Thoughts on the Preacher’s Work


By Wayne S. Walker 

     Every once in a while an article will appear ridiculing the preacher who spends twenty or maybe even thirty hours a week studying for sermons, classes, articles, etc., most of which will be of benefit primarily to brethren.  Such preachers are sometimes slurringly referred to as “sheep-feeders,” and the problem, we are told, is the rise of the “pastor” system, “professionalism,” and the “clergy-laity” distinction among New Testament churches.  It is further admonished that elders should take the sole responsibility of feeding the sheep, and the preacher should use most of his time in seeking and teaching those who are lost.

     No, no one decries the “pastor system,” “professionalism,” or the “clergy-laity” system more than I.  And if a preacher is involved is involved in such a situation, or is heading in that direction, he should be reprimanded.  However, an examination of the “pastor” system as it actually exists in denominational churches will yield the conclusion that it is probably not as much a danger among us as some might think, although we all admit that we must be careful of any abuses that could occur as a result of the practice of using located preachers.

     Because of the need to work and provide for their families, most elders are not able to give their full time to feeding the flock.  Certainly, all elders ought to be able to teach in a public capacity and need to be doing so as opportunity allows, but not all their feeding can or should be done in this personal manner.  And nowhere does the Bible teach that they must give up their regular jobs to do such work, although they are to be commended if they can and do (1 Tim. 5:17).  So, let me ask, what is wrong with an eldership which, exercising its oversight, employs a gospel preacher to assist them in feeding the flock and lets his main duty be the edification and exhortation of Christians in the local congregation?

     “Well,” someone may ask, and rightly so, “where is the authority for it?”  All right, read the books of First and Second Timothy and Titus.  And as you read, write down the passages which deal which deal with the supposed “primary work” of the preacher to convert the lost.  How many are there?  Most of the sections which mention the preacher’s teaching responsibilities (1 Tim. 1:3-4, 4:6-7 and 11-16, 5:19-22, 6:17-21; 2 Tim. 2:2, 15-18, 23-25, 4:1-5; Tit. 1:5 and 10-14, 2:1-6, 3:1-2 and 9-11) refer to his relationship with the members of the church (if I may use that term without being called on the carpet).

     For example, Timothy, who was to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:6), was also specifically told, “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed” (1 Tim. 4:6, emphasis mine, WSW).  To fulfill such obligations, an evangelist will have to utilize a great deal of his time in studying God’s word and learning how to apply it to the various situations which arise among the members in the local congregation.

     No one will deny that a preacher, because he is a redeemed child of God, and especially because of his knowledge of the Bible and his ability, should be active as an individual Christian in seeking to share the gospel with lost sinners, just as every other Christian (including those who are not preachers) should do.  And most preachers worth their salt will give a good portion of their time to doing it.  But I resent being told that if I spend more than three or four hours a week in studying, I am not doing “my job” (often meaning “the brethren’s job” too).  In fact, that seems more like the “pastor” system to me than the other.

     —taken from Torch; Sept., 1977; Vol. XII, No. 9; pp. 8-9 (slightly revised)


Withdrawing from the Withdrawn


By Wayne S. Walker 

     [Editor’s note:  In the October, 1976, issue of Torch magazine, edited by James P. Needham, there were two articles on the subject of whether a church can withdraw from those who claim to have already “withdrawn” from it by ceasing to attend services altogether.  Jeff Kingry affirmed that a church can and should do so, whereas editor Needham argued against the practice.  In the November, 1976, issue, Ron Halbrook wrote a letter, saying, “I am glad that Jeff and you have provided us a discussion of the question whether delinquent members should be publicly disciplined, under want circumstances, with reference to what passages, etc.  I appreciate both of you working on this question and providing the readers both sides.  Such two-way discussions continue to be a strong point about Torch.”  As Ron continued, he seemed to take issue with some things which Needham had written.

     Brother Needham replied, “First, I want to explain the circumstances of the articles by Jeffery Kingry and me last month.  Jeff’s article had been in my file for some time.  When I was making up the October issue, I came across it and decided to print it.  Since I have been thinking along these lines, I thought I would make a contribution to the study.  It was not really a planned exchange between my good friend, Jeff, and me.”  He then went on to respond to some of the points which Ron had made.  This subject and the different views expressed on it evidently brought forth a small outpouring of letters to Needham and led to further discussion.

     In the July, 1977, issue, Ralph Williams of Humble, TX, wrote a letter, appearing to disagree with Needham’s position, in which he said, “I know you expressed a very strong conviction on page 5, paragraph 3 of Torch, 3/77, that ‘among you’ refers only to the assemblies,” and then proceeded to give evidence to the contrary.  Morris Norman of Akron, OH, but in the process of moving to Birmingham, AL, wrote basically agreeing with Needham and concluding, “You may mark and/or withdraw from an erring brother that refuses to repent.  If has already withdrawn himself from the local church, all we can do is mark him as an unfaithful brother, unworthy of fellowship with faithful brethren, but I contend that we cannot withdraw from him as a collective.”  This was also Needham’s fundamental contention.  That same issue also contained a letter from me, of which brother Needham said, “Now, what has been said clarifies the following comment from another good friend who has made a keen analysis of the matter.”]

     As for the problem of “withdrawing from those who won’t attend,” I wonder if some of our differences aren’t the result of two different views of what withdrawal is.  My own conclusion about what to do in such cases is: after all attempts have been made to restore one who has quit attending, to make a public announcement that one can no longer be considered a member because of his failure to respond.  At least in my own experience, most of these people still have, and even want, their “name on the roll.

     If this is one’s definition of withdrawal in such instances, then I agree with him.  [Note: Brother Needham answered, “I don’t, because what is here described is not withdrawal, but marking, or making an announcement.  That is not withdrawal in the sense of 1 Cor. 5, and 2 Thess. 3, jpn.”  This is certainly the crux of the matter, and it makes me wonder what’s the difference.  If we withdraw from a fornicator or false teacher, we cannot have regular social relations with him  as if he were still a faithful brother, but if one simply stops attending and we mark him as unfaithful, can we still have regular social relations with him as if he were a faithful brother because we cannot withdraw from him?]  However, if his idea of withdrawal is different and would exclude what I have mentioned above, then it is a different matter.

     One thing that bothers me is the statement that “such would drive them further away.”  If they have quit attending, I wonder, how much further could they be driven?  I am sure you are aware that this same statement has been used to discourage any kind of corrective discipline also.  Such a public announcement may not do any visible good—but then it might, and probably has in some cases.  Even withdrawal from drunkards or adulterers may not do any “visible” good in restoring the guilty in all cases.   And remember, I said after all other means of restoration had been tried.

     —taken from Torch; July, 1977 (Vol. XII, No. 7), p. 14