On Paying a Preacher

ON PAYING A PREACHER

By Wayne S. Walker 

     One of the reasons I preach the gospel is not because it is financially rewarding.  At least it was not for the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 4:9-13).  Now there are passages which teach that the preacher is to be supported for his work (2 Cor. 11:8; Phil. 4:16; 1 Tim. 5:18).  Today preachers are generally desired with a reasonable education as though they were being chosen like a doctor or lawyer.  It is not necessarily a matter of the amount of formal education, but of being intellectually qualified for the work of preaching—the ability to study, speak, and deal with people.  Again, preachers are usually considered as being on call twenty-four hours a day like doctors and lawyers—at least like doctors and lawyers used to be.  Preachers are also expected to be able to take charge and get things done like an executive of a company.

     It seems to me that since people want these qualities in a preacher, they would be more than willing to pay him like any other professional or executive.  But unfortunately, it “ain’t” so.  A preacher friend of mine once said jokingly that he was glad his pay was so low because he certainly did not want the brethren to think preaching is as important as being a plumber!  But seriously, although I do not want to encourage or seem to encourage  “professionalism” in the pulpit, still if men of ability in secular jobs are handsomely rewarded for their abilities and work, such should be true of preachers also, most of whom have left or declined to enter lucrative professions in order to preach.  However, I realize that such is not always the case.  There are a few stingy brethren who have enough influence to see that the preacher gets just as little as possible, and then begrudge him even that.  This is the way things are sometimes.

     Let it be understood that neither I nor any other gospel preacher who is worthy of that designation is preaching for money.  If being materially rich were our goal, we could certainly find less demanding jobs with more prestige and better pay.  In fact, with their backgrounds, most preachers could probably walk into any factory that is hiring and get as job paying more money than they make as preachers, at least when the economy was better.  But I do not want that.  I want to preach the gospel.  Because others have chosen to do likewise, a few brethren seem to think that they should have to suffer more than the “average” Christian.  Nowhere do the scriptures hint at such a concept.  However, the fact is that practically every preacher is willing to do without some, even many, of the things that most people could not visualize living without in order to do that which he loves best and desires most—preaching the gospel.

     Let this not be misunderstood as the whining of a disenchanted preacher, for I have been treated exceptionally well in the time I have been preaching, and I have nothing about which to complain.  Nor let this be construed as an indictment against all, or even a majority of, the brethren.  Most Christians I have come in contact with are royal in their attitude toward preachers.  But let this be a reminder that making known the glad tidings—and that does not mean just “being a preacher”—is absolutely the most important work in the world.  A man who gives his full time to such a pursuit should be well supported for his work.  Read Romans 10:13-17 and 1 Corinthians 9:1-23 to see that this is true.

     –taken and slightly updated from Torch; May, 1976; Vol. X, No. 5; pp. 14-15

The Need for Preaching

THE NEED FOR PREACHING

By Wayne S. Walker 

     The need for preaching can be seen in Jesus’s great commission, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15).  It can also be seen by the fact that “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21).  And it can be seen from the instructions of Paul to Timothy to “preach the word…” (2 Tim. 4:2ff).  Yet today men in all areas of life are doubting the relevance of preaching and its ability to save souls.  This is acutely true in the Protestant world.  Countless churchgoers are heard to remark, “I just didn’t get anything out of the sermon; I felt so bored;” and many openly sleep through the preaching.  These phenomena, especially the latter, are not unknown among churches of Christ either.

     Where a few years ago it would have been next to impossible to find a preacher of any religious persuasion who spoke less than an hour—and many took two or three, now it is increasingly difficult to find one who talks over twenty minutes at the most—ten to fifteen minute sermonettes are commonplace in denominational churches.  The same thing is true among our brethren, in that while once we had ten day, two and three week, or month long gospel meetings, many churches have shortened these to weekend “teaching sessions” where the speaker is asked not so much to preach the Bible as to “discuss” issues, problems, and needs.  Some are even calling for an end to gospel meetings altogether and in their place substituting personal work as the “complete answer” to our problems.  In general, the very word “preach” has taken on a negative tone.  No one wants to be thought of as “preachy” or to sound like he is “preaching.”

     Now do not misunderstand me.  We need weekend teaching sessions and personal work—especially personal work and lots of it.  But these should not be used to the exclusion of the oral proclamation of the word of God.  However, it is my belief that in the area of evangelism, we are going to have to change our concept of the purpose of verbal preaching.  In the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries, those who led the attempt to restore the New Testament church, and those who immediately followed them, relied heavily, if not entirely, upon public speaking to spread the word.  And it seemed to work.  All a preacher had to do was to put up an announcement of a “revival” (as they called it), and the building, tent, or brush arbor would be jammed full.  There might have been from ten to one-hundred or more baptisms.  But this is not true today, and this fact has caused many to lose faith in preaching.

     My response to all this would be, from what I have been able to gather from reading books and listening to lectures on “restoration history,” that our forefathers may have had a somewhat erroneous view of public preaching.  I sometimes wonder how much better response they might have obtained had they combined personal work with their efforts.  Now I am not so caught up in “our modern methods” to think that the pioneers did no personal teaching, but it does seem that they put a special emphasis on the pulpit.  I do not believe that God ever intended oral dissertation to be the first and foremost means of telling the good news.  Because of the conditions, it sufficed in times past.  Now it does not.  We need to realize that it is not preaching itself, but our notions about preaching, that make it appear obsolete in our era.  The reason we think it is not working is that we are expecting it to do something it is not supposed to do.

