| A chapter from the book, see link below |
Dear Young Preacher – From Frank Jamerson
There is nothing wrong with thinking for yourself,
but there is something wrong with supposing
that you are the only one who can think!
Teaching the gospel is the greatest work on earth, because it produces the greatest results – the salvation of souls. In addition, you get to associate with the best people on earth, eat at the tables of some of the best cooks, and then you get paid for all your work! However, like when we get married, problems can be avoided if someone tells us what to expect and gives us guidelines before we get into it.
Many young men today are having the opportunity to work for a period of time with an older preacher, and this is very beneficial, but many do not enjoy that benefit. Most of us older fellows did not have that opportunity, and as a result have made some mistakes that could have been avoided. It has been my privilege to have had a number of young men to work with me and we have learned from one another. Older preachers are just men who happen to have been here longer. You need not be intimidated by working with older preachers. They are on your side. They are your greatest supporters and are happy to see you progress. Regardless of whether you have that experience, hopefully these letters will help you in some of the “nuts and bolts” of the wonderful world of preaching.
Preaching Is A Lifestyle
First, I would suggest that every young man understand that preaching is not a forty hours a week job. It goes far beyond preparing sermons and teaching classes at the building. In fact, as one young man who worked with me said, “It is a lifestyle, not a time clock.” Certainly, you need to spend time in the office preparing sermons and Bible classes, by studying the word of God and good books that have been written by Bible scholars. If you will spend at least four hours in the office five days a week, studying God’s word, you will not run out of subjects to preach. None of this Saturday night rush to search the Internet for a sermon for the next day! So, if you begin to run dry on what to preach, look at the time you are spending in study, and get back in the Book! There will be times you will want to spend more time studying some subjects, but you should plan time in the afternoons for visiting, home studies, etc.. In my opinion, anyone who thinks preaching is an eight to five job in an office needs to find a different work.
You will need to take time for your family, especially your wife. If you are not married, you had better marry a lady who is committed to Christ and willing to live in the proverbial fish bowl. Your wife will either make you or break you. Also, you need to take time for your children. Too many preachers, while trying to save other people, lose their own children. I must confess that when I was young, I was so busy teaching home studies that I did not devote enough time to my children. In fact, the elders of one of the congregations told me to take a night off for my family. They should not have had to tell me that. Frank Andrews once said, “If you are sincerely trying to do right, when your children grow up, they will forget the mistakes you made.” That has brought me comfort.
Every young preacher ought to develop, or use a previously written series of lessons for home Bible studies. If we stand in the pulpit and preach that people should “seek the lost,” and we stay in the building and wait for other members to bring someone to the building so we can preach to them, we need to listen to our own lessons. If you do not want someone else to do your work of preaching, then don’t expect them to do your personal work.
There is a preacher story (one that is not true, but illustrates a truth) about a man who drove by a church building and saw a long line of people waiting to get into the building. Curiosity caused him to turn around, park his car, and get in line to see what was attracting such a group of people. When he got inside the building, he saw Jesus chained to the pulpit. He asked why He was chained there, and with tears streaming down His cheeks, Jesus said “This is what My people have done to Me. Anyone who wants to hear My message must come into this building.”
There are many good ideas about how to do personal evangelism, and it is fine to study them, but none of them will work unless you ask, “will you study the Bible with me?” It is usually better to study with one person, or family, at a time in their home. The reasons are: (1) if you have several people in a class, some of them are good prospects and some are not, and those who are not can poison the atmosphere for those who are, and (2) it is much easier for a person to call, or simply not show up, if they have to go to your home. At least that has been my experience.
There is nothing that builds enthusiasm and promotes spiritual growth in a local church more than seeing people baptized into Christ. When they see you doing it, they are much more likely to be motivated to practice the same. Remember too, that those who are baptized need to be taught. Too many of us have baptized people and then left them to fend for themselves spiritually. While they are still excited about being new Christians, be sure to teach them the things they need to know to grow in the faith.
Also, remember to protect your reputation. Never go into a house with a woman alone to teach the Bible. If there is not going to be anyone else there, take someone with you. You do not have to be guilty of wrong to be accused, and even if an accusation is false, it will destroy your influence.
