Preachers… Listen Up!
This article is aimed primarily at those folks in the church who are referred to by themselves and others as preachers. In other words, the men who are financially supported by a local congregation(s) to give either some or all of their professional lives and careers to the ministry of preaching and evangelism.
It’s ironic that this article is written for this particular group of brethren in the church, considering that:
- A biblical case could be made that God wants all Christians to be preachers in some form or fashion (1 Pet. 2:9). (That’s a whole different subject, though…)
- The topic of this article applies in some ways to all Christians, regardless of their job or title in the church.
What is the topic of this article? It can rather nicely summed up in something that Jesus said to the Pharisees on one occasion.
These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (Matt. 23:23b)
The topic of this article is something that most if not all preachers struggle with: balance. Having balance in one’s life so that one gives adequate amount of attention and work to ALL of one’s responsibilities.
Preachers, what is your job description? Now, before you go hunt up your contract so you can see all the bullet points under “Job Description,” let me clarify. BIBLICALLY, what is your job description? What job description does GOD give to you?
Is it to mow the grass at the church building and fix the leak in the baptistry?
Is it to be the 24/7 on-call “catch-all” for the member’s problems, complaints, and concerns?
Is it to be the church’s sole “representative” at the hospital for all emergencies and sicknesses?
Is it to “preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching”? (2 Tim. 4:2)
Is it to “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity”? (1 Tim. 4:12)
Is it to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ”? (Eph. 4:11-12)
And for those preachers who are married and who are fathers…
Is it to “LIVE WITH YOUR WIVES in an understanding way”? (1 Pet. 3:7)
Is it to “bring (your children) up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”? (Eph. 6:4)
I think you know where I’m going with this…
We have a problem in the church. That problem is manifested when a member of the body of the Lord, the church for which he died, tells the preacher whom his contribution goes to financially support, “Bringing the gospel to the lost, visiting the sick, building up the brethren, growing in knowledge of the Bible, being a good example, bearing other’s burdens, taking part in the work of the church…all of those things are YOUR responsibility, not MINE, because that’s what I PAY you to do!”
A few members have actually verbalized this to preachers. However, many more say it in different ways, through their actions.
Like when the preacher is the only one called or expected to be at the hospital for any and all emergencies…even though the Bible says that elders are the ones Christians are to call when they are sick (James 5:14). Oh, let’s also not forget the fact that Jesus spoke of ALL CHRISTIANS visiting the sick and afflicted…as a PREREQUISITE OF GOING TO HEAVEN, NO LESS (Matt. 25:31-46).
Like when the preacher is the only one contacted when there is counseling about sin that needs to take place…even though the elders of the church are the ones cited by God to be the shepherds who are watching over the souls of the flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-4; Heb. 13:17). They would be the ones to whom Christians would primarily need to turn about their sin, because they are those Christian’s shepherds/pastors…not the preacher.
I could give more examples, but you get the picture. Preachers, this is a serious matter. Christians who do not wear the title of preacher, this is a serious matter. Here’s why…
As shown above, God wants preachers to primarily preach the Word and always be ready to do so. That requires lots of study of God’s Word. That also requires lots of time every week to put in to sermon prep, Bible class prep, and one-on-one Bible study prep. That also requires going out into the community to look for opportunities to bring the gospel to the lost. All of this requires time. Time which the preacher has less and less of when he runs here and there being the primary go-to guy for every church crisis and responsibility that comes along. So that means that his sermons and Bible classes will suffer in quality from lack of enough preparation and he will not be finding as many lost souls to reach with the gospel as he should. But preachers know this, and don’t want that to happen because they love preaching and love souls so much. So they’ll go the extra mile if they’re worth anything. However, what THAT means is that something else is put on the backburner…namely, their families. More on that in a second…
First, here’s another reason. As shown above, God also wants preachers to set a good example to their fellow Christians. That means that the preacher will in fact visit people in the hospitals and be involved in various works of the church…but not because he’s the preacher. Not because he’s the church’s “representative” in the ER. No, because he’s a Christian, and as a preacher he’s to set the example for other Christians TO FOLLOW. Notice that last part, Christians. “TO FOLLOW.” Church-goers, pew-warmers, examples are there for you TO FOLLOW. In other words, get thee to the hospital thyself…if you want to go to heaven, that is. If you do, then get there before the preacher does or meet the preacher going out as you’re coming in. If there’s a vigil in the waiting room, be there with him. Follow his example in growing in Bible knowledge. Follow his example in bringing people to Christ. Follow his example by being involved in the work of the church.