     Actually, verbal discourse from the pulpit should be looked upon less as a direct means of conversion (i.e., someone comes to services, hears a sermon, and obeys the gospel) and more as an attempt to stimulate and motivate those who have already been taught by more personal means, as well as to make new contacts to continue teaching.  I believe this is more in line with the New Testament teaching in passages such as Acts 2:42, 5:42, and 20:20.  The real point I want to make is that we need balance in our work in saving the lost.  We need to integrate our use of personal evangelism, evangelistic meetings, and special efforts to edify the saints into a whole program of church activity.  If the congregation would spend the six months before a meeting in intense personal work, coupled with occasional short sessions designed to encourage them in their labors, they might be amazed at how more effective their meetings might be.  Let us have an increased number of extended series of Bible sermons designed primarily to exhort sinners to obey the gospel.  But let us not put such series on a pedestal and look for them to accomplish something by themselves that they were never meant to accomplish.

     —taken from Torch; Feb., 1976; Vol. XI, No. 2; pp. 7-8

The Day of Gospel Meetings Is Not Over

THE DAY OF GOSPEL MEETINGS IS NOT OVER

by Wayne S. Walker 

     Most of the congregations where I have been a member and served as local evangelist have conducted two to three gospel meetings a year. I have been privileged to work with other congregations in gospel meetings through the years. In fact, I myself was baptized during a gospel meeting, and I am sure that the same thing is true with many in the Lord’s church. Yet, over the years I have heard, and occasionally still hear, people who proclaim, “The day of the gospel meeting is over. Gospel meetings just do not do any good any more.” I reject this claim.

     Of course, gospel meetings may not accomplish the same amount or kind of good that they once did. It used to be that all one needed to do was to have a gospel meeting in a community and with just a little announcement the result would be large crowds and often several, even many, conversions. That was in a day when people had little else to do but go to church services for social contact and were more religious-minded in general. Today, we have to compete with school activities, around-the-clock work shifts, recreation and entertainment opportunities, and television, as well as an overall religious apathy.

     However, in spite of all this, I firmly believe that gospel meetings can still do good. If nothing else, they are a time for Christians to get together and share spiritual things. They can be a part of the local church’s program for the edification, strengthening, encouragement, and exhortation of the members. And, in addition to this, I am convinced that a gospel meeting can be useful in making contacts and teaching people in our work of evangelizing the lost – if we will put the proper effort into it.

     1. Advertise! Advertise! Advertise the meeting! Put ads in all local newspapers. Get in touch with the religion editor and have a news story written about it. Make spot announcements on radio stations. Let people know that you are having a meeting! Print enough flyers for everyone to hand out. Put one up on every available (and permissible) bulletin board and in other spaces. Go door to door in some area and pass them out. This will cost money and take time, but those few who see, are interested, and come will make it worth the while and provide opportunities for further teaching.

     2. Be specific in your advertisements. A card which simply says, “Gospel Meeting – bro. So-and-So, Speaker,” will likely whet the appetite of very few because they do not know the preacher from Adam. But a list of the sermon topics, provocatively titled, may spark someone’s curiosity and bring him or her out. Since visitors will likely not be able or inclined to attend every service, they can pick those subjects which will appeal to them and hopefully will elicit a positive response.

     3. Invite! While mass advertising may bring in a few, most visitors come at the invitation of a member. Try this plan. A month before the meeting, ask each individual or family in the congregation to make a list of people they want to come to the meeting – say three names. Three weeks before, let each member extend a personal invitation to come to the folks they have chosen. Two weeks before, a local preacher can send a letter on church stationary inviting them to attend. A week before, all members should call their prospects on the phone to remind them about it. This may sound like a lot of work, but remember that we are trying to save souls which are precious beyond compare.

     4. Follow up. Every visitor from the community to a gospel meeting should be visited as soon as possible. Each church needs to have visitor’s cards and/or a guest book to obtain the names and addresses of all visitors. A note may also be sent to thank the visitor for his presence, but only a personal visit truly lets the individual know that we are interested in him. During such visits arrangements can be made for filmstrips, home Bible studies, correspondence courses, or whatever other form of study is desired. But the follow-up visit is essential.

     5. It should go without saying that all the members should support the meeting faithfully. The leadership of the church must insist that they do so. When a visitor comes and finds that the people who invited him are absent, he is discouraged. People who attend a meeting and see a lot of empty pews are hindered. Also, everyone should join heartily in the singing because dull singing can kill a meeting. The success is not totally dependent on the visiting preacher; every member has a responsibility as well.

     6. Finally, do not look upon the gospel meeting as the sum total of your evangelistic efforts. People are not converted by a “gospel meeting” per se, but by sound teaching, and it is unlikely in our day of religious confusion and indifference that one would receive enough teaching in one gospel meeting to obey. However, the meeting might be an effective tool to provide sufficient motivation to respond for those whom we have already taught. It may also make contact with new people whom we may then teach and lead to the Lord. Personal work is definitely the key to success in the growth of the church.

     Again, it is my conviction that the day of gospel meetings is not over, that a gospel meeting can accomplish much good when we give it the emphasis it deserves. Certainly not everyone is going to come and there are other ways we can go to them with the gospel. But let us not forsake the meeting. In fact, I actually think we ought to have more meetings, not less. This suggestion may not set well with some; yet, it stands to reason that the more we sow the seed through preaching and teaching the word, the more likely it will find its way into some good and honest heart and bring forth fruit. And, after all, that is our goal, is it not? 

     –taken from Guardian of Truth; August 21, 1986; Vol. XXX, No. 16; p. 489