IT IS ACCORDING TO God's will that the gospel be spread by preaching.
"It was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of preaching to save
them that believe." "How shall they hear without a preacher?" (1
Cor.l:21; Rom. 10:14).
A preacher is a Christian who knows God's word and is able to tell it to
others. In order for his training to be effective, he must "practice
what he preaches." "They therefore that were scattered abroad went about
preaching the word (Acts 8:4)."
The preacher has no "divine call" above any other Christian. He has no
special code of morals to live by above that of other Christians. If he
possesses talents for speaking and teaching, the church may ask him to
devote all of his time in that way under the direction of the elders,
while the church will meet his living expenses. "The laborer is worthy
of his hire (Luke 10:7)."
The work that the preacher is to do should be outlined by the elders. It
is up to them to hire him, to give him specific duties, and to dismiss
him when, in their opinion his dismissal is best for the church.
For some time it has been the general custom for each church of fair
size to have one full-time preacher, who spends most of his time
preaching to the church. Some of the larger churches have, in recent
years, begun to employ a younger man also, as "assistant minister" on a
Paul and Timothy basis. This arrangement glves a young man valuable
training in working for a church under the guidance of the elders and
with the help of a more mature and more experienced gospel preacher. The
elders and preacher can help him to develop his talents and become more
useful in the church.
There is no reason why many churches could not employ three, four, or
five full-time preachers. When ten wage-earning Christians contribute at
least a tenth of their income, that will support one full-time preacher
on an average economic level of his fellow Christians. Many Christians
can give more than a tenth of their earnings, some less. In a church
where there are one hundred wage-earners, then ten full-time preachers
could be employed. Since, however, there are other expenses, five full-
time preachers could be employed, and the other half of the church
income could be used for other expenditures. There is no better way for
a church to invest its money than in its primary job of preaching the
To whom shall the preachers preach? This must be decided by the elders.
Let the elders avoid the common error of bestowing upon the preacher all
or most of their duties in feeding the flock ( I Pet. 5 :2), and
overseeing it. It is true that the elders may be engaged in business,
and may not have as much time as the preacher, but this does not excuse
them from being teachers and pastors (I Tim. 3:2; Eph. 4: 11). And a
preacher is not a pastor.
The elders may ask the preacher to preach to the church a part of the
time, but if this preaching to the church takes all of his time and
energy, then the great unsaved population will go on their way to
destruction without hearing the gospel.
The ideal situation would be to let the preacher devote his full time to
preaching, teaching, and visiting outside the congregation, working
almost exclusively on the unsaved. Then as he converts these, and they
are added to God's church, the elders may take over in teaching,
guiding, and training the new Christians on to perfection. This is the
New Testament plan. If a Christian proves wayward and needs visiting,
reproof, or discipline, again this would be the elders duty, and this
arrangement would leave the preacher free to carry the gospel to the
But just as Paul and his co-workers liked to come home at times to
Antioch and Jerusalem and report on their work, so, too, the preacher
should do that. As did Paul, that he might remain and teach for awhile
in the church, before going out again on another missionary tour. "And
they tarried no little time with the disciples" (Acts 14:28).
One great advantage of hiring several preachers is, that they can go
together to difficult fields as did Paul and Barnabas; Paul and Timothy;
Paul and Silas, with Luke and Mark; or they can rotate their duties away
All preachers should be "located." No preacher can do any preaching
unless he is located. Every New Testament preacher was a located
preacher. He may have been located in a moving chariot, (Acts 8:29-31),
in a synagogue for a few weeks, (Acts 13:14-51), or briefly on Mars Hill
(Acts 20: 17-31), or for a period of several years in some city (1 Cor.
1:11-13). But always, he did his work while located. Until some brother
can tell us by inspiration just how long a preacher should stay in any
one location, we must depend upon human judgment to determine such
However, we must avoid the favorite-preacher complex of the Corinthians
(1 Cor. 3:3-9). If a church feels that it just cannot exist without
hearing every Lord's day one certain preacher, a very unhealthy
spiritual condition exists. It would be wise to send that preacher out
immediately on a missionary tour and keep him away for some time. It
should make no difference to a church who preaches, as long as a
faithful man is proclaiming a pure gospel. To avoid over-emphasis on the
preacher, it might be well at times to devote the entire period of
assembly to worship, with no sermon-instead, to have the reading of
God's word. And a church that does not care to listen to talks by its
elders has either the wrong kind of elders or the wrong kind of members.
Now that we have the preacher ready to go out from the home church, just
how shall he go about preaching to the unsaved?
First, let him take another worker with him for mutual help and
encouragement. This is according to the New Testament pattern! If Paul
needed someone to go with him. so does a preacher today. Next,
let him map out a territory and visit the main centers of population in
a circuit one after another, as did Paul. Let him preach wherever
possible, in a synagogue, in public assemblies, in the market place,
on the riverbank, on stair-steps, in upper rooms from house to house, in
rented houses, in schools, in courts and jails, and in any other
possible place. The place was never important to Paul. He preached
anywhere and everywhere. He was always glad to speak to one or two as
well as a crowd. He continued there until he had established a church or
was thrown out of town, or both. Then he returned later to strengthen
the brethren, and appointed elders in every church. Time seemed
unimportant; it was the task that counted. (See Acts 13-28)
We have some advantages that Paul did not have, but these advantages may
also be hindrances. We have the printing press and can distribute
circulars and church literature. But this literature should not be
substituted for personal work and oral preaching.
