Category Archives: 2013 – July/Aug

The Challenge To Be All Things To All People – Jamie Bellar

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

The Challenge To Grow A Church – Brock Shanks

In the first century, multitudes of people abandoned their lives of sin and wickedness and obeyed the New Testament pattern (Acts 2:36-42; 4:1-4; 5:12-16).  Today, the absolute necessity of teaching the same redeeming power of the gospel to every accountable person is just as urgent.  Are we preaching the same pure gospel that the apostles preached?  If we are abiding by Galatians 1:6-9, the answer would be yes.  The seed of the kingdom is still the Word of God, and the soil upon which the seed is sown is still the hearts of men (Luke 8:4-15).  Has the seed lost its potency?  Absolutely not (1 Pet. 1:22-25).  In order for results to occur we must, therefore, get the seed upon the soil and plant the Word of God in the hearts of men in the most effective way possible.  In view of the ongoing challenges facing the growth of the local church, our methods of evangelism must never grow stale or become ineffective.  If our methods are not effective, we must prayerfully and properly examine ourselves and find the most expedient manner of fulfilling our obligation to evangelize.

When considering all of the aspects and prospects of evangelism, no expedient method, person, or group of people can be excluded.  Effective evangelism must occur in places other than within the walls of our building.  More often than not, the majority of the families living in the houses surrounding our buildings are lost.  We need to visit them in their homes and encourage them to attend our services.  Door knocking is still an effective method of evangelism.  We must never doubt the battle-tested ways of former years (Jer. 6:16; Acts 5:42).  We might be pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness of a well-organized summer afternoon spent knocking on doors and setting up Bible studies in our local communities.  Different methods of evangelism can indeed help the small local church to grow.  However, we must always be diligent and prayerful in our endeavors.  We must be steadfast in asking our Father in Heaven to help us in our evangelistic efforts (James 4:2).  We must realize that faithful prayers alone cannot take the place of obedient action coupled with a spirit of humility (James 2:26; Luke 17:10).

With these thoughts in mind, let us consider the following four different methods of evangelism that should aid in the growth of small local congregations of the Lord’s people:

  1. Restoring our wayward brethren is one method of evangelism in which the small local church can grow.  The word “evangelize” simply means to announce the good news to another.  The good news to our erring brethren is that they no longer have to continue in their terrible state of rebellion.  There is hope if they repent and confess their error (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9).  Some wayward members of the church have been away so long they may not even remember why they stopped attending.  Others never forget past mistakes, nor allow anyone else to forget.  We need to take the time to patiently explore the matter and continue seeking the proper avenues of correction.  Was their departure due to a former preacher’s poorly worded sermon, or feelings of apparent neglect from the leadership, or possibly financial stress?  Perhaps there was no particular reason at all.  Regardless of the circumstances, these individuals are souls that are lost and need to abide in the doctrine of Christ in order to have fellowship with God (1 John 1:3; 2 John 9).  They have obeyed the first principles of the gospel and need to be restored to the fold (Gal. 6:1-2).  Therefore, we must evangelize our erring brethren.
  2. Equipping our faithful brethren with the whole armor of God is a second method of evangelism in which the small local church can grow.  Every aspect of the armor of God is in reference to understanding and implementing the gospel of Christ (Eph. 6:10-18).  The good news directed toward our faithful brethren is that, when properly equipped, they can accomplish greater things for the Lord in His kingdom than they ever thought possible.  Can we grasp the concept of an entire congregation of the Lord’s people in which every member is prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in them with meekness and fear (1 Pet. 3:15)?  Imagine the difference that would make in our workplaces.  Instead of being unprepared to answer the denominational and worldly quibbles, we would be ready to calmly and patiently discuss and refute any and every Bible topic without hesitation.  Great are the opportunities for evangelism in the workplaces of well taught members of the church.
  3. Advertising all upcoming events taking place at the building is a third method of evangelism in which the small local church can grow.  We generally send our gospel meeting flyers to the congregations in the (somewhat) surrounding area, and yet fail to place flyers in our local businesses.  Although we love for our brethren to attend our meetings, our hearts would rejoice to have just as many or even more visitors from our local communities.  We pray that the day and hour has not come in which we have gospel meetings only out of habit and not due to a sincere desire of seeing souls snatched out of the fire (Jude 22-23).  Adequate advertising in the local community can be a greater asset than we believe.  This is an excellent opportunity for some lost soul to see a welcome invitation to hear sound doctrine!  We never know who is searching for something better or who may be receiving the House to House/Heart to Heart publication and visit our services for no other reason than sheer curiosity.  Brethren, we must sow righteousness abundantly in order to reap righteousness abundantly (Gal. 6:7-9)!
  4. Perfecting our love toward one another is the fourth method of evangelism in which the small local church can grow.  You may not think this to be a method of evangelism, but it is an important one.  Imagine for just a moment that you are a visitor at the congregation where you regularly attend.  Is there a feeling of tension in the air?  Do you observe individuals who do not shake hands or even look each other in the eye?  If we can see it, our visitors can as well.  Visitors have a knack for being aware of tensions that are unnecessary in the assemblies of the saints.  Our manner of life must always be in harmony with the gospel of Christ (Phil. 1:27).  There is nothing more discouraging than for visitors from our communities to detect disharmony among the Lord’s people.  The disharmony amongst us will cripple our efforts of evangelism.  The Bible commands us to love one another (1 John 4:21).  What doth hinder us?

