Jump Start # 2700
Acts 8:2 “And some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him.”
With this Jump Start, we reach yet another milestone, 2700. Who would have thought that we would have such a collection of writings. Our Jump Starts now have a Monday podcast, Jump Start Rewind, which can be heard from the Charlestown Road website (www.charlestownroad.org). There are also 25 Jump Start books which are themed and always for free. Many, many thanks to a congregation that supports this endeavor and to the many readers that encourage, share and tell others about Jump Starts. Thank You!
Our verse today centers around the execution of Stephen. He had preached a powerful lesson. It is recorded in Acts 7. It is one of the best O.T. summaries. But the Jewish hierarchy had enough. They must have thought with the death of Jesus that this movement would had fizzled out. Instead, it was growing. It seemed unstoppable. And, with Stephen’s pointed message, they decided right then and right there to execute him. They did not go to the Roman officials for permission, as they had done with Jesus. On the spot, the audience became a mob and they turned violent. Stephen was killed. Faithful men buried the preacher of God’s word.
Last week I learned of the quiet passing of a preacher in my area. His long life of service had touched many hearts. He worked with many congregations and was kind and gentle, the marks of someone who knows the Lord. I have a picture of the two of us in my office. Our paths never crossed very often, but I have always heard of him and the good work he did in the kingdom. He gave me a book of some of his writings about four years ago when I got to spend a couple of hours with him. What a delight he was. He talked and talked about preaching and was such an encouragement. It was the noon hour and time to eat. His wife was ready to eat, but he had yet another story to tell. That followed with still another story. He was a prince.
The older guys are passing on. That is life. That is the way it is to be. Moses died and Joshua took over. Paul died and the work fell to Timothy, Titus and Apollos. A generation comes and a generation goes is what Solomon tells us. But before we pass that baton on too quickly, I think it is good for us to take a moment, reflect, and be thankful for what those old soldiers of Christ have done for us. They fought battles that we never will. They endured hardships of congregations dividing and mean things being said. Younger preachers, you do yourself much good if you could connect with a preacher of another generation and spend an afternoon with him. Here are some things I have seen and learned:
First, many, many of those preachers of the last generation worked hard with low pay, primitive equipment, small offices, but they had a heart of gold. They loved the Lord. They preached and preached and they preached everywhere. They preached in small places. They preached before small crowds. They poured hours into producing bulletins that taught a generation the way of the Lord. These soldiers often had radio programs that spoke the word of God throughout a community. They poured their very souls into what they were doing.
I wonder how many today would do what they did? They sure made it easier for my generation and the generations that follow. Preachers are paid so much better today than ever before. The working conditions, equipment and involvement of others has made our work so smooth. Elderships that actually shepherd the flock of God and deacons that are really servants are a wonderful blessing.
Second, many, many of those preachers of the last generation had a heart that put the kingdom before themselves. So many did with so little. They were of the time when preachers were shuffled about like a deck of cards. About every four years it was expected for the preacher to move. Congregations owned a house for the preacher to live in. It may not have been a house the preacher would have bought on his own. It may not have been in a neighborhood he wanted, but there it was and he was expected to live in it. He couldn’t paint it, change carpet or do any repairs without permission from the church. It wasn’t his house. He put up with those things because he wanted to preach. His poor family moved about every four years. Crisscrossing state lines, new school, new congregation, knowing that in another four years or so, they’d move again. I expect most today wouldn’t tolerate that. But those old soldiers did, eventually getting congregations to see that moving preachers around so often wasn’t the best idea. Times are different. Things are better. We owe a world of thanks and gratitude for what they have done. They have made it better for us.
Third, the past generation fought a major, major war within the church. Congregations across the country divided. Preachers were labeled and fired. Things became hot, nasty and ugly. Debates dominated the period. Papers drove brethren to taking sides. Preachers were fired on the spot if they didn’t line up as a congregation thought they should. Reason seemed to be tossed out the door. There were many causalities and heartache. And, still, onward these noble soldiers of Christ kept preaching. They kept people looking into the book. When emotions were running high, it was solid, Biblical preaching that kept people grounded and close to the Lord. Some congregations overnight decided to fire their preacher with no consideration to how he was going to pay his bills, what his children would go through. It was an extremely difficult time. And, so many pressed onward. They wore the scars from these battles, but they didn’t become bitter. They didn’t complain. They didn’t quit. They just kept preaching and preaching.
Finally, as many of these old, old soldiers of Christ aged, they could no longer keep up with the pace of a fast generation. Their voices were silenced. Many who had given their lives to working for congregations, found that they were soon forgotten. They were replaced with younger, more dynamic preachers. No one called them anymore. No one needed them anymore. And, congregations simply forgot them. Having spent a lifetime helping churches, many were left to live their final days in tiny apartments because they had no money. They struggled to get by, never saying a word, for fear that they would be a burden. And, so these mighty giants that taught and preached for decades and decades are left alone until eternity calls them home. Like an old workhorse, many congregations simply replaced the old mule with a younger one and no thought is given to the years of service or what the future holds for the old preacher.
Here are a couple of suggestions:
First, younger preachers, spend some time with an older preacher. You need to hear the stories. You need to see the scars. You need to learn of their dedication, service and commitment. Then you need to look at your own life and be thankful and also evaluate where you are. It is easy to put ourselves, our comfort, our benefits, before everything else. Listening to these old guys will help you with that. Take an old preacher out to lunch. Become friends. He can help you more than you realize.
Second, it’s time for congregations to give some thought about what we are doing with these old preachers. Are we really practicing the golden rule in the way we treat these men? They have given so much. Maybe it’s time congregations took care of the old preacher until God calls him home. Many congregations would not be where they are today had it not been for the hard work of these old soldiers of Christ. We’ve wanted the preacher in the pulpit on holidays, even though we had it off with pay. We’ve wanted the preacher to do the weddings for our kids and bury our old ones. He’s sat with us in surgery waiting rooms. We wanted him to go talk to those with messy lives. We expected the preacher to teach every class and to come at a moment’s notice. We’ve worked and worked that old preacher and he has done so with gladness and joy because of his love for the Lord. And, now that we are done with him, how do we treat him? Best put some thought to that. The Lord may not be pleased with what we have done towards those old preachers.
Raymond Harris was a true warrior for Jesus. I’m thankful that I got to know him. I’m thankful for the footprints that he left for my generation. I can only hope to do the same for those who come after me.
Well, done, good and faithful. Thank you for your loyal service in the kingdom. Welcome Home!