Be Careful About New Truth
One thing that causes many young preachers problems is that they learn some new truth, and get into the pulpit with it before they have presented it to an older preacher who has probably heard that idea before. That does not mean that you should not study and search for yourself, but if it is new, there is probably a good reason. It was my good fortune to know good men like Franklin T. Puckett, Clinton Hamilton, and others who would take the time to answer questions for me. On one occasion, another young preacher, living in the same city with me, heard a new doctrine from a brother who had more opinions than Carter had liver pills. We discussed the issue and could not answer his argument, so he preached it from the pulpit and caused a lot of trouble. I decided to write brother Puckett and present the argument to him. He soon wrote back and tore the argument to shreds. It was new to me, but it was not true. There is nothing wrong with thinking for yourself, but there is something wrong with supposing that you are the only one who can think! I realize this is supposed to be a letter and not a sermon, but if you need a Biblical example of this principle, think about the problems caused by Rehoboam’s refusal to listen to the advice of the older men. He divided God’s people, and needlessly caused great harm in Israel. Many church divisions could have been avoided if preachers had sought and followed advice from other faithful men who had been through similar problems.
You Are A Preacher, Not A Policeman
Many young preachers think that they should preach on a subject until everyone agrees with them. A preacher who became a good friend of mine, Bob Crawley, came to Richmond, Virginia, where I began my full time preaching. He was asked to speak and I will never forget his lesson. He spoke on the work of a preacher. The first time he said “A preacher is a preacher, not a policeman,” I thought, “Surely he is not talking to me.” Later, he said “A preacher’s work is to teach the law, not to enforce it.” If I remember correctly, he made the same point a third way. I distinctly remember thinking, “He must be preaching this to himself, because I’m the only other preacher here!” Really, a great burden is removed from your shoulders when you realize that you are not accountable for making people believe, or live right. Your job is to preach, not to police. God does not hold us accountable to learn, or live for others. He expects us to teach what the Bible says and to apply it in our own lives. The hearers are responsible for what they believe and practice – not you!
Benefit From Criticism
Because of our public role, we may receive criticism that is unjust. There is a difference between defending the truth and defending our manner of presentation. In my early years, an elder came to me saying that some members had come to him saying they thought I was angry because of emphasizing some points pretty forcefully. So in the pulpit the next week, I apologized for leaving that impression. Afterward, some members came out the door and said, “If I had to preach to this bunch, I would be angry all the time!” Several said they didn’t feel that I was angry. The elder who had come to me, was standing nearby listening to the comments and said, “One of those who praised your preaching was one who had done the criticizing!” Someone once said, “If your feathers get ruffled, oil them so criticism will slide off.” You will be criticized at some point – all of us are. But realize that often when brethren do not want to apply the message, they attack the messenger. You can still benefit from the criticism. When some brethren give you a hard time, let your life be your defense; set up another home study and keep on doing the work of an evangelist. That’s the best therapy you can receive!
Avoid The Gossip Trap
One other thing that can break confidence and cause untold trouble is getting into the gossip trap. If something is told to you in confidence, and many things will be, that means DO NOT REPEAT. Even if it was not told in confidence, some things do not need to be broadcast. All it takes to cause a big blow up in a congregation is for the preacher to begin telling things that would have been better kept silent. Generally we discuss things with our wives, but there are times when even they do not need to hear some tasty morsel that was entrusted to us.
Because of my failing health, an important lesson has been impressed upon my mind. When we arrived recently for outpatient medical services, a gentleman from another congregation was in the waiting room. Assuming that he had come for treatment, we began talking, and discovered that he had not come for his own benefit. Years ago, while in a gospel meeting there, the local preacher and I had visited his wife in the hospital. That visit was almost twenty years ago, and he had come to wait with me just because of that kindness! That impressed on my mind how important small deeds can be. If a man can remember such things, surely our God is cognizant of our small deeds.
It has been my observation that many congregations take on the character of the preacher and his family. If you want the congregation to be friendly, hospitable and loving, exemplify those things (and make sure you thank your wife for most of it).
I appreciate the opportunity to share these thoughts with you, and hope that they will be helpful in your pursuit to learn, live and teach the wonderful Gospel of Christ.