Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 19, 1967
NUMBER 36, PAGE 9-10a

"Look What My Sufferings Have Done For Me"

H. Edward McCaskill

In II Cor. 4:16-18 we have some of the most thought provoking language ever written by the apostle Paul. "Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."

The illative, "wherefore" is a reflection upon the things that Paul and the other apostles endured for Christ. "We are pressed on every side... smitten down...bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus." In I Cor. 4 he spoke of the apostles, "as men doomed to death... spectacles unto the world...fool's for Christ's sake... that they were often hungry, thirsty, naked, buffeted, reviled, made as filth of the world, and they had no certain dwelling place." Most of us today would look upon these hardships and adversities and begin to cry, "Lord, how long, 0 how long must I endure my afflictions?" Paul was unmoved, not discouraged, and said, "Look what my sufferings have done for me." While such would hinder and destroy the faith of lesser Christians the undaunted Paul said that his afflictions actually WORKED for him. The benefits and blessings they secured far outweighed the losses sustained. His burdens were for the moment but there was that the eye could not see he could joyously anticipate.

Indeed, such a reading makes me almost ashamed. When I become querulous regarding the "hard life" of a preacher today, and the many unpleasantries that we must accept these seem pitiable as compared to the ignoble Paul. Is it not true that too often we esteem to appreciatively this tabernacle of clay rather than that "building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens?

I have read with genuine interest of late two good articles on the subject of the "preacher shortage." One appeared in this journal by bro. Floyd Thompson. I have discussed the subject with other preachers. While I confess the "preacher shortage" as lamentable I believe we can and must face it realistically. Why the preacher shortage? Well, why the elder shortage or even the member shortage? In most conversations over the matter the chief burden of "loss" and brethren entering into secular work was the result of abuse, inadequate remuneration, and constant pilgrimage, etc. Now I think I have been preaching long enough to state that I don't welcome abuse, the "double standard" placed upon preachers and their families, and none of you hate to pack and move any more than I, and I am human enough to like to see my children get to stay in a certain school system for a beneficial period of time, but are we making our comparisons of life with such men as Paul or with our more affluent brethren? The abuses are peripheral and without doubt a re-examination of our own attitudes in respect to the "preacher shortage" is in order.

It is a well known fact that there are more churches now. While the number of preachers may not have substantially decreased the requests by newer churches have increased and are increasing at a rapid rate. Fifteen years ago preachers were coming from "Christian" colleges. Now don't get me wrong. I have some fairly strong reservations on this subject myself, and even perhaps stronger than many who will read these words. But let's face it. Just how many preachers that you know and can think of this minute didn't attend some school in years gone by such as Freed-Hardman, A. C. C. , Florida, or even another? How many preachers that you know are graduates, from beginning to end, of a state supported institution? Now in the battle over the institutional question over the past decade and half we have removed the college from the picture almost completely. Now what does it leave? It leaves the local church (what we have always preached) as the legitimate and logical training ground for preachers for tomorrow. Now while the colleges are being eliminated as a source have we preachers (and who else, basically, is to be relied upon) done the training to fill the gap? Men like Timothy were trained by men like Paul---but what of us? Again, we can't train and encourage young men to preach without some effectual planning and training and convincing the brethren that surely they will be able to survive if we don't occupy the pulpit ourselves all the time.

Another thought just here. Is there some kind of reflection that we may be placing upon the man who does "part time preaching"? And what do we mean by that term anyway? I used to teach school and preach every Lord's day, teach two classes the same day, one on Wednesday and did considerable visiting and door knocking during the week. And parenthetically I managed to get my golf game in on Saturday. I may have been "part time" in the sense that we use the term but by the time a week was over I felt "full time." By the way, how would we classify Paul, just here? Would you call him a "part time" preacher or a "full time" preacher? I know of several brethren who are in the "part time" class today. They are hard-working and dedicated men. They spend as many hours actually doing the Lord's work as a lot of "full time" preachers. If a man decides he can do a better work, "part time" by staying in a community and making his home there and letting some of the brethren do the preaching from time to time, the bulletin issuing, and other servile tasks that usually belong to the "full time" preacher then I can see no reason to think of him as having left preaching. If my choice went in that direction, and who knows, it may, I hope that I will not be thought of having abdicated my love for the truth and my importance of preaching the gospel. I just don't think that this is remotely in the mind of those who engage in secular work as well as the preaching of the gospel.

If our "preacher shortage" is principally due to abuses then we need to be ashamed. We should remember the statements of Paul in our text. In spite of the many problems it will encourage us and help us to work harder.