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HOW TO GET A BETTER PREACHER - BY JOHN F. MORGAN
Dear Church Members Everywhere,
Are you tired of your preacher? Has your pastor outlasted a welcome? Do you dream of having a great preacher like the one you once knew? Are you angry because of deeds your pastor has done or neglected to do? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then the message in this article is for you. I suppose that every church member has felt this way at one time or another. Truthfully, getting a better preacher is often a painful, long-drawn-out process. I address some of the problems within that process in this article. Read on and join the battle for a better preacher for your congregation!
Over the past few years, I have served as a music minister alongside many different pastors in many different church settings. Recently, God began to burden my heart with a message for church people after listening to countless congregational complaints regarding the pastorate. In the absence of my pastor one Sunday evening, I stood up and shared this burden before the church. This testimony was confirmed in that service by a blessed saint of God who has since gone on to be with the Lord. "And let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment" I Corinthians 14:29 (NASB). From that testimony, the Lord kept this message on my heart until He finally disciplined me to type out my thoughts. May God bless you with open ears as you read "How to Get a Better Preacher".
How to Get a Better Preacher
Church people are always complaining about their preachers and their churches. The children of Israel were led by God and fed by God, yet they complained to Moses. Listen to Numbers 11: 1-2. "And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp. And the people cried unto Moses". Here is a very important principle. When we complain, God always hears it, and is always angry. It is the same as when a parent does everything possible for their child, yet the child rebels. The children of Israel complained to Moses, their preacher, like spoiled children complaining to their parents. We church people are like that many times, so spoiled by the goodness of God.
We feel that the church could do so much better if God would just send another preacher. The Baptists complain, the Methodists complain; every denomination has complainers who risk the fiery, consuming wrath of God. In the church people's eyes, it is not really God's fault that their preacher is not perfect, it is the bishop's or overseer's fault for making such a poor appointment, or the pulpit committee's fault for not seeing obvious flaws. They simply will not accept that God is in charge of everything. That is why Paul reminds us in Romans 13:1-2: "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God. The powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever, therefore, resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation." We often think of this scripture as having to do with the governmental authorities, and certainly it does. But it also refers to the leadership of the church. God has appointed your preacher for a reason, though perhaps that reason is known only to God Himself.
Every congregation has been blessed at one time in its history with a great minister of God. The trouble is, that every minister who follows the great one cannot possibly measure up in the eyes of the congregation. This is not a new problem either. The church at Corinth experienced great divisions because people had different favorite preachers. That is why Paul wrote in I Corinthians 1: 10-13: "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas, and I of Christ. Is Christ divided?" No matter who your preacher is, or who your preacher was, there will always be a worse preacher somewhere else, and there will always be a better preacher somewhere else. It is wrong either to side up with a preacher, or against a preacher. We are of God and Christ, and of His Spirit, not of any preacher.
We have almost fulfilled the prophecy of 2 Timothy 4:3-4: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." Many of the good church people in our congregations want a preacher to comfort them, but not rebuke them. A preacher doing God's work will soon be run out of town, with a thousand excuses from the congregation about why they failed to support that preacher. A thousand accusations that may be partially untrue will fly at the preacher. This seems to make the congregation feel justified for "getting rid" of the preacher, but is really a smoke-screen to cover the guilt of a complainer's heart. So, the church people complain against God's anointed, and make a plan to get rid of the preacher. They call everyone who has been offended by the preacher, and make lists. They gripe, and curse God's plan for them; they stop attending services, and withhold their tithes and offerings from God. It is no wonder their church does not do well; yet the blame (in their eyes) lies on God's anointed.
There are all sorts of problems with their preacher that cannot be alleviated. Maybe their preacher is not friendly enough, or doesn't visit; or, perhaps, visits, but always shows up at the wrong time. If their preacher is an excellent pulpiteer, then pastoral skills are lacking. Otherwise, the preacher always bores them with sermons, and then constantly meddles in everyone's business. Maybe their preacher is bossy, or just doesn't show authoritative leadership. Perhaps the preacher is much too attractive, or has a spouse that dresses in poor taste. The preacher doesn't use standard grammar, or else speaks above everyone's intellect. Sermons have too little content, but are much too lengthy. It seems that preachers either have no personality, an offensive manner, or want to put everything on television. And, of course, all of them talk too much about money.
On Sundays at noon, around the tables of the buffet-style restaurants and dinner tables of members homes, church people everywhere are enjoying fried chicken and roasted preacher. When they finally run off one servant of God and a new pastor arrives, the phone lines are hot with gossip and poor expectations. No sooner is the preacher in the church door than well-meaning members let it be known who runs the place and who does not. If God had appointed the Apostle Paul himself to their congregation, he would have been fired immediately when they found out about his prison record. Congregations flounder on like this for years waiting for God to send them the perfect pastor. And so the cycle of poor churches and poor preachers continues to spiral downward with every appointment or call.