We must always strive to find the most effective way to accomplish the greatest good for the kingdom.  We must be convinced that the fields are white unto harvest (Matt. 9:36-38; John 4:31-38).  James says we must be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22).  When the love of evangelism gets into a faithful congregation of the Lord’s people, the results will be evident and everlasting.

Lexington, NC Church of Christ

The Challenge of Comparisons To Previous Preachers – Curtis Gilbert

It is for certain that preachers face various challenges when beginning a new work.  Such is true of the preacher just beginning his first work as well as the “seasoned” preacher who has left one congregation in order to work with another.  One such challenge is properly handling the issue of being compared with another preacher.  At this point in my life as a preacher I have had the privilege of serving four different congregations over a period just short of 21 years.  During this time period I have heard comments in both the negative and the positive relative to how I compared to the “previous preacher.”  Such begs the question of how should I, or any preacher for that matter, handle the pitfalls of being compared to the “great preacher” who preceded me and how should I avoid negative criticisms of a “not so great preacher” who was with the current congregation before my arrival?

First, let’s consider some of the possible pitfalls that may be associated with being compared to the “great preacher” who I am now following.  Upon hearing comments of how great the previous preacher was, one might:

  1. Become insecure and seek to investigate why he was so great in an attempt to imitate his qualities and thus lose focus of that which is most important.
  2. Feel as though he is being treated unfairly and therefore become bitter toward those who are making the comparisons, thus becoming less effective in his service to the whole congregation.
  3. Allow such comparisons to eat away at him to the point that he becomes frustrated or depressed and thus functions at a level lower than that of which he is capable.
  4. Though it should never happen, I suppose an immature preacher could attempt to seek out some “dirt” on the previous preacher in order to show that he was not so great after all.

So, just how should I handle such pitfalls of insecurity, feelings of being treated unfairly, frustration or depression, and the temptation to defame the previous “great preacher” because I am being compared to him?  Well, like it or not, our brothers and sisters in Christ are human with the same weaknesses as we preachers and thus comparisons are a reality.  I must realize such and thus not be surprised when I hear of those comparisons.  Then I should truly be thankful to God that the previous preacher was, in the eyes of the congregation, a “great preacher.”  Additionally, I should be thankful to God that the leadership of the congregation saw some potential in me to become a “great preacher” by inviting me to serve in the Lord’s kingdom with them.

Several passages of scripture come to mind when I think of needing strength to overcome the pitfalls of allowing being compared to another “great preacher” impede my preaching ministry.  The first one that came into my mind when I was invited to write this article is 2 Corinthians 10:12-18.  (I am aware that this passage applies specifically to the apostle Paul and his ministry but the thought is applicable to those of us who preach today relative to comparing ourselves with others or being compared to others.)  2 Corinthians 10:12-18 (NKJV) says:

“For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves.  But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.  We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us – a sphere which especially includes you.  For we are not overextending ourselves (as though our authority did not extend to you), for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ; not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but having hope, that as your faith in increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere, to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s sphere of accomplishment.  But ‘he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’  For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.”

