Written by: Edward O. Bragwell, Sr,
One of the encouraging things that I see among my brethren is the number of young men who are expressing a desire to make preaching the gospel their life’s work. Along with that the number of local churches that are willing to financially and morally support an aspiring young preacher as he works in a Paul/Timothy training arrangement. This is truly cause for optimism.
In my judgment, for whatever that is worth, brethren have too long relied on “Christian Colleges” to be kind of preacher factories for the brotherhood. Is there a place for colleges, owned, operated, and staffed by Christians, to which men and women can go for a good education, where Bible, and Bible related, courses are taught along with secular subjects; where there is an on campus atmosphere that is generally commensurate with biblical principles? Absolutely.
A young man aspiring to preach may choose to go there, or any other school, to prepare himself to be able to “make tents” if necessary as he preaches the gospel – which he may have to do at times for the good of the church and his family. (Cf. Acts 18:3; 1 Cor. 9:1-16). But, when we think of such schools as “preacher preparatory” schools, they have become our version of denominational seminaries.
There is good scriptural precedent for younger preachers’ giving themselves to a study of the Scriptures and learning from the wisdom of older men, as Timothy did from Paul, with the young man being given opportunity for “public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” in the church where he worked (1 Tim. 4:13 NASV). We still think it a pretty good pattern to follow. As stated above, it is encouraging to see more of this being done.
When choosing an older “mentor,” at whose feet you choose to learn, be careful. Beginning with the first disciples, there were those whose ambition was to be first in the kingdom. (Cf. Matt. 18). They had to be reminded of the nature of true greatness in the kingdom – the way up is down. It is being humble as a little child.
Unfortunately, there are some preachers today who obviously consider themselves great brotherhood “movers and shakers” with powerful influence to be used to increase their statue “in the church.” And “no doubt … wisdom will die with you (them)!” This is not judging. Their fruits and speech “doth betray them.” Unfortunately, the flair they project appeals to young minds and breeds in them an unholy ambition for greatness and brotherhood fame. There is nothing inherently wrong with being widely known and appreciated for your good work throughout large portions of the brotherhood – as long as such is not your ambition.
Each of us, preacher or otherwise, needs to have the ambition expressed by our Lord to his disciples who were seeking to be the greatest – the ambition to serve rather than be served:
“And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:27-28 NKJV)
When a young preacher with the driving ambition to simply serve the Lord, and others, sits at the feet of experienced older brothers with the same ambition– there is no telling how much good could come to the kingdom.
An additional few words: If you want to preach and your ambition is to become the best known, best paid, most sought after for local work and gospel meetings, most scholarly, then, for the Lord’s sake, and the sake of his kingdom – go into some other field. Don’t waste your time and the brethren’s resources to further your ambition. Also, if you look at preaching as just a stepping stone to get to something more profitable to do, you also should step aside. (I am not talking about one sincerely thinking he wanted to preach full time and after doing it a while realizes it is not for him, and his family, he decides to do something else).
If at some later time you humble yourself as a little child and seek to serve rather than be served and circumstances change then you may want to reconsider preaching the gospel as your life’s work. Then it will be profitable for you and those that hear you.