Thanks be to God, there are not only "church people", but true Christian people on the church rolls. These are they who support any pastor to the best of their ability, fearing that if they do not, God will mysteriously call them to the pulpit ministry. They do not desire the pastor's job, and therefore have mercy on their clergy. They heed the words of James from his epistle, chapter 3, verses 1 and 2: "My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all." They know that every pastor offends every member at one time or another, and that no preacher is perfect. They are optimistic about their pastor, but also realistic in their expectations. Their support is for God and His kingdom's work, and not for any particular person in that work. Realizing the humanity of their pastor, they praise good work, speak positively, and then they come up with a miraculous plan for church growth and success in spite of their preacher.
What should a church do if they desire a better preacher? Before anything else, church members should seek to determine God's will. It may be that God has allowed a bad pastor for a couple of reasons. Discernment will reveal if this is the case for your church.
The first reason God allows bad pastors is His design: free will within the human heart. Some pastors have abused that free will to serve themselves while neglecting God's sheep. These are pastors who are shirking the responsibility God gave them. Ezekiel 34 warns shepherds who feed themselves and not the flock of God. The scripture is full of references to false prophets, who deceive many and cause the spiritual destruction of their congregations. Truly, the spirit of the anti-Christ is in the world today, with many so-called preachers-of-the-gospel really being wolves in sheep's clothing. God will hold these people responsible for the blood of the flocks over which they are appointed.
If a church has a false-prophet for a pastor, the true believers will be able to discover this soon enough to save themselves from false teaching. Sometimes, I believe God allows these false teachers time in the pulpit to divide the wheat from the tares, that is, to reveal who is truly a believer and who is playing church. The latter won't know the difference (and churches are full of such people). If you have a false-prophet for a pastor, be bold, but be very sure in your heart first. If you can't be sure, hold your tongue and wait. You can't fool a saint forever.
A second reason God may have allowed a bad pastor is that the congregation is disobedient to God, usually over a couple of generations of time. God, full of mercy and patience, eventually literally gives up on some congregations. This is the teaching of the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter one. He speaks of people who know better than to behave the way they do, and that God finally gives them over to a reprobate mind. Are the members of your church living in open sin? Are they filled with things like unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness? Are they full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, and malignity? Are there whisperers? Are there backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents? Are there people without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, and unmerciful? (These are quotes from Romans 1) Churches today are full of such folks. That is why God will give them preachers who put up with such as well as practice such.
If you are in such a church, you need to make it known that you realize God's will by finding another church. Don't try to go against God's judging hand; learn and move on. God got Noah out. God removed Lot. Don't stay in Sodom. Notice God's way: He didn't remove the sinners from Sodom, He removed the righteous. Some folks are waiting for God to remove the evil from their world. They are going to be waiting for a long time! Sodom was Lot's home (just like your church is your "home" church). You may have grown up there, but now it is not a place where God is revered and honored. You are the one who must kiss auld aquaintance good-bye and move without looking back. True, it is very difficult when family tradition and investments of time and energy and resources place emotional restrictions on us. That is why Lot's wife turned to a pilar of salt. Oh, you can stay in a dead, reprobate church where "Ichabod" is over the door, but you will pay for it with your spiritual life.
Now, let's assume that your church does not have a false-prophet, and is NOT a "Sodom," and that God has not given it over, and that for the most part, the people are trying diligently to serve God and find His will for their lives. With that scenario, it is time to take the following strategical approach to getting a better preacher:
It is a very simple strategy. Find the weak points of the preacher. Search and try the minister of God until every flaw is completely discovered. Then, instead of talking disparagingly against the preacher, use every weak point of the preacher to become a springboard to action in the laity.
If the preacher is a boring orator, make every other part of the worship service so interesting, unique, and inspired that people will gladly sit through a boring sermon just to be a part of the excitement of the church. Demand lively, spirited music from every musician. Which preacher could not deliver a better sermon after rousing hymns, anthems or solos? Volunteer to give testimonies of God's work during the service. It will take some load from the pastor's burden, and the thoughts of others caring about the success of the service will be an inspiration. Church lay-leaders should offer to take over the menial, repetitive parts of the service: the readings, the announcements, the call for offerings and hymns. This will allow the preacher to focus on the message and prayer. Finally, let God's anointed know that you are praying for inspiration and unction, and firmly approve verbally when the unction is present. You will end up getting a better preacher in the pulpit, not a new one.
