Tag Archives: preacher

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

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