Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 10, 1963
NUMBER 23, PAGE 3,12b

Stream-Lining The Preacher

Robert H. Farish

Efficiency engineers have achieved some impressive results in business management, sales programs, industrial productions, etc. They have stream-lined, not only automobiles, planes and other machines but business operations, sales methods, etc., as well. Efficiency has become a fetish to which those who judge mainly according to mathematical figures, give homage; their esteem for it and their confidence in it amounts to idolatry. This efficiency mania has profoundly affected the church. Successful business men who have become elders in the church, being impressed with the results which have been experienced by "stream-lining" their sales forces, have introduced these business methods into the. Lord's work and have sought to "streamline" the preacher. Work schedules, regular hours, designated time that he is to be "on the job," reports of number of calls made, vacation time, fringe benefits, etc., are some of the things which characterize the "streamlined" preacher's work. An all too common reaction to preacher's protests against such is reflected in such remarks as, "Why does he think he shouldn't work eight hours a day at designated time? He is no better than we and we have to work on a schedule." This reaction reveals that the basis of the objection to "stream-lining" attempts has not been understood; or else the one making such retort is deliberately misrepresenting the case. Most preachers would be delighted to operate on a forty hour work week if they could do so in good conscience. It is not the short hours, freedom from responsibility, good pay, fringe benefits, etc., per se, to which objection is raised. The basis of the objection is simply that a preacher cannot fulfill his ministry if he allows himself to be fenced in by arbitrary human rules. It is freely granted that the humanly devised objectives of those who zealously seek to "stream-line" the preacher, can be realized by conforming to the pattern of efficiency experts. But objectives set by the wisdom of the world are not the objectives of the faithful preacher. The faithful gospel preacher has for his goal the salvation of souls. With many people, those results, which can be measured in terms of mathematical figures, loom so large that really significant goals are over-shadowed to the point that they are seldom even mentioned, if at all.

Suppose Paul and Silas had been operating on a designated eight hour work day in Philippi. What would have been the proper way to handle that situation which arose at midnight? Should their "contract" include provisions for time and half or double time for their "overtime" night work? What about the jailor's question, "What must I do to be saved?" Should Paul have deferred answering the jailor's question until eight or nine o'clock the next day? Should he have advised the jailor that his work day was over and thus he could not work? What about their action of baptizing the jailor the same hour of the night! Should they have made an appointment with him to baptize him at a time when they were "on the job"? The opportunity to save these people put Paul and Silas on the "grave yard shift," thus making them "pull a double," working both the "swing shift" and the "grave yard shift" But there is another thing to be considered — these men had been injured on the job; stripes on their backs were evidence in proof of injury. Should their "contract" have had a provision for compensation for injuries received on the job? Of course, the kind of preaching they did was more liable to get them bodily injury than the preaching done by a modern "stream-lined preacher," so perhaps "on the job" insurance is not so important for the modern preacher. What do you suppose the reaction of Paul might have been had the elders of Antioch attempted to put him on a work schedule. Suppose they had attempted to enter into an agreement with him for a forty hour week, with time off for "professional advancement" as well as vacation time, etc. We need neither "shift working" preachers nor "shiftless" preachers.

It must be said to the credit of most of those who attempt to "stream-line" the preacher, that they are interested in the preacher having the material advantages enjoyed by the average laboring man. They realize that the preacher, being a human being, needs recreation and relaxation if he is to do his best. Such is not the case with the "slave driver" member who seems to begrudge the preacher any personal independence. Some express resentment at the preacher's hunting, fishing, etc., or having a day off. Often these people are utterly insensitive to the feelings of others. A member of the church of the Lord once wrote to a preacher about the preacher's working with a congregation. He stated that they did not want a "Sunday pulpiteer, but a man to work seven days a week." "Seven days a week" is exactly what that brother meant, too. Would that same man write to an attorney and tell him that he wanted a man to devote his full time to his case, that he did not want a court room "shyster!"

No doubt many of us have too often failed to follow the course which would have prevented right thinking people from despising us; no attempt is made to justify any of us for our failure to be an example "in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith and in purity." But when people come to despise all preachers, because all preachers have made some mistakes and some preachers have failed dismally in practicing what they preach and made ship-wreck of the faith, those people by their attitude show that they are not thinking right. Some have started out to preach and found the going rough and have quit preaching, but is it fair to allow a few "quitters" to poison one against all preachers? Some preachers have turned out to be immoral but does this justify the conclusion that all are to be scorned? The need of preachers' behaving in such a way as to command the respect of honorable people needs to be emphasized. On the other hand, the need for people to cultivate respect for faithful men of God is just as pressing and is absolutely essential to Christian character.

The gospel is still the power of God unto salvation. Twentieth century man with his hydrogen bombs, space travel, race troubles, marches on Washington, ulcers, neuroses, fear, etc., is not to be saved by the United Nations, the Pope's ecumenical efforts, a social gospel and stream-lined preachers but by faithful proclamation of the gospel. What elders, preachers, and saints in general need is confidence in the gospel. With confidence in the gospel to accomplish its design, people will not feel the need to adopt the arrangements, methods, etc., of the efficiency experts. With this confidence the preacher will maintain the dignity of his high calling; he will not allow himself to be pressured into the role of a social worker, physical education director, etc., neither will he submit to arbitrary work schedules and other devices, simply because such things have proved to be effective in other areas of human endeavor. Conviction, that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, will enable the preacher to preach the great truths of Romans, Hebrews, etc., without being frightened away from such preaching by charges that he is "too deep." Neither Christ nor any of the apostles would be acceptable to many modern churches, due to the sickening conditions of mental laziness with which the members are afflicted. Where could there be found an audience today that would maintain its-size, for a two week's meeting in which Paul was preaching forty-five minute sermons on the level of his Roman letter to the Romans? Too often preachers have allowed audience demands to force their preaching down, not temporarily but permanently, to a level where no audience effort was required. Preachers have lost "status" by their failure to develop stature. Preachers no longer speak with authority simply because they have too long spoken the matter which the people demanded in the manner which they demanded. Such is only a reflection of the audience as it is and as long as one's own reflection is the gauge by which he is measured, that one will continue to decrease in spiritual power.

413 E. Groesbeck, Lufkin, Texas