We have radios by which we can reach into thousands of homes over a
large territory, but again, this radio preaching should not be
substituted for personal face-to-face teaching.
We have good highways and easy ways of traveling, but often we travel
too fast, or too far, or too continuously instead of preaching
everywhere there is opportunity to preach. We have comfortable, sleek
house trailers that a preacher could use on a missionary tour, taking
his family along. Yet he should get away from the idea that he is on a
roving vacation at the church's expense.
We have amplifying apparatus to make it easier to speak in the open, but
this device should not become a public noise-making nuisance. We have
the law to protect us against physical persecution, but we should not
brutally "skin the sects," and preach in such an insulting manner as to
arouse unnecessary opposition. The gospel should be preached plainly,
yet in love. Even when it is done in this way, opposition will arise
without our consciously inviting it.
The preacher who follows Paul's example will lead a strenuous life. He,
like Paul, will undergo privations, persecutions, disappointments,
successes, dangers, thrills, hardships, and uncertainties, but he can do
all things through God who strengtheneth him (Phil. 4: 13). Contrast
this with the sedentary life of the gentleman-and-scholar type or
"pastor"-preacher who spends most of his time in his study, calls on a
few members of the church, and is a "pul-pit preacher" to comfortably
pewed disciples. A very pleasant, but extremely unprofitable life!
But we are all spoiled! Preachers are spoiled into a pleasant home
life, preaching to large, attentive crowds in beautiful church
buildings, flattered by appreciative auaiences. Elders are spoiled into
becoming inactive, letting the preacher "take charge of the church" and
do the elders' work. Church members are spoiled into expecting, and even
demanding nice little sermonettes by their favorite preacher, who shall
visit them at frequent intervals. Sinners are spoiled into not caring
for religion and into appreciating the church's letting them alone while
they "enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season" (Heb. 11:25).
The New Testament is unexcelled as a textbook on what to preach and how
to preach. Human nature remains the same. And the gospel is the same. We
do not need "a modern gospel for a changing world." We do need the same
old gospel preached in the same way to the same kind of sinners. These
moderns are not really so modern. What is modern about getting drunk,
committing adultery, stealing, lying, and Killing?
Jesus taught by parables. This is still an ideal way to teach. Yet the
gospel preacher today who tells a story or a parable to illustrate a
truth is often accused of aping sectarian preachers. Jesus talked the
language of the common people. He used simple words, easily understood.
Preachers today should avoid the theological school terminology. Many,
many people today cannot define the words apostasy, Pentateuch,
decalogue, dispensation, omipotent, postdiluvian, incarnation, and other
similar words so glibly used by preachers. Paul said, "I had rather
speak five words with my understanding, that I might instruct others
also, than ten thousand words in a tongue."
The tendency today is toward shorter and shorter sermons, or
"sermonettes." The same people who will willingly sit two hours Saturday
on hard bleachers in raw weather to see a football game will complain on
the Lord's day if the sermon is over thirty minutes long. Yet many a
preacher has condensed a forty minute sermon into a fifteen-minute radio
speech, and has felt that the radio version was an improvement on the
original. Why not have two twenty-minute sermons, separated by a song
and a prayer? Or three fifteen minute sermons with interval devotional
periods? This would probably be more effective than one longer sermon.
The tendency today is to make the preacher and his sermon the main
feature of the worship hour. In contrast, we read, "and upon the first
day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul
discoursed with them..." It seems that the Lord's supper was the main
event, and That the preaching, even by Paul, was incidental. The modern
tendency is to reserve the preacher selfishly for the church only. The
preacher is given to understand that "as long as you stay here and
preach for us, we will pay you well, but if you must be away to hold
meetings, you will have to do that on your own account, and in the
meanwhile we will try to get someone to replace you." It is far better
for the church to say, "We enjoy hearing you, but there are so many
unsaved persons who have never heard the gospel, we are willing for you
to go and preach to them. In the meanwhile, we will carry on, and your
support is guaranteed whether you are here or away. If small churches
where you hold meetings choose to pay you, accept it, and we will make
up the difference in your regular salary plus travel expenses."
That is standing behind a preacher in real missionary work. To send a
preacher out to hold a series of meetings in destitute fields, and to
small churches that could not otherwise have a meeting will do much good
in the field. This plan will renew the preacher's fervor, and he will
return to the home church with an increased zeal that will be contagious
to the home folks who encoura~ed him to go. "How shall they hear without
a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?"
[This article is from The Church at Work copyrighted 1947. John Paul
Gibson was born in 1903. Among other things he was a noted baby doctor.
We agree with much that he says in the above article and are amazed at
this man's pleadings realizing he was with the cups and classes
brotherhood. The tendencies described by him continue among them and us
even today. The pressure brought by "Christianettes" for short, watered
down "sermonettes" still plagues us. May the Lord help us!!! Please note
that the above article has been reformatted for this publication. -