“After hundreds of years, a model preacher has been found to suit everyone. He preaches exactly 20 minutes and then sits down. He condemns sin, but never hurts anyone’s feelings. He works from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. in every type of work from preaching to custodial service. He gives $60 a week to the church. He also stands ready to contribute to every good work that comes along.
He is 26 years old and has been preaching for 30 years. He is tall and short, thin, heavyset, and handsome. He has one brown eye and one blue, hair parted down the middle, left side dark and straight, the right brown and wavy.
He has a burning desire to work with teenagers, and spends all his time with older folks. He smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work.
He makes 15 calls a day on church members, spends all his time evangelizing the unchurched, and is never out of his office. “
– “The Perfect Preacher” (from Christian Beacon)
You guessed it…this “perfect preacher” does not exist!
Truth be told, there is no preacher on the face of the planet that can please every individual 100% of the time. It’s most unfair for a congregation to expect such an impossible feat! We must realize that there will always be something about any preacher that doesn’t quite suit us…because frankly, we’re all a little different. We each have different styles and preferred methods, and it is inevitable that at any given time someone will not be getting what they want out of their preacher. (He is only one person after all.) Too many times brothers and sisters get so caught up in their preacher’s supposed shortcomings that they fail to remember this vital fact: this man is a messenger of the Lord.
Sisters, to malign a messenger of God is to malign God himself.
…what are we? Your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord. – Exodus 16:8b
We mustn’t allow ourselves to get stuck in the rut of unrighteously judging and nitpicking at a devoted servant of our Lord. A man who works tirelessly for the cause of Christ should never be put down, slandered, or maligned. We must rather show a meek and lovely spirit towards such a man.
- Do you ever get caught up in finding faults in your minister?
- Are you guilty of voicing belittling and hurtful comments about him or his family?
- Have you found yourself wishing you could switch congregations to find a more “suitable” messenger?
Then today’s message is for you!
Here we will identify three of the most common ways people tend to malign the messenger, (and how we can refrain from them)….
1. Timing The Messenger
Woe unto the poor fellow who steps over the man-made thirty minute preaching mark! He will not only be mercilessly teased and joked about, but often disdained and slandered for “wasting people’s valuable time”.
Ah, timekeepers! They smugly tap their watches…clear their throats…flash ugly looks at the minister. Truly, these are among some of the most juvenile ways to say “wrap it up, Slowpoke”. While not everyone has the audacity to perform such rude gestures, many secretly disdain every second of waiting for the Sunday sermon to come to a close. What these impatient individuals fail to realize is that if they do not enjoy being with the church and listening to the word of God now, they certainly won’t enjoy Heaven!
“How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees?” – William Shakespeare
As with physical wounds, spiritual wounds also heal by degrees. It takes time to mend brokenness of the spirit just as it does to mend brokenness of the body. Our preacher stands in as the Lord’s physician to our spiritual illnesses. We must allow him to take the time he needs to administer the healing elements from God’s word! Take a moment to consider worship as a visit to the hospital. We all know that a medical doctor is not bound by definite time limits…he is through when he is through. If we were having a surgery, it would be most unwise to call off the procedure before the doctor deemed it appropriate. We would never say to a doctor, “you work for me! I tell you when the procedure is over!” How absurd! We would not be so brazen as to overstep a doctor’s authority, because we regard him highly as our medical health professional. In the same way, should we not likewise regard highly our preacher as a spiritual health professional? As with a medical doctor, if our preacher is not done performing his “procedure” (his sermon, that is), then who are we to say he must cut it off before he is through? If we truly want our spirits to be healed of our infirmities, then we must patiently allow however much time the procedure will take. We owe it to ourselves, to our messenger, and furthermore…to God.
Maybe you consider your preacher’s sermons in keeping with Ecclesiastes 7:8…
Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof…
You may be nodding emphatically, yet God gets the last laugh here. This same verse goes on to say: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
Sisters, teaching takes time. Thorough teaching takes even more time. It is a tall order for one man to study for, organize, and deliver one lesson to an entire congregation with various needs…and in thirty minutes at that. Perhaps your preacher tends to run long with his sermons. You might consider this an annoyance, but consider the alternative: would you prefer a preacher who’s lessons grow shorter and shorter each week because his passion has died out? We should count it a blessing if our ministers are so passionate about the Word that they struggle to chop their sermons down to a thirty minute window. They are on fire for the Lord! This should most assuredly be condoned, and not condemned.
