Vol. 2 - No. 4
Advice To Younger Preachers
by Robert L. McDonald
When I first began to preach, in the late 40's or early 50’s, I looked to older preachers for what help they could give me. I delighted to hear them reminisce regarding their many experiences and problems encountered. Over the years I have looked back at these times as some of the most rewarding to me as a gospel preacher.
Older preachers are more than anxious to give advice to younger preachers. Understanding from experience they are in a position to talk about some of the problems with which every preacher is confronted. There is a certain closeness among preachers whom I have found to be more willing to help than to hinder. There are undoubtedly exceptions but I believe this to be generally true. It is so very good that older preachers are interested enough in the situations of younger preachers that they will lend themselves for good when called upon.
Preachers have problems in their work as "local evangelist." Some of the problems are self-made and no one is to blame for the problems except the preachers who have used poor judgment in dealing with people. It seems that some preachers are forever getting cross-wise with some of the brethren. Preachers have been known to kick up the dust when their "suggestions" have been rejected by others. All of us should be adamant when it comes to upholding the truth of the gospel. But when equally informed brethren feel that other courses should be followed than the one proposed by the preacher, then in order that unity and harmony might prevail, the preachers should acquiesce.
Misunderstandings often arise among younger preachers in deciding what they are expected to do as local preacher. They have heard some of the older preachers present lessons when it would be necessary to admonish and reprove the congregation due to a situation which exists. This has prompted the younger preacher to go to the pulpit and try to duplicate what they had witnessed the older preacher doing when reproof was not really necessary. Preachers should not take advantage of the congregations by "working them over" when such is uncalled for. Preachers should realize their primary responsibility is to teach those who hear.
It seems, a few years ago, there was an "unwritten law" that preachers were supposed to move every two or three years. I remember back in the middle-50's when every spring-time was moving-time for preachers. Moving vans and preacher's families would pass each other as they crisscrossed the country moving to new fields. I was a part of that fruit-basket-turned-over exercise. As I look back over those years, I feel that such was foolish, a waste of money by congregations and a hindrance to the growth and development of the church. One advice I give to young preachers is to remain at one place for several years. Put your roots down. Gain the confidence of the churches. Edify the saints.
One piece of advice I well remember given to me by an older preacher whom I have, as long as I remember, held in the highest esteem, was simple and to the point. He said, "Bob, never stop studying your Bible. The day you stop studying is the day you stop preaching." I have often thought over these words and tried to keep them in my heart. When preachers have little or no time to study because they have to visit with the brethren, or repair an old car, or play golf or go fishing, or --well, you name it -- they have misplaced values on what is more important to their growth and development. Remember, the day you stop studying your Bible is the day you stop preaching.
In conversation with another preacher, now deceased, I asked, "Do you ever question your position on the church-support of human institutions?" (As you probably have surmised, this conversation took place during the early days of the institutional controversies.) He replied, "I continue to examine and question what I have accepted as the truth. When I do, I am more convinced that what I have accepted is indeed the truth." And how true this is when certain questions are raised. If and when one accepts a position as being true without taking the time to study, examine and make the position a matter of conviction, what is believed will be the result of prejudice and not of faith in the word of God.
I was told of a class of preacher-students one time who heard an older preacher speak to them about the problems of preachers. (I was not there, but refer to this point of advice as told to me.) He was reported to have said something like this: "Brethren, when you go into the field to preach the word of God, remember two things to avoid. One, women. After you marry, be faithful to your wife. Leave other women alone. Second, pay your debts. Don't pile up a lot of bills you cannot take care of and expect the brethren to pay them off." Whether or not the report of this aged preacher is true, the stories that have followed are indeed an expression of truth that every gospel preacher should keep in his heart. Keep yourself holy and righteous.
All gospel preachers should remember his role as he stands before the congregation. The very nature of his work demands that he be dignified and properly attired. I have seen some preachers with unbuttoned shirts, un-shined shoes, sloppy dress, etc., as they go into the pulpit to preach the gospel of Christ. I am not taking the position there should be a formal clothing of any kind, but the fact that brethren should be more attentive in their appearance as they tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love. I don't know, but it somehow takes something away from the preaching of a man, who is supposed to merit the greatest respect from people because of his work, stands before a congregation in shirt-sleeves and dirty socks. Preachers, remember who you are, what you represent and who you are trying to reach with the greatest message the world will ever hear.
By this time, if not before, one may be asking, "Why does McDonald feel he is such a storehouse of wisdom?" My answer is simple. The things which have been mentioned are not original but have been passed on by older preachers talking to me in time past and I have treasured what they did for me which I feel has resulted in my having a better attitude toward the preaching of the gospel. There have probably been other points of advice which could be added, but this should suffice to encourage younger preachers to mark well your work and live up to the admonition to "make full proof of thy ministry."
As each of us look back over our past and recall those preachers of the gospel who travelled far and wide to carry the good news of salvation, you will probably remember those who impressed you with not only their mannerisms as they delivered their sermons, but their overall appearance and sincerity as the Word of God was preached and the emphasis made that the only means of salvation is through the gospel of our Lord. And as these loyal preachers of the truth went forth to influence those who heard them, the confidence that people had in them was due to the fact that the preachers not only stood for the truth but was indeed an example of righteousness in every way. It was the apostle Paul who wrote, "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity…give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine I Timothy 4:12-13).