If the preacher is weak in the pastoral ministry, visitation teams should be organized in the laity. Find out who has graced the doors of your fellowship, and follow up on every visitor with friendly phone calls and short visits. If a person visits a congregation, and no one calls, they will probably not return. If, in the same situation, the pastor calls, it may be reasoned that it is the job of the pastor to visit, and prospective members may feel similarly unappreciated. However, if a lay person welcomes that visitor at the doors, thanks them for their presence after the benediction, phones to say "I'd like to drop by", then visits that home, that prospect will feel special and will be more likely to return. Who needs a pastor to visit newcomers when there are Christians who are genuinely concerned for the souls of every person in the community? Some members will be gifted at visiting, and will never meet a stranger. Others will feel burdened to check on the widows and widowers, or the sick and shut-in, or the nursing home and hospital patients. Others will minister from the abundance of what they have: a fresh tomato, an extra can of beans, a few more dollars in the plate.
If the preacher is weak in other areas, necessity becomes the mother of all sorts of wonderful programs for the church. Of course, a little prayer and fasting for a better preacher never hurts a congregation, as long as they are willing to accept the fact that the "better" preacher may already grace their own parsonage. The church must realize that the responsibility for the spiritual and physical well-being of the local body of Christ does not depend on having a wonderful preacher, but a wonderful congregation. Some pastors may need some encouragement and enlightenment, but God does not call church members to judge them. There are indeed tactful and caring ways to make suggestions to preachers in a way that they are delighted to receive them.
Then, the congregation must take into account the element of time. Faithfulness is, of itself, a time-tested characteristic. How many scriptural qualities that congregations expect of a preacher require time to prove? Patience, long-suffering, endurance, and love are a few. God does not build a church overnight, nor does Satan tear one down. Wounds inflicted by well-meaning but misinformed church members, however, require the grace of God and time to heal. When the pastor is hurt, the church always suffers, and vice-versa.
There may indeed come a time to part company for a certain preacher and a certain congregation. Remember, no congregation and preacher are bound together forever. Perhaps the Macedonians appear in a vision to the preacher, calling for someone to come and minister the gospel to them. Or, perhaps a church that can pay more appears in that same vision. God himself may call a preacher to Ninevah; the preacher may stay, and that appointment become to him as the "belly of a whale". Perhaps the bishop or overseer has been pressured to make changes that have nothing to do with the local congregation. God forbid, preachers do sometimes commit the gross sins which preclude their continued ministry. If any of these circumstances come to pass, then God may choose another minister for a congregation. He chooses through pulpit committees, through bishops, through superintendents, and through overseers. Then, and only then, here is how to get a better preacher.
First, if a congregation desires a better new preacher when God's timing is right, they must immediately start giving more money to their church. This will allow the church to have a more attractive physical plant, because money for repairs and improvements will be available. The church will be able to become debt-free. Worrying members who fret over budgets and expenditures can then focus their minds and energies on outreach and missions. The church will be able to hire additional staff members to help with the monumental task of pastoring. And, in addition to all of these benefits to the congregation, each contributor will have a greater investment in the success of the church, and will work harder for the kingdom of God. To a church official who appoints, or to a prospective call, financial elements really help get a better preacher in the long run.
Second, if a better preacher is desired, the congregation must be D.O.A., that is Doors Open Attendees. If the church doors are open, they must be present and accounted for, and must not attend begrudgingly. The church whose attendance has fallen cannot expect a successful pastor to come next. The church whose enthusiasm is low cannot expect a dynamic preacher to accept the appointment. The congregation that loses young people and young couples to the fully programmed church down the street cannot expect to be blessed with a young and energetic pastor. Better preachers end up at churches who have a constant stream of guests because parishioners are constantly inviting others. Visitation, outreach, and missions must become the heart of the church. Every pastor desires a congregation with a fleshed-out great commission.
Finally, to get a better preacher, the church must get together and must pray. A bickering church will not receive the blessing of a great minister of God. A church family with strife and division will not be strong enough to support and merit a great pastor. Pettiness and small-church attitudes are visible to everyone except those who exhibit them, and will rob a congregation of greatness. Selfishness and personal agendas easily override the plans of a Lord who will not force obedience from any servant.
Do you desire a better preacher? Be the pillar of the church that resists the crumbling of constant complaints. Accept with gratitude the appointment of God for you, and for your congregation. Support the church because it is God's church, and do not withhold support because of any person. Stop malicious comments from others about your preacher before they burn your ears. Where your pastor is weak, be your pastor's strength. Get involved with the services and programs of your church. Be the chairperson of the visitation committee who feels the burden of the responsibility of church growth. Then give the situation time to get better. With your prayers, your financial support, your volunteer efforts, and your contagious positive attitude, it will get better. Then God will send you a "better" preacher.
John F. Morgan