Jump Start # 2834
2 Timothy 4:5 “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
The other day I heard of a young preacher who decided that he no longer wanted to preach. There seems to be a growing number of young preachers who are quitting. That ought to cause us to give some thought to what is taking place. There may be some who feel that this is a good move. Just let the various men in the congregation take turns at preaching is a noble idea. That puts more men back into God’s book studying and it develops good communication skills. But there is also a down side to this. The novelty quickly wears off. Then it becomes a real burden finding someone who will fill the pulpit. What’s worse, is when someone doesn’t want to preach but feels that he has to, few will benefit from that. There is a level of depth that most times will not be reached by having different men speak each week. Depth takes time, study, tools, experience. Most just can’t devote that level of commitment. So, simple, first principles lessons and Bible classes are taught over and over.
A growing church comes from a growing pulpit. Here are a few of my thoughts about young preachers quitting.
First, expectations may not have been realistic. A lot of the work of preaching is alone time with books, thoughts and paper and pen. Study is just that, study. The praise at the door on Sunday after a sermon is not what preaching is about. Presenting the word of God is about changing lives and building hope. It’s getting people to see the will of God. It’s moving people out of their comfort zone. It’s developing and maturing faith. It’s encouragement, teaching, and strengthening hearts. It’s dealing with tough issues and controversial topics in a fair and Biblical manner.
Second, our passage reminds us of several things that come with preaching. Hardships must be endured. There is a work that must be done. And, it may be those hardships that some do not like. It may be that some cannot endure them, or, as is often the case, the preacher’s wife cannot endure seeing her husband having to face hardships. Everyone can be a critic. People will let you know if they think you are not dressed right, your hair is not right, if you misspelled a word in the bulletin, if you misused a word, if you misquoted a passage, if you got your facts mixed up. For a young man, that can be too much. He can get the feeling that he can’t do anything right. And brethren who have heard decades of preaching will try to tell the young preacher where he’s missing it. Rather than being helpful, some can be cruel and unkind. Rather than sitting down and helping, some give a parting shot as they walk out the door and that parting shot is rude, uncalled for and mean spirited. Just because a guy gives one Wednesday evening invitation a year, he feels that he is qualified to tell the young preacher all about preaching.
There are hardships. They must be endured. The thinner the skin and the more sensitive the spirit, the less likely one has the patience to put up with hardships.
Third, preaching is work. That’s what the passage says. Don’t listen to those silly comments about only working one day a week. You’ll work nearly every day. Long hours. Lots of things to do. Even on days off and on vacations, the mind is running. Sunday always comes and there is always a class to be taught, a sermon to write, someone to encourage, some question to answer. Always. I’ve been doing this for more than forty years and it never slows down nor does it stop. Preachers quickly realize that this is not a job that I can leave at the church building and come home. Preaching becomes a way of life. It follows you everywhere. Now, those that are absorbed into this, will do well. Those that love helping others will excel. Those that want to see the Lord’s kingdom explode in size, will find more and more ways to push themselves. But for others, just getting a sermon on Sunday will be the extent of what they do.
Like in other fields of work, those that push themselves, go beyond what is expected, will thrive. The athlete that continues to practice after the official practice is over, only betters himself. The professor who continues to research and do studies, not because he has to, but because he wants to, will do well. And, so it is for the preacher. Those that are continually looking at how to better communicate, how to better themselves by deeper studies, better ways to connect with people, will do well.
It concerns me that many young men are not interested in preaching. There may be many, many reasons. But it might help if we created an atmosphere which was inviting to young men. Young men see how the current preacher is treated, talked about and endures. That may be a start. It just may be that the reason young men are stepping away from preaching is not on them, but on us. That sure is something to think about.
As our culture is quickly turning secular and godless, we need more and more voices crying in the wilderness the message of the Lord. Be an encourager! Be a supporter! Be a backbone to your congregation!