by Wayne S. Walker
Several years ago a letter marked "Position Available" came to the congregation with which I was laboring from a group in another state identifying itself as "Church of Christ." They were looking for a "minister of the Church of Christ at _____." I know nothing personally about them, but the letter contained a number of statements that are indicative of the difficulties faced by Christians today concerning the denominational concepts that tend to creep in among us. There are some important lessons that we should learn in this regard.
The letter began, "The _____ congregation of the Lord’s church is seeking a new pulpit minister." Right away there is a problem. If we are going to speak where the Bible speaks and call Bible things by Bible names, then we must realize that the Bible does not speak of a "congregation of the Lord’s church." This is a diocesan concept of the body of Christ similar to the one which led to the development of the Roman Catholic Church. It is "the language of Ashdod" (Nehemiah 13:24).
We need to understand that the church universal is not divided up organizationally into many local congregations. Rather, it is made up of individual Christians who then form themselves into local congregations. It is this idea of the local churches as units of the universal church which has led to attempts at mobilizing the universal church by missionary societies, sponsoring churches, and brotherhood institutions. Furthermore, while the Scriptures use the terms evangelist, preacher, and minister to describe proclaimers of the word, the term "pulpit minister" (does it distinguish from some other kind of minister?) is not found. All Christians are to be simply "ministers of Christ" (1 Corinthians 4:1).
Under "Duties/Responsibilities" are listed "Preaching, Teaching Bible Classes, Conduct home Bible Studies and other types of evangelism, Counseling and Visitation, Edit and Publish Weekly Bulletin." Of course, many of these are duties that most, if not all, preachers have performed in their work. But why single out arbitrarily certain items? Churches have a right to expect preachers they support to discharge all their responsibilities as revealed in God’s word (cf. 1 Timothy 4:6, 2 Timothy 4:1-4).
Under qualifications, the first mentioned is "B.A. Degree in Bible preferred." Certainly, there is nothing wrong with a preacher’s having a college education and it can even be helpful from time to time. But where did people get the idea that a fellow can learn more about the Bible from a university professor than from studying it on his own? The apostles would not qualify, for as to formal education they were "ignorant and unlearned men" (Acts 4:13). Also, I wonder of these folks would prefer a B. A. Degree from a "Church of Christ" college over one from a denominational seminary.
Other qualifications are "Demonstrated experience in soul winning, Bible class teaching experience, Ten (10) years experience as a pulpit minister desirable, Successful experience working under the direction of elders, Experience in the Northeast U.S. preferred, Experience in editing and publishing a church bulletin desired." Certainly no one would minimize experience. It is a great asset to possess. But if all churches demanded as much experience as this one (and it is only "7 years old with about 70 in attendance on Sunday"), where in the world would preachers obtain any? In time, there would not be enough experienced men to go around. I wonder how much experience Timothy had, seeing he was still a youth (1 Timothy 4:12).
One more qualification requires "experience or training in counseling." Now if this means counseling from the word of God, any knowledgeable Christian could fill the bill. But if it refers to specialized counseling, such as for troubled marriages, alcoholics, juvenile delinquents, etc., that is something different. Any preacher is willing to help in these situations by applying God’s word. But in the past, only denominational "pastors" were expected to have experience or training in psychology, therapy, and such like. Such is not a part of the work of the evangelist (or the church, for that matter) as described in the New Testament, although it is becoming increasingly popular among "Churches of Christ" infected with the social gospel (see 2 Timothy 4:5).
Last of all, "conditions of employment" include "Commitment–five (5) years to the _____ congregation." Yet, at the same time, the congregation does not want to make the same commitment to the preacher. It offers only an "initial one (1) year contract renewable six (6) months prior to expiration." Jesus said, "Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so unto them" (Matthew 7:12). If this church expects a preacher to make a five-year promise, it should be willing to make the same guarantee.
Obviously, churches and preachers need to arrive at a mutual understanding in their relationships. But I, personally, do not htink that I would want to touch this "position" with a ten foot pole–or two ten foot poles for that matter. I have a feeling that this congregation is probably among what we would call "liberal" or "progressive" churches. But we who claim to be more "conservative" in our approach to the scriptures need to be careful that we do not begin to look upon gospel preachers as professional hired employees of the church, but as servants of the Lord who deserve the support of the Lord’s people. (—taken and slightly updated from Faith and Facts; Apr., 1982; Vol. 10, No. 2; pp. 30-32)