A Preacher’s Work
1 Corinthians 9 is a powerful chapter regarding the work of a gospel preacher. Especially will he notice the trials of physical life that come from preaching the gospel (verses 19 – 27.) Still, the preacher never regrets doing what he must to be all things to all people that by all means, he might save some! (cf. 22)
The preacher’s work is not limited to presenting a couple of sermons each week and conducting a few bible studies. While that may be among the most enjoyable of his weekly tasks, it by no means is the limitation of his toil. The preacher must often compose articles for publication (bulletins, newspapers, radio, websites, etc.). He is needed at the bedside of his brethren who are hospitalized or confined to nursing facilities and inquire regarding those who are confined to their homes. The brethren tend to expect his visitation of these souls and add to his list the souls of those who frequently attend the services but are not yet obedient to the gospel. He must always be at the ready to be the “automatic substitute” for those who cannot or will not serve in requested capacities. He is required to “be all things to all men that by all means, he might save some.”
His duties also include comforting those souls who have lost souls that are dear to them, and to the preacher as well! He usually is the only one at funerals not permitted to shed tears, at least not during the service. He must reminisce with the family members while keeping his composure and pray fervently while suffering silently. At the graves of these loved ones, he must offer one last portion of comfort, then leave wondering who might console him.
He returns to his place of study and opens his mail to find a variety of questions from his brethren who obviously need help in their study of God’s word. To him, these seem so basic, and he ponders the apparent inability of these members to understand what is so plainly written. Others are sincerely troubled and seek help as they endeavor to help others see the truth of God’s word, and why they need to depart from the errors of their ways.
The preacher reminds himself he is but one soul and like those he serves, he needs rest from time to time. But as he tries to close his eyes in peaceful slumber, his mind captures the thoughts of yet another situation that captures his attention. He rises to compose a letter to another Christian who for some unknown reason has determined to depart from the faith he once upheld. He sacrifices his night’s sleep for the sake of his brother or sister who is on the brink of eternal damnation! He reviews his writings, prays, and reviews them again, determined to send the letter. In a week or more, he hears nothing from that soul, thus creating more concern for the preacher, for he loves that soul! Finally, he hears either good or bad in reply to his letter of urging repentance. Too often, it is of a negative sort and the preacher feels he has somehow failed to accomplish what needed to be done. So, the preacher prays more fervently, perhaps writes another letter or if possible, attempts a phone call, only to be stopped in his attempts with the bitter words, “I’ve made up my mind. Now leave me alone!”
Then there are the souls who cry for help when reality proves there is little if anything anyone can do to remedy the situation. Family problems are often kept hidden until they are beyond repair, and then the preacher is asked for help. What advice he may offer is too little too late in most cases. Children can rip out the hearts from their parents, and add to the affliction without care, by depriving the grandparents of the blessings of their grandchildren. Usually, the cause is godlessness, and the preacher can but attempt to console the grieving of such hateful situations. (Oh yes, this happens in the reverse order as well! Parents can be equally cruel to their children and wonder why problems exist!)
Sometimes preachers are asked to solve problems for other congregations. That’s always dangerous as he has no authority … the preacher is only a loud-mouthed church member who cares about souls. Many years ago, a preacher of some favorable reputation had been asked to resolve a problem in a congregation where he once preached a gospel meeting. It was well remote from his location, but he loved them, and they seemed to respect him and his understanding of God’s word. He answered their concern this way, “You have the same book I have. I suggest you read and study it.” Ah, the wisdom of the wise!
The preacher doesn’t complain about his work because the example he follows is Christ Jesus. (1 Peter 3:18 – 22). Yes, like Jesus, frustrations come from time to time (Matthew 17:17; Mark 9:19; and Luke 9:41), but these come from souls that don’t understand the origin of truth and righteousness. The preacher preaches Christ and Him crucified and prays that the souls who hear will obey Christ. The preacher realizes that if souls exist in this time world, there is work to do, and he does it because of Christ who died for him!