We would do well to consider our heart motivation. Why are we in such a hurry anyway? Is it not rather the heart of a Christian to utterly bask in the scriptures, not worrying about the time it takes? Consider to whom it is that our Lord promises the riches of Heaven:
To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek glory and honour and immortality, eternal life… – Romans 2:7
What is a sermon for but to seek these four very things?! It is those who have patient continuance and a seeking heart who will go on to receive the reward. We can exercise this by patiently (and even joyfully) waiting on our minister as he opens up the scripture to us. It will be worth it as we learn from him and begin to see the fruit of the Spirit at work in our life more than ever before!
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandmen waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient: stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. – James 5:7-8
It has often been said that patience is a virtue, and for good reason! Consider this mindblowing statement from our Savior:
In your patience possess ye your souls. – Luke 21:19
Go back and read it again if you must. This is vital! Want to be assured that you have a good hold on your life? It can only be done by putting on patience.
Let’s talk about priorities here. What is more important than God in your life that puts you in such a rush to leave the assembly?
– Family Reunions?
– Sporting Events?
– Downtime in front of the tube?
If we put such things above the Lord, our priorities need re-adjusted fast. Heed the warning:
Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. – Philippians 3:19
For men shall be lovers of their own selves…lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. – 2 Timothy 3:2a and 3:4b
Racing out of your worship seat as quickly as possible sends a big message about where your priorities lie. Not just to other members…not just to the messenger…but to the King of Kings. A message that says “Finally! My thirty minutes with God is up…on to bigger and better things!” How shameful it is if this is our attitude. The Psalmist said in his fervor for God: “I will praise thee seven times a day”. (Psalm 119:164) Seven times a day! Yet the best we can do is a maximum of a couple hours on Sunday morning (and forbid it be a minute more)?!
If you have a problem waiting on the messenger once he’s exceeded the thirty minute mark, perhaps you would find fault also with our Lord Jesus Christ who said “behold, I come quickly”, but still has yet to arrive some two thousand years later. Let that sink in.
Let us practice patience, and refrain from timing the messenger.
2. Testing The Messenger
Woe unto the poor fellow who does not know the answer to every question prior to studying out the answer. He will not only be regarded as an absolute nincompoop, but has the congregation wondering if he’s even fit to preach on any topic!
One way many put undue pressure upon their preacher is by placing unrealistic expectations upon his knowledge. Putting him on the spot with questions in the name of “well, he is the preacher…he surely has all the bible answers down” is being inconsiderate at best and malicious at worst. It’s one thing to ask him an honest question, but to expect that a preacher must always know the answer to everything (and getting frustrated when he doesn’t), is a total disregard for his humanity. The man is a messenger of God’s commands, not a motherboard of Gateway’s computers! We need to accept that (like other members), he is human…he doesn’t have to know the answer to everything to have respect and credibility in his position.
Friends ask you questions; enemies question you. – Criss Jami
This hits the nail on the head…too often people are not looking for answers, but looking to set a trap! Many times “stumping the preacher” is just a crude attempt at puffing oneself up. Really, what are we trying to prove? Preachers want a career, not a competition.
And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
Surely to test the messenger is not to “esteem him very highly in love for his work’s sake“. It’s the exact opposite…holding him very low. When we make the focus on what things he doesn’t know, we rob him of his due honor for the many things he does know…
Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. – Romans 13:7
A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. – Matthew 13:57b
This is a sad truth. Messengers of the Lord do not get half the respect they are owed, because too many in the congregation have this attitude of ownership of the preacher. Always demanding…always expecting more from him than what is necessary. When was the last time you stopped and showed gratitude for all that your preacher has taught you? I’m sure he would be surprised and delighted to know that his work is appreciated. It’s easy for a preacher to get discouraged…because people are more likely to take opportunities to scold him than to exalt him!
