Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 1, 1951

The Old Gospel Preacher

A. H. Porterfield, Poplar Bluff, Mo.

Much is being said and written of late concerning the plight of the old gospel preacher. This interest is impressive, especially to the preacher. And if anybody deserves our interest and attention those men do. But it is a delicate and embarrassing subject for preachers to discuss—young or old. They would much prefer others taking the lead in the matter. However, some of us preachers may be more embarrassed at the Judgment for not discussing some things than we are for discussing them, especially if the Lord wants them discussed.

We feel that it has never been the aim of God's people to overlook or neglect the old gospel preacher, but I sometimes think the little we are doing to make them feel needed, useful and happy is pathetic. We realize that they have given their lives for the Cause they love more than anything else in this world. They have done so willingly and at a very heavy sacrifice. They are one of the few groups unprotected by social security. The cream of their life has been spent. Many of them have been laid on the shelf and forgotten. Some of them are homeless and penniless. They feel unwanted and burdensome, and are simply waiting to pass to the home of the soul. These conditions did not necessarily exist a few decades ago. Preachers were used as long as they were able to go, but so were other old men used in business and professions then, but not so any more. At least the cases are rare. There was a time when young men would go to older business managers and apply for work, and they were often turned down because they were thought to be too young, but now, old men go to the younger business manager and apply for work, and they are often turned down because they are thought to be too old. This seems to be a general national trend, and God's people seem to be inclined to follow the trend. Whether or not it is a safe trend we are not ready to discuss, at least, in this article.

Old preachers, like all other old people who have been busy all their lives, do not want to spend the remainder of their lives in idleness. Those who have been busy still want to keep busy preaching the gospel, and they are going to do it to the extent of their ability, security or no security. But they do not want to be dumped off on others as a burden—not even in an old folk home, their children's home, or anybody else's home. They want their own home; they have a right to it if anybody does. They want to make their own way of life as they have always done, barring misfortunes, of course. And they will do it if given a chance.

When those same preachers started out in their younger days, many of them would mount old Beck and take to the woods, build an old brush arbor, go to the old country school house, or out on the river bank—anywhere they could get souls to hear the gospel (and they usually got them by the hundreds) and there they would conduct meetings and baptize souls by the dozen. They didn't get much pay; they didn't need much, but they did get a lot of enjoyment out of it all, a lot of encouragement and they did a world of good. But they can't do a lot of that any more without support. They have too many responsibilities. We can't expect them to do it.

No doubt most of these old men of God would be happy to go right back into the "byways and hedges" and preach the gospel to those who would gladly hear them. That is, their health permitting, and if they could only get enough support to meet their just obligations. We are told that they are not fit for anything else. If that is true, we should at least give them a chance to do that.

If it is a fact that when the young preachers come out of college they go right into the well established congregations, then who is left to preach the gospel to those who have never heard of it if the old gospel preacher does not do it? He has done it before; he knows what it means, and no doubt he would rejoice at the opportunity of doing it again, if he could only afford it.

To enable the old preacher to do such work would mean that he would be an asset to the Cause of Christ instead of a burden. His labor would pay off in many ways. He would be doing what he wants to do, what he is prepared to do, and what really needs to be done throughout the world. It is not always necessary to tell him where he must go. Let him go anywhere—in towns, cities, rural communities—anywhere he can get souls to hear the gospel. He may go where the gospel has never been heard, establish congregations, and build them up in the most holy faith. He may go where congregations have already been established, and need help, but cannot afford it otherwise. There is a lot of such work to be done, but these men cannot afford to do all of it without some financial backing, and we all know that is true.

We can think of no reason why these conditions should prevail. The brethren seem to have more money than they know what to do with. We are spending great sums of money for things the Lord never said a word about. Why not INVEST some of it in preaching the gospel—the thing we KNOW the Lord wants done. God knows there is plenty of it to be done right around our own doorsteps.

Another thing, these old men have already been tried and proven. We know before they start whether or not they are true to the gospel. We already know whether or not they are hobby riders. At least, we can soon find out. Does this not look like a safe and sound investment? Why wouldn't it pay everybody concerned?

And what's more, we do not have to have presidents, secretaries, boards, or any other human organization through which to do this work. About all we would have to do is to make up our minds to do it, and then do it. The outcome no doubt would make everybody concerned very happy. Why not?