When preachers begin a new work there are a number of challenges that confront the preacher and his family. For some preachers and their families, there are the challenges that exist even before the new work begins. There are countless preachers who can attest to the stress and strain that the process of relocating places upon him and his family. Such stress and strain, though not the fault of his family, can make the beginning of his work a bit more challenging. However, bear in mind that God has blessed preachers and their families with a wonderful family that are generally willing to help relieve the stress and strain of relocating to a new work. Though God has blessed us with His wonderful family, a preacher and his family need to be prepared as best they can for the potential challenges that may confront them in relocating.
While there are challenges that confront the preacher and his family prior to relocating to a new work, there are challenges that confront them upon their arrival. The remainder of this article addresses one such challenge – the challenge to be all things to all people in a new work. While being all things to all people is an admirable goal, the primary goal for a preacher should be to always be like Christ. The one who penned the words, “…I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22, NKJV), also penned, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). So long as it does not jeopardize one’s relationship with Christ and His purpose, the preacher should seek to become all things to all men. Yet, in order to do so the preacher needs to be aware of not only the challenges, but also how to overcome the challenges to be all things to all people in a new work. Consider the following challenges, as well as ways to overcome them:
Challenge One: The “Pastor” Perception. It is foolish to believe that there is not a problem among some members of the church when it comes to the “pastor” perception. Sadly, there are times that preachers can have the “pastor” perception problem just as much as the members. The “pastor” perception has reference to the idea that the preacher is the pastor. Found one time in the New Testament (Eph. 4:11), the English term “pastor” has almost become universally used to mistakenly identify the preacher. The Greek term poimen, which means “shepherd,” is found seventeen times in the New Testament and refers to those who had the duty to oversee and shepherd the flock (Acts 20:28). Though the preacher possesses a vital role in the congregation, his role is not that of a shepherd, or pastor. Rather, his role is that of a preacher and evangelist (2 Tim. 4:2-5).
Unfortunately however, the “pastor” perception is not only a problem among some members. It is a problem among some preachers. Some subscribe to the idea of “evangelistic oversight,” which simply means preacher rule. Scripture does not authorize such a concept, though the preacher does possess the scriptural authority to “speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority” (Tit. 2:15).
While the congregation needs to be educated on the role of the preacher, the preacher can greatly help a congregation to be educated about the role of the preacher. The preacher can help a congregation greatly by teaching on the various roles, as well as the requirements and responsibilities that exist within the various roles within a congregation. Perhaps the greatest thing a preacher can do to help avoid the “pastor” perception is to not act as though he is the pastor.
Challenge Two: “Just The Preacher” Perception. Just as challenging as the “pastor” perception is the perception that the preacher is “just the preacher.” This perception is that the preacher is the “hired hand” of the congregation and not a member of the congregation. Along with this perception is that the preacher has been hired to do the congregation’s evangelism, edification, education, and benevolence. In some places the thought is that when there is a failure in these areas then it is the preacher’s fault. Therefore, the congregation needs to hire a new preacher.
What makes this perception a challenge is that it often causes the relationship between the preacher and the members to be professional and never personal. While preachers must always be careful that no relationship, whether personal or professional, violates Scripture, the relationship a preacher has with a congregation is more than “just a preacher.” Scripture declares that the relationship Christians share is one in which they have the privilege of “being called the children of God” (1 John 3:1). Therefore, a preacher is not “just a preacher.” He is first and foremost a child of God. The preacher is a member of the church who has the privilege of being a preacher.
From experience, a congregation seeing the preacher wanting to be more than “just the preacher” can help a great deal with the perception the congregation, as well as the community, has of the preacher. While in preaching school, many students had the privilege of working with area congregations in order to gain experience. Unfortunately, some congregations, as well as students, often seemed to view this experience as a temporary arrangement. At times, congregations and students viewed the student as being nothing more than a “preaching student” coming to preach. Such a view only seemed to be a deterrent to the congregation as well as to the student. Further, it often resulted in a cycle of preaching students gaining experience but congregations remaining in infancy. Realizing this, one student “placed membership” with the congregation with which he was working, and agreed to continue laboring with the congregation upon graduation. The result was that the preacher and the congregation grew together as a family. Further, it helped both the preacher and the congregation to understand that the preacher was not “just the preacher.” He was a member of the local congregation, a part of the family.
Like other members of the local congregation, the preacher and his family ought to have just as much interest and involvement in the work of the local congregation lest their lack of such lends to being viewed as “just the preacher” and his family. Perhaps one of the greatest ways in which a preacher and his family can help avoid the “just the preacher” perception is to “join themselves” to the local congregation (Acts 9:26).
Conclusion: Other things, such as personal congregational conflict, can make it challenging to be all things to all people in a new work. However, the preacher can protect himself and his family, as well as the congregation and its purity, by insisting that such problems be addressed scripturally (Matt. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5:5-13; Gal. 6:1-2; James 5:19-20). While there may be challenges to being all things to all people, such challenges can be overcome, and as a result the work can be rewarding and bring glory and honor to God.
Edgewood Church of Christ, Greenville, SC