If you strike up a conversation with your preacher, consider asking him things that are more likely to excite him than make him feel like he’s undergoing a pop quiz. Try asking him non-threatening, generic questions, such as: “what did you learn that interested you this past week?”, or “do you have any ideas about such-and-such”? It is also a great kindness if you can let him know that you don’t expect an answer right away, but to get back with you when he’s had time to chew on it. This takes the pressure off and doesn’t make him feel like he’s on display. Too many times I have seen conversations go more like this:
“Oh Becky, you wouldn’t believe our preacher! He knows soooo much scripture. Go on Jim, tell Becky what [insert random scripture here] says!”
Such an on-the-spot quiz is grossly inconsiderate. Preachers are not puppets, and we should not expect them to perform as such. A scenario like this is only a set-up for failure, embarrassment, and frustration. We must look for ways to exalt our preachers rather than humiliate them.
Let us practice praise, and refrain from testing the messenger.
3. Twisting the Messenger
Woe unto the poor fellow who ever says a single word that could be taken the wrong way. He will not only be “wondered” about from the start, but eventually become fired for “heresy”.
How many relationships have been destroyed by way of misunderstandings! The relationship between preacher and congregation is no exception. Where there is a mouth speaking and ears hearing, there is always ample opportunity for upset to take place.
Just a single cord is enough to be tangled. – Munia Khan
Every woman knows the pains we must go through to untangle a necklace that has messily wound around itself. It seems silly that one lone little necklace can become so tangled and twisted, but it somehow manages to happen if it is not placed in its spot just so. Words are like that. Amidst a hundred beautiful words of truth that a preacher may speak, one poorly made statement can become twisted beyond oblivion by the audience. The more words spoken, the more chance for an accidental slip of the tongue. This truth has stood the test of time…
And as he [Jesus] said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him. – Luke 11:53
We can see a real heart problem here with the scribes and Pharisees. In their righteous indignation, they wanted Jesus to make a slip of the tongue so that they could condemn Him. This same attitude can be seen in pews across the globe to this very day. If we are looking at others through a fault-finding lens, then guess what we will find? Faults. They may not be genuine faults, maybe even faults of our own imagination…but we will find them alright!
Sadly, I have seen people abandon the church of the living God because they twisted the messenger. Making mountains out of molehills, they misconstrued the words of a preacher and turned their back on the whole assembly because they could not look past a simple misunderstanding. This is not the childlike heart that our Lord calls us to have:
Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. – Titus 1:15
Now there may be the occasional preacher who is a wolf in sheep’s clothing…I don’t argue that. We are not to be foolishly gullible, believing every spirit (1 John 4:1). Yet on the other hand, we are not to be bitterly cynical, and disbelieving every spirit either! We should accept things exactly as they are, nothing more and nothing less. If your minister says something that seems fishy, you do a great evil to him by making an elaborate doctrine out of what may be merely a poorly worded sentence on his part.
1 Corinthians 13:7 states that love “believeth all things”. This denotes a touch of godly naiveté in the heart of a Christian…a sweet disposition that always assumes others as innocent until proven guilty. Why would we automatically assume that everything someone says or does has evil motives behind it? Especially a messenger of the Lord…would we not believe and hope for the best of him before jumping to conclusions? Would it be out of the question to ask him about it before we assume the worst possible meaning?
One common way people twist the messenger is by taking things personally. If he says something in his sermon that makes a member feel guilty, they feel that he has personally called them out and made a public example of them. Well first off, I must be straight with you…if the shoe fits, wear it. If the preacher has offended you because he preached out against a sin that you are committing, who is the one with the problem?
Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? – Galatians 4:16
Secondly, it’s the rare exception that a preacher actually makes a personal attack on one individual. More than likely he is speaking generically, and not to you. (Yet I repeat…if you are feeling convicted, it’s probably for good reason)
We should strive to be people who look for the best in others. We need to be mature enough to overlook small trifles and rather see the big picture of the sermon…after all, would you like someone picking apart everything you say and putting it under a negative, fault-finding microscope? I daresay not.
Let us practice positivity, and refrain from twisting the messenger.
In conclusion, a messenger is an absolutely invaluable resource to the life of a Christian. Without such men, we are in many ways left grasping in the dark.
…how shall they hear without a preacher? – Romans 10:14c
If you have been guilty of maligning your messenger, today is the day to repent of that attitude and start honoring his special role in your life. Let us no longer time, test, or twist our preachers…but rather hold them in the highest esteem for their work for the cause of Christ.
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! – Isaiah 52:7
And