The second passage of scripture that reminds me that I need not be intimidated by any comparison with anyone else is the apostle Paul’s charge to Timothy as recorded in 2 Timothy 4:1-5.  It says:

“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:  Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

This passage also reminds me that what is most important in my ministry as a preaching servant of the Lord and his church is to preach the word of God and not be sidetracked by anything, especially that of being compared to anyone else.  God will judge the other “great preacher” by the same standard with which I will be judged (John 12:48-50), and not how my brethren or anyone else may judge me or feel about me.

Second, how do I avoid negative criticisms of a preacher, or preachers who preceded me, who were “not so great”?  Again, I must remember that my brothers and sisters in Christ are human with the same weaknesses that I have and thus comparisons are a reality.  Therefore some well-meaning brother or sister may come to me with criticisms of the previous preacher in order to inform me of things I should avoid or do differently.  Or, it just might be that I have heard of some of the shortcomings of the previous preacher and am therefore tempted to criticize him in order to make myself look good.

To avoid such it is good to be reminded that God is not pleased with “gossips” or “slanderers” (1 Tim. 5:13; 2 Tim. 3:3).  (I am aware that the immediate context of 1 Timothy 5:13 is referring to widows, but can the application not be made to all Christians?)  A preacher needs to remember this, and from time to time he may need to kindly and lovingly remind that well-meaning brother or sister of the same!

In conclusion, preachers, let’s remember that preaching is an awesome responsibility and it is not about us, the other “great preacher,” or the “not so great preacher.”  It is about pleasing the one who gives the increase of our feeble efforts!  The inspired apostle Paul summed it up in these words:

“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.  So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.  Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.”  (1 Corinthians 3:5-8, NKJV)

Liledoun Road Church of Christ

Editor’s Page, July/August 2013 Issue – Paul Kirkpatrick

I have always enjoyed writing about practical matters that concern the Church.  The four writers in this issue are men who have been laboring with their congregations for less than a year.  Being the “new” preacher has its advantages and disadvantages and these men are sharing their thoughts on such concepts.

In teaching men to preach, I have gathered stacks of information that can help those in a “new work.”  Here are 10 suggestions for preachers:

  1. Remember that you are not yet a Bible scholar even though are you are graduating from school.  You have years of intensive study ahead of you on many themes until you reach a level of maturity.  Be a student all of your life.  Never think of your studies as finished.
  2. Build a large and useful library.  Invest a regular part of your income into a solid reference library and make use of it continually.
  3. Remember that your study of Greek in school has not made you a Greek scholar.  Nothing is more dangerous than one with an introduction to Greek who does not realize his limitations.  Always remember that in Greek grammar there are scores of “exceptions to the rules.”
  4. Remember that congregations are never perfect.  They are made up of fallible humans just as we are.  Do not expect perfection or be too disappointed when imperfections are seen.
  5. You will probably begin your work with those congregations that need help the most.  These small struggling churches have more than a fair share of problems.  Most young preachers usually experience at least one “bad match” in their early career.
  6. Do not be a status seeker…i.e., a “church climber,” always looking for a bigger, more notable work.  Be willing to serve God even in a small, simple church if that is where you can be more productive for Him.
  7. When you find a good, stable congregation and you are compatible with each other, stay with them and build together a great work for God.
  8. Be a servant and teacher for the entire membership of the congregation where you work.  Never let a clique, large or small, dominate your time and interest.
  9. Always form your own opinions about the members of your new work.  Do not let some “helpful” brother or sister “fill you in” on the worth of the brethren.
  10. You will never regret what you do not say!

The Challenge To Teach The Truth – Dave Wood

The Proverbs writer once challenged young men to, “Buy the truth and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding” (Prov. 23:23).

One might wonder why Solomon needed to challenge any young Israelite to appreciate the truth.  Is it possible that Israel suffered from the very issues that plague Christians today?  Namely, there will be times when the truth is not popular and you will be pressured to “sell” it.  Paul would instruct his “child in the faith” to “preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2).

Marshall Keeble explained that preaching the word, as used in this verse was “…preaching when they want to hear it and preaching when they don’t.”

