Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 28, 1951

On Making Preachers


On another page in this issue is an article from brother David Lipscomb entitled "Preachers Wanted." We think the article is worthy of careful and earnest study by every Christian. For there can be no doubt or question at all that the churches have been drifting far, far away from the practice which brother Lipscomb commended—that of congregational development of gospel preachers. It has become almost a foregone conclusion in our day that the colleges are expected to train and develop preachers. And very few churches are doing what they could do in finding and helping faithful young men to develop their abilities and talents in this line.

Self-Supporting Preachers

We believe a very serious mistake is being made in the movement away from "self-supporting" preachers (preachers who earn their livelihood in some way other than by preaching) and toward a specialized "professional" type of preacher. We do not use the word "professional" in any bad sense, but rather in the sense of a restricted, exclusive occupation or employment. Of course, there always have been, and there always should be, men who give themselves wholly to the preaching of the gospel. That was so in Paul's day, in Lipscomb's day, is so in our day, and should be so in any day. But in past ages there have been great numbers of faithful and godly men who earned their livelihood in secular pursuits, but who were devout and capable preachers of the gospel, and who did a tremendous amount of good by their preaching. That class of men is tending to disappear from the churches today.

We know congregations of five hundred or a thousand members whose elders face a real problem in finding a "supply" preacher every time their "minister" leaves the city. There is not a man in the congregation, themselves included, whom they believe to be capable of preaching an acceptable gospel sermon! They have to make a frantic search over the country, often by telegraph and long distance telephone, to see if they can find some preacher to "fill the pulpit" on the day their own preacher is absent. Some elderships have employed an assistant preacher with the explicit understanding that an important item in his work is to be on hand when the regular preacher is off in a meeting. The churches have become dependent on the preachers. And the elders, as public teachers of the church, are all but disappearing.

Brother Lipscomb's suggestion would solve that problem. There would be in every congregation a goodly number of men who would be able to teach publicly. These men would not only be useful in their home congregation, but would go out into surrounding communities and preach every Sunday to small groups of people who otherwise would have no preaching. Thus the cause of Christ would go forward. We know of a few churches that are doing a most excellent job in this respect, but generally it seems such is being sadly neglected.

Encouraging Young Men

On the same subject we think it entirely right and proper that parents, and others, encourage promising young men to devote their lives to gospel preaching. Many parents have taken too literally the old saying that "A man shouldn't preach if he can conscientiously keep from it.' To be sure, a man must have a conscience and a conviction that compels him to preach. But surely it is right for parents and others to help their sons and other young men to develop such a conscience and such convictions. Why should a father set before his son the advantages of practicing medicine, for example, showing him how he can serve suffering humanity, and not set before him the far greater service he may render mankind in ministering to their souls?

All too often fine young men are discouraged and turned aside from preaching the gospel because they have no encouragement and no help at all to that end. If they preach, they do it on their own, and in spite of efforts that may be made to turn them into other and more lucrative fields. We certainly do not advocate putting gospel preaching on a par with practicing medicine, or the law, or engineering. But we do believe there are scores of earnest, consecrated boys in their teens who by being given only a slight encouragement, would make useful and devout gospel preachers, but who, for lack of that encouragement, will turn aside to some other field.

We would like to see hundreds of churches having regular "training classes" as a part of their program, bringing all the men who can be persuaded to participate into careful and regular training as public workers in the church. Then, from that number, let those young men who show real ability be given special encouragement to devote their whole time to preaching. Let the burden of lost souls be laid heavily upon their hearts; let the challenge of a complete dedication to Christ be given them. Help them to develop such a love for Christ, and men, that it will actually happen to them that "they cannot keep from preaching!'

— F. Y. T.