THE CHURCH’S RESPONSIBILITY TO THE PREACHER

Robert Stapleton

           

            For the past two weeks we have given consideration to “The Preacher’s Responsibilities to the Congregation.” Having covered that, I would like to shift gears a little, and give some thought to the “other side of the coin.” Studies have shown that we have been loosing preachers at an alarming rate for several years. One study indicated that although we are graduating 300 preachers a year, we are loosing 600. If that study is correct, then it does not require a mathematician to see the problem that is before us.  Another study indicated that approximately 25% of congregations of the Lord’s church do not have a preacher working with them.

            In view of this, it must be understood that something is “wrong.” Could it be that we are not properly preparing men for the work set before them? Perhaps so, although I am not confident that is the overall problem. As Director of Brown Trail School of Preaching I can vouch for the fact that much effort goes into preparing men for the work they will do. I teach two classes related to the preacher, his life, and his work. I know what they are taught. I have actually said to classes, “I am going to do everything I can in this course to run you out of preaching.” Some have left before graduation, realizing that their hearts really were not in the work of preaching. Many more, though, have stuck it out, determined to preach the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).

            So, why are so many men getting out of preaching, and so few going into it? Let me suggest some things that we may not like, but things that need to be considered, as we consider the congregation’s responsibility to the preacher.       

            Proper Financial Support – The fact of the matter is, the preacher’s family desires the same “name brand” items as do the families of the members. Preachers are expected to dress in a certain way (He normally wears dress clothes every day of the week while visiting the sick, teaching classes, or working in his study.), have libraries indicative of their desire and willingness to be studious (I have several thousands of books in my personal library. One of the more recent ones I purchased cost $45.00.), be a leader in his giving practices, wear out his automobile visiting, etc., etc., etc. Many members of the church labor in areas where paid overtime is common. As I tell the guys at school, they will get plenty of overtime, they just won’t get paid for it. Why we believe preachers and their families should make financial sacrifices greater than the average member of the church is beyond me. Where is that Scripture? I seem to have overlooked it. Are we not all told to “seek first the kingdom” (Matthew 6:33)? There can be no denial that the New Testament teaches it is right for preachers to be supported from the treasury of the church   (1 Corinthians 9:4-14; 2 Corinthians 11:8; Galatians 6:6). Even under the Law of Moses, God demanded a just and proper wage be paid to strangers and brethren alike (Deuteronomy 24:14; 25:4; Jeremiah 22:13). In the New Testament, clear and to the point language is used to rebuke those who refused to pay their laborers properly (James 5:4). In view of such, how do we suppose God looks upon those who fail to pay a just and reasonable wage to those who preach the gospel?                                                                                  

            A Listening Ear – Preachers preach so as to encourage and strengthen the                congregation they labor with. Yet, often, they find themselves discouraged by a failure of those to whom they preach to pay attention to what is being said. I have often said, "those who assemble should see what the preacher sees." Try staying excited about preaching when you stand in front of an assembly, pouring out your hearts to those in the pews, only to see that ten   percent or more are asleep. How different than the response we see from the household of Cornelius in Acts 10:33, "…Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God." Consider the words found in   Nehemiah 8:3-7, "…and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law…And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground….and the   Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place." As such, notice the results of the attention given by those to whom Ezra spoke, “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” How many walk out of auditoriums following services failing to “understand the reading” because they gave so little of themselves? People often walk away from services saying, “I didn’t get anything out of it.” No wonder, they didn’t put anything into it. Much like a Bank Account. If you do not put anything into it, don’t be  surprised when you don’t get anything in return. 

            Patience – It has been said, "Patience is a virtue," and I can't argue with that. Patience is defined as being "long-suffering," "to tarry behind," or "to wait for."  Preachers, like everyone else in the local congregation, are in need of the brethren to be "long-suffering" with them as they grow in their faith, knowledge of God's Word, and the ability to be "all things to all men" (1 Corinthians 9:22). Some years ago I ran across the following which would, indeed, require a great deal of patience as the preacher grows sufficiently to attain the "Perfect Preacher" status.

 

THE PERFECT PREACHER

 

"This is a chain letter. The result of a computerized survey indicates that the perfect preacher:

 

     Preaches 15 minutes

     Condemns sin: but never offends anyone

     Works from 8 till midnight including janitorial work

     Makes $60 per week, wears good clothes, buys good books, drives a good car and gives $50 per week to the poor

     Is 28 years old and has been preaching for 30 years

     Wonderfully, perfectly handsome

     Has a burning desire to work with teenagers but spends all his time with the older folk

     Smiles with a straight face because his sense of humor keeps him seriously dedicated to his work.

     He makes 15 calls per day on church family, shut-ins. hospitalized, while evangelizing the lost

     He is always in his office when needed.

 

If your preacher does not measure up to this chain letter, send this letter to six other churches who also are tired of their preacher. Bundle up your preacher and send him to the church at the top of the list. In one year you will receive 1.643 preacher. One of them should be perfect.

 

WARNING:    Keep this letter going. One church broke the chain and got their old preacher back in six months."

 

Although, no doubt, written "tongue in cheek," so many seem to want exactly what this letter states.

 

            Love – The Greek word most often used in the New Testament, translated "love," is the word "agape." "Agape" is an action word, nothing passive about it. As such, Christians are commanded to "love one another" (John 13:34, 35). This would, also, include our showing love toward the preacher. When he is tired, love him. When is slips up and mispronounces a word, or accidently says 1 Corinthians when he meant 2 Corinthians, love him. When he tries to be "all things to all men," but fails, love him. Even when he is wrong, love him. After all, if we are to "love our enemies," and we are (Matthew 5:44), why can't we love the preacher when he slips up?

           Help him – One of the best ways we can be of benefit to the preacher is to help him do what needs to be done. Most preachers are willing to "work themselves to death" to see that the work of the local congregation is done. As such, chip in some time and effort. You might be surprised at how much more can be done when more than one is working at it. Remember Paul's words to the Corinthians? "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:58). Notice, these were words from an apostle, encouraging the "brethren" to be "…stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord…"

            Thank him – Those preachers who are "worth their salt" don't do what they do for the praises of men. However, it is nice to know you are appreciated. A kind word, a pat on the back, a smile, all go a long way to help the preacher know that he is loved and appreciated.

 

 

 

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