A Word or Two About Preachers
I pray that you will indulge me for a moment as we discuss something very close to my heart: preachers! My father is one, my grandfather was one, and I am one, so this subject is very important to me on a personal level.
The Need For Preachers
Preachers and Bible teachers are incredibly important to the world in which we live. In Romans 10:13-15, Paul writes:
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
The last part of this passage may also be found in the book of Isaiah. Preachers are not a new phenomenon. There were preachers in the Old Testament as well as the New.
Ezra could properly be called a preacher, for he
...read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading (Neh. 8). Of course Ezra had prophetic powers and certain abilities that preachers do not have today, and yet we see the importance of what the preacher was doing.
First, he read from the book of God. Second, he "gave the sense"—that is, he put into view for them the reasoning of the passage he was reading from, and then he “caused them to understand the reading.” He read the book, he reasoned with them from the book, and then he told what the book said.
Paul’s statement is that the world needs preachers today.
Some Personal Questions About Our Preachers
We need to ask, since the world desperately needs preachers, do we treat our preacher as if we need him? Our preacher is a blessing. When these men decided to preach, they knew that the work would mainly benefit others, and specifically, that it would benefit their souls.
Preachers could make more money doing secular work. However, preachers give their time, their effort, their energy and their heart's desires to help us be better.
It is a shame for a preacher to stand before a congregation and not be able to “give the sense," nor “cause them to understand the reading” of the Word of God, for whatever reason—whether it be because he is doing too many other types of work or some different reason. He should be able to present a deep lesson and one that will help the listeners throughout the week. A lesson that will not be forgotten the moment the people walk out the door of the church building.
Friends, we need preachers who will be able to stand and deliver wonderful sermons. Sermons that stimulate thought, and provoke Christians to love and to good works. And we need it on a weekly basis. Preachers are the most needed occupation in all of the world. His message is the most important message in all of life. And he ought to be able to deliver that message in such a way.
Another personal question when it comes to preachers: Why are there not more young men interested in becoming preachers? There may be many answers to this question. But I suggest one reason is because we do not share with them the great need today for preachers. Instead, we want them to become doctors, lawyers, dentists, or I.T. professionals. We want them to have a "good life" while they are here, so we conclude that if our child becomes one of these professionals, then he will have a "good life." And churches continue to suffer and die today because our children don’t understand the need for good preachers today.
Many times congregations think, “We don’t need a full time preacher,” or, “We have brother so-and-so, and he likes to preach, and we have another brother who also can preach sometimes.” And please do not get me wrong—if congregations have one or more strong and good and faithful preachers who constantly stimulate the people, and give the sense and help them to understand in a practical way how the scriptures apply, then that is great for your congregation.
However, what is far too often the case is that when the church is spiritually starving for food, and we have "brother so-and-so" giving a so-so lesson week after week, after week, after week... it will not be long before all we have is watered down, shallow, so-so Christians in our churches.
Friends, we need preachers; we desperately need people who, like Ezra,
read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
Are you impressing the importance of the need for Gospel preachers upon your sons today? Or are you more concerned that they become doctors? Do we truly believe what Paul said by inspiration:
How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things? Or do we tell our children, “How beautiful is the bank account of those who practice medicine”? Do we teach our kids that the physical blessings in this life far outweigh the spiritual blessings in the next life?
We must encourage people to preach. We need preachers! We need them more than any other occupation that this life has to offer.
We Must Train Preachers Properly
Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment. (James 3:1 ASV)
This passage tells us that there is a special relationship and responsibility for those who would teach the word of God. There is a heavier judgment promised to those who stand ill-prepared, or not properly able to teach His word. This tells me that we should be very careful about teaching, but as listeners, we need to be careful about who we allow to teach.
It seems that in some places there is the idea that if a guy can get up behind a pulpit, quote a few scriptures, and make the people smile, then he is qualified to be a preacher. Some, however, understand it to be more like this: If a good brother can go on the Internet, take someone else's material, and preach it as if it were his own, then that man is qualified to be a preacher.
Let us apply that same logic to another occupation.
Suppose you are going to have surgery on your heart. Suppose you go to "some brother" who said, “I have recently read a book about the heart.” Will you allow him to cut you open and perform heart surgery? What if he assures you that he went and looked on the Internet too, and even watched a video on YouTube, and he is very confident that he can perform heart surgery? Will you allow him to cut you open? Of course not!
Why then do we allow men who have "looked on the web," or put a couple of passages of scriptures together, to be in charge of feeding our souls? Preachers are physicians—physicians of our souls. And as such, they must be trained properly how to perform "spiritual surgery." The problem many times is that we value our lives more than we value our souls. So we allow things done from the pulpit, and allow men in the pulpit to perform soul surgery in ways we would never allow during physical heart surgery. It seems that we value the physical far more than the spiritual.
Preachers must be trained!
Now, I do not believe that a preacher must go to a preaching school. I do love faithful preaching schools, but a man’s worth is not based upon a school of preaching. I know men today who graduated from schools of preaching, but nevertheless left the faith and denounced God. However, that does not mean that preaching schools are bad. They are valuable to the cause of Christ (as long as they teach Truth). Hundreds of men graduate each year from faithful preaching schools, and are preaching to congregations all over the world.
Preachers need to know how to preach. There is more to delivering a sermon than just “reading the Bible.” There is more to being a preacher than standing in front of people and delivering a sermon. Being a preacher is a way of living. It is knowing that the Truth must be taught, and that in many cases, it must be taught even when the brethren don’t like it (2 Tim. 4:2).
At preaching school, I spent countless hours hours every day learning the Word of God, learning how to study it and how to apply it. My father was a preacher for many years before he attended the same school. My grandfather did not attend a preaching school, but learned as he sat at the feet of able Gospel preachers before him. He went with them on trips, he learned how to preach one-on-one. What I learned in 2 years, it took him over 10 years to learn because of the way preaching schools work.
It has been estimated that (on average) preaching school students study every bit as much as doctors study for their degrees. They study even more than lawyers study during law school. Once a preacher finishes school, compared to doctors and lawyers, he continues to study two or three times more than either of these professions.
Why? So that he can know not only what he is preaching, but to whom he is preaching. He studies not only God’s Word, but he studies people and personalities. He has to, because one person might accept God’s truth in a different manner, or by a different approach.
Friends, God had only one Son, and He was a preacher. He wasn’t a heart doctor. He wasn’t a lawyer. He had the greatest occupation known to man: He was a preacher, a physician of the soul. When we take seriously the position that the preacher plays in our lives, we will understand better why we need preachers to be trained properly.
May God help us to teach our young men the great value of preachers. May we show them through our treatment of our local preachers just how important they are. And may we teach them and instruct them, and cultivate in their minds the desire to be trained to preach God’s Word to a lost world.