With that in mind, consider this. As shown above, God wants preachers to join with pastors (elders) and teachers in using the inspired writings of the apostles and prophets in the New Testament to equip the saints for the work of ministry. In other words, preachers, elders, and teachers (a biblical case could be made for deacons also – 1 Tim. 3:8-13; Acts 6:1-6) are to get every member of the church involved in the work of serving the church. That’s how you build up the church. Preachers, do you want your church to grow? Christians, do you want your church to grow? Wonder why it’s not happening like you want it to happen? Maybe it’s because preachers are taking on too much of the work themselves while too many members of the church are being pew-warmers instead of hard workers. Never mind that the biblical formula for church growth is spelled out rather clearly:
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph. 4:15-16)
In other words, church, every single one of us…not just the preacher or even primarily the preacher…must do our part. All of us must grow in every way to become like Christ. All of us – the whole body, the entire church, every single member – must work properly. That’s how the church grows. IT…the church…builds itself up, not the preacher. The preacher just equips the church to do so (and he’s not the only one who does that, either. Elders, deacons, Bible class teachers…pay attention.)
When that doesn’t happen, preachers…more specifically, when you ALLOW it to not happen because you decide to allow yourself to be the go-to guy for absolutely everything church-related…you and your family suffer. Here’s what I’m talking about…
Ever hear about the stereotypical “P.K.” (Preacher’s Kid)? You know, about how your typical P.K. is a real terror, a wild cannon, a real “prodigal son”? Well, setting aside the fact that lots of P.K.’s are fine Christians not deserving of that stereotype, let’s concede that there are some P.K.’s out there who are some real horror stories.
Oh, and what about the stories we’ve all heard about the preacher who has an affair, usually with a woman he’s counseling? Or the stories of the preacher’s wife who gives into the temptations and flirtations of that nice man she works with and starts an affair with him? Or how the marriages of some preachers dissolve into divorce regardless of whether adultery was involved?
Granted, who knows all of the factors that lead into these sad states of affairs? However, more times than not there’s one factor that keeps on popping up in each of these scenarios, preachers. One underlying reason behind the prodigal P.K.’s, the affairs with the sisters in the church, the unfaithfulness of wives, and the breaking up of marriages. You know what it is.
The preacher allowed himself to spend too much time away from his family by spending too much time in the work of the church. He took on too much responsibility at church, some of it biblically legitimate but more of it illegitimate due to trying to please everyone, and so he wasn’t there to “live with his wife” and “bring his children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” as God wanted him to. He tried to save the world and help the church all by himself and lost his family in the process…and by doing so he ended up hurting the church and not doing a thing to save the world anyway, because saving the world is not his job (it’s God’s) and helping the church is something that he can’t do by himself (God doesn’t want him to do by himself anyway).
This brings us back to the necessity of balance, preachers. You have to have balance. You have to realize that God wants you to be a family man in addition to a preacher. You have to realize that even as a preacher God wants you to not do it all by yourself, but rather set the example and equip others in the church to join in the work themselves.
So you have to balance your time and your priorities.
You have to decide that every day you are going to spend time…QUALITY TIME…with your family, being the spiritual leader in the home.
You have to decide that on most days you’re going to spend time…QUALITY TIME…in the Word and prayer as you prepare lessons and sermons, and other time…QUALITY TIME…in looking for lost souls to teach.
You have to decide that you’re going to take at least one day per week to spend time…QUALITY TIME…in relaxation and recreation with your family, your friends, and even by yourself at times. Why? The purpose of “recreation” is to “re-create,” i.e., re-charge. Before you go off talking about how that’s a waste of time and lazy, remember that Jesus did it (Mark 6:30-32) and the Bible teaches that there is a time for everything (Eccl. 3:1ff). God knows better than you. Don’t burn out. Take some time to re-charge.
You have to decide that you’re going to set aside some time per month…QUALITY TIME…in setting the proper example to Christians by not only visiting the sick and being involved in various church works, but more importantly equipping other saints to join you in those same works for their spiritual benefit and yours, and so that the church will grow as it should.
Balance. That’s the key, preachers. You have to have balance. Examine yourselves (2 Cor. 13:5), and re-arrange what needs to be re-arranged. Let go of what you’re doing that isn’t BIBLICALLY required, and put more focus onto what God DOES require of you.
It’s a constant challenge, but it’s a challenge worth taking on. Your soul is worth it. Your family’s souls are worth it. The souls of the brethren are worth it. The souls of the lost are worth it. The church for which Jesus died is worth it.
What did you say, Jesus?
These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (Matt. 23:23b)
Print that out and put it where you can see it everyday, preachers.