Jump Start # 2941
Romans 10:14 “How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?”
I was listening to my oldies the other day. Peter, Paul and Mary’s very political song, “Where have all the flowers gone?” came on. It’s a sad, sad song about the young soldiers who were killed in Vietnam. Where have they gone, echoes throughout that song.
I want to put a twist to that song and ask, “Where have all the preachers gone?” Our fellowship is facing a coming crisis because of a lack of preachers. There have been many preachers, both young and middle aged who have quit. And, on top of that, fewer and fewer younger men are stepping up to preach.
Preaching has always been God’s chosen method to push His message out to the people. God did not raise up writers. God did not choose videos, artists or other means to communicate. God chose preachers. Noah preached. Moses preached. David preached. The prophets preached. The apostles preached. John the baptist preached. And, our Lord preached. Our verse today asks a pointed question, “How shall they hear without a preacher?” The role of the preacher is to proclaim the message of Jesus. It is not to be the office administrator of the church. It is not to be the church’s errand boy. It’s not to be the official representative of the church. His role is defined as reprove, rebuke and exhort. Preach the word is what Timothy was told.
Will we get to the point that we don’t need preachers? The Scriptures do not show that. Our passage does not indicate that. We need preachers.
So, why is it that there are fewer and fewer preachers these days?
First, brethren need to take a long and serious look at how we treat preachers. The awful and shameful stories abound about the criticism, ridicule and emotional abuse that many preachers endure. Shepherds need to take a nurturing role in helping preachers. Care needs to be given to the preacher’s family. While the pay for preachers has increased over past generations, the benefits have not. After thirty or forty years, what does a preacher have? And, much, much too often, as a congregation desires to have a younger face and voice in the pulpit, the older preacher is released, let go, fired without any thought about what will happen to him, nor for his decades of service in the kingdom.
Getting an earful of gripes every Sunday and heartache from leaders who do not want to lead or have vision, some just give up. Why put myself through such pressure, agony, knowing that there is no job security and at a moments notice you could be replaced.
I’d suggest that shepherds take one Saturday morning and have an open conversation about what they are doing with their preacher. Put some thought into what he does and what he goes through. If you want to keep your preacher, then you ought to show it. The church ought to show it. Let’s be honest, many quit because of the way they are treated. And shame on any of us who are the cause of that.
Second, we need to restore the honor of preaching among our young men and their families. Much too often we hear, “There are other ways to serve in the kingdom,” which is true. Serving as a shepherd is incredible. Serving by teaching is great. But if every young man went down that road, where would the preachers be? Moms and dads need to take a longer look at what it means to put the kingdom first. Stop thinking about paychecks, nice homes, fat retirements and put more thought into the Lord and the most incredible work of preaching His word. Preaching is hard work. It’s more than a job, it’s a life. It’s not something that you leave behind at the end of the day. It takes a person who is self driven. It takes a person who likes to read. It takes a person who can communicate. It takes a person who loves people and is comfortable talking to others. It takes a person who loves helping others. It takes a teacher at heart. It takes a disciple at the core.
When a man gives one Wednesday night invitation a year, believes he knows how to preach and thinks he’s got preaching down, what a mistake and dishonor he makes. Because I can change the spark plugs in my car, does not make me a mechanic. Because I can put a bandaid on a cut does not make me a doctor. Just giving a short lesson once in a while is not all there is to preaching.
A congregation ought to allow younger men to speak more and more. There ought to be an openness to help those who are giving lessons. They should spend some time with the preacher. An atmosphere and a culture needs to be developed within a congregation that loves good preaching and honors the work that preachers do.
Third, some of what we are talking about falls on the preacher. Some run every time there is some criticism. Get a backbone, preacher. Remember those reformers who were burned alive for what they believed in. Remember those early disciples who were killed by lions for what they believed. So, brethren drag their feet. Help them. So, some leaders don’t lead. Help them. So, some can’t see beyond tomorrow. Help them. You are fighting Satan and the powers of darkness. God is on your side. Quit? Quit to do what? Find a better job? Find more money? Find people who do not complain? You want to trade preaching for working in a toxic office where the conversations are about getting drunk and sleeping around? You think you’ll find happiness there? Now, if a person’s heart is not into what he is doing, he ought to get out. Worse than having few preachers is having a preacher who really does not want to preach. Mortgage payments, kids at home, and unable to find anything else, some stay in preaching even though their heart has left long ago. They are in it for the money. They will do as little as possible and it will show after a while. Such a person will do everyone a greater service if he simply found something else to do. If your heart is not into what you are doing, then you won’t devote the excellence that it requires.
But before one quits, talk to an older preacher. Talk to one who has preached for decades. He has stories, and they are not all funny. He’s been there. He’ll remind you that Paul told Timothy to “endure hardships.” Don’t run. Don’t quit. Take a breather, but get right back into the fight. All of us have scars. All of us have had disappointments. All of us have made mistakes. And, all of us have seen the joys of people changing their lives for Jesus. Endure. Endure hardships.
What will happen if fewer and fewer preachers are busy in the kingdom? There will be a downward affect. The kingdom overall will survive, but that may not be the case for some individual congregations. Rather than getting stronger and better, weaker and fewer may be the result.
Where have all the preachers gone…that’s a good discussion to have. And, from that, maybe some needful changes can take place.