Solomon’s challenge is still pertinent to preachers today: “Buy the truth and sell it not…”

There is considerable pressure for a preacher to just use pleasing words and not disrupt the status quo.  A preacher, however, is a proclaimer of God’s Word.  With that thought in mind a preacher ought always to let God have His say in every lesson and sermon given.  Let us consider this challenge issued by God’s inspiration.

“Buying the truth.”  What should this mean for the preacher, especially the preacher who is involved in a new work?  Naturally with a new work there can be great pressure on the preacher and his family.  This man has many new faces and names to learn and alongside those faces there are personalities for this preacher to understand.  There exists a desire in every man to be accepted and appreciated.  To meet these pressures, a man might think to soften his Sunday morning sermon or to skip certain verses in a Bible class.

But we are to buy the truth, which gives the idea of making an investment.  When it comes to truth (i.e., God’s word, the Bible, the gospel) no expense is too high.  “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in so doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Tim. 4:16).

Men, in order to “take heed…unto the doctrine” you must know the doctrine.  You must know the truth!  Because you cannot proclaim what you do not know, the challenge is to invest time in studying God’s Word.  “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Timothy was challenged to study, to give diligence to the truth of God’s Word.  There is a sense of urgency in Paul’s admonition.  Do not put off knowing God’s will, do not put off doing God’s will, and do not put off teaching God’s will!

“Buying the truth” also means that you might, at times, be at odds with people.  In Romans 1:18 Paul described some people as holding down the truth by their unrighteous behavior.  When mankind shrugs off the truth of God’s word they certainly do not appreciate a reminder of God’s counsel.  It becomes offensive to such a darkened heart.  Those at Galatia had listened to false teaching and Paul reminded them again of the truth.  “For do I now persuade men, or God?  Or do I seek to please men?  For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).

If there is a choice to make between pleasing God or men, make sure to please God.  It is difficult to know which way the winds of men are blowing.  What is popular one day has perished tomorrow, but truth is always right.  The preacher’s challenge is to buy the truth.

Solomon’s warning is two-fold.  It is not enough to make an investment in the truth, but never, ever sell it.  In other words, the challenge given is to not be a sell-out.  Balak, the king of the Moabites, had a problem.  The Israelites were coming.  Balak had heard about a man who lived a long way from the Moabites, in Mesopotamia.  Balaam was a man whose talents were for hire.  do you remember this man?  Balaam had a reputation for blessing people or cursing people.  His reputation was such that representatives in Moab would make the journey to Mesopotamia to secure the services of Balaam.  Balaam had a great opportunity to stand firmly with the Lord and he wasted it.  Both 2 Peter 2:15 and Jude 11 mention Balaam and how he sold the truth for financial gain.  This man had a price.  Do you?  Do not sell the truth, no matter what!

A preacher sells the truth when he fails to teach all of God’s commands.  Paul confidently declared to the Ephesian elders, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

When Paul declared the whole counsel of God, was there anything that he left out?  What would happen if Paul felt fear of being rejected and shunned?  Preachers have put a price tag on godly counsel by refusing to preach on Matthew 19:9 where Jesus stated there is only one reason which a person can seek a divorce and be remarried without living in adultery.  Preachers put a price tag on the truth when they add to God’s word by teaching that the inclusion of mechanical musical instruments in worship is acceptable to God.  This is not God’s counsel because there is no authority for it anywhere in the New Testament.  Preachers put a price tag on the truth when they bind their own scruples on others.  There are those who feel it is wrong to eat “in the church,” so they wrest and twist the scriptures to their satisfaction.  Either way, whether a preacher is taking away from the counsel of God or adding to the counsel of God, he has auctioned off the truth.

There are members of the church who will attempt to persuade preachers to teach and preach their own way.  There is only one thing that will save souls and that is the pure, unadulterated gospel of God.  Consider Paul’s thesis statement for the book of Romans:  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16).

To hear some preachers teach, it is obvious that they think their abilities are the power to salvation, because in their lessons they make more references to their personal stories than to scripture.

There is one path that is always right, there is one message that is always true, and it is found in the Bible, not in the minds of men.  “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:23).

The challenge stands to everyone in the Lord’s body, whether preacher, teacher, elder, or deacon: buy the truth, and sell it not.  Now what will you do?

Broad Street Church of Christ, Statesville, NC