is not any more problem to be gone from the local work two or three more days. I heard of one preacher who closed a meeting on Wednesday and sat in a motel on Thursday and Friday nights waiting to start another meeting Sunday. Those two nights could have been used to spread the gospel.
The preacher may be able teach in some personal studies.
2. Give the preacher time to study. The preacher doesn’t have to be entertained the whole time he is among the brethren. Don’t forget that he needs to study (at least he should) for his sermon each night. Even though he may preach sermons he uses in other meetings, he must have time to refresh his memory. Then, he has sermons and a class to prepare for his work back home. On top of that he may want to spend some time working on special studies or writing articles or books. Many preachers have to work on the road to get all their work done. In fact, this article is being written while I am in a meeting.
3. Give the preacher time to rest. Meetings are tiring for all who are a part. I have been told that if a public speaker speaks enthusiastically for thirty minutes he has exerted the energy of an eight hour work day. Thus, a preacher may need to rest before he speaks. He may need a good night’s rest to feel like preaching the next day. His voice may need a rest.
The preacher and the local church am important to the meeting. Each one should be considerate of the other.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 16, p. 5-6
August 19, 1993