Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 2, 1961

Church Development --- The Preacher

Frank Driver, Fort Collins, Colorado

It is a fact beyond controversy that the church in any given place has its beginning in preaching. The seed is the word of God (Luke 8:11), and must be sown before there can be produce. On the great persecution in Jerusalem, following the stoning of Stephen, Christians went everywhere preaching the word. (Acts 8:4) The very salvation of souls depends on preaching. (Rom. 10:14) Paul sent Titus to Crete to set the churches in order and ordain elders. (Titus 1:5)

There are at least two things true of preachers in Bible times that are not true of preachers today: first, the best known preachers of that day went into hard fields, and second, they went into fields where there were no churches and established them. Paul determined he would do so. (Rom. 15:20) Nearly every preacher who goes to a needy field at all goes where there is a church already. How often does a church urge a preacher to go where there is no church at all and get one started?

The next step early preachers took was to return and appoint elders. (Acts 14:23) Is this done today? Could it be? One of our greatest needs today is for preachers to concentrate on reaching the lost and build and develop churches. Preaching is becoming too professional. Preachers are not filling their time with constructive activity as they would like to have the members believe. Much of their time is spent in political hob-nobbing with the chief members for the social and personal relationship value, to hold their jobs, rather than in the highways and byways seeking the lost, and with the poorer and less significant members who need help and encouragement.

Paul's instruction to both Timothy and Titus makes it clear that in addition to their evangelistic activity in saving the lost, the preacher is to train and develop the church into a position of real service and activity under leaders whom they should also train to guide the church. Too many preachers yield at this point to the temptation to cultivate a following to their advantage.

The preacher should realize that the very nature of his work places him in a position of tremendous influence, and that many, especially the young and inexperienced, will look to him alone as the standard, even in place of the Bible. This very danger behooves him all the more to conquer his pride and desire for pre-eminence, and place God's word before himself as the only guide to follow. It seems to be the work of a life time to turn the hearts of Christians to a total surrender to the word and will of God, rather than to the personality, power and smooth speech of a preacher.

The preacher should not wait for the church to pay him before he goes. Paul didn't. He went where the gospel was never heard and preached. When churches sent to him, he could preach more. When they didn't, he made tents and preached anyway. Paul was not wealthy nor even financially independent, but he pursued his work of gospel ministry without obligation to the churches. The opportunities and usefulness of preachers would be immeasurably increased if more preachers would develop other sources of income and be freer of dependence on churches. We hear lots about preacher shortage. We are so thoroughly "brain washed" with the professional conception of the gospel ministry we think we have lost a preacher when one makes his own living at other work. I think it is a wholesome and good trend, and sincerely hope it continues. If it does, and it is quite certain now that it will, perhaps elders will be forced to be more active in feeding the flock as the Lord commands them to.

We read of preachers ready to enter needy fields but who need a supporting church. Paul would have gone anyway. Many preachers who depend continually on the Church for their living are pressured into preaching to please the churches and with-holding the truth they know that others need. This is why Paul expressed his pleasure that on occasion he had not received income from the church that he not be obligated to them. (1 Thess. 2:9; 3:8, 2 Cor. 11:9) Nearly all preachers of our day depend on the church for a living and thus their preaching must please the churches. Consequently, the churches become the "judge" of what is preached, how it is preached, and what the preacher should do. It is tragic indeed that churches are so inclined to use the income they pay a preacher as a lever to lure or pressure him into seeking their pleasure rather than leaving him free to preach the word.

Preachers need to spend much more time in Bible study than they do. Learning the Bible well enough to teach it well enough to others requires long, hard hours and many years of study and meditation. The load of "personal work" and "mixing" among members carried on by most preachers is too distracting for them to prepare for the supreme function of their work — preaching.

Of all Christians, certainly the preacher should have an increasing sense of reality of the eternal home of the soul — heaven. After all, what other concern should he have in behalf of his brethren? Indeed the end of all his efforts should be that of saving souls and helping those saved already to make their calling and election sure. Of course preachers are human, but their constant activity and meditation in spiritual things should condition their hearts with greater intensity to dwell upon the eternal and unseen things of God. They must likewise be able to transfer this sense of heaven's reality to the brethren, that it might serve as motivating power for them to persevere through adversity in the fight for righteousness. In so doing, the preacher would realize the supreme object of his work in the words of Paul, "In doing so thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee." (1 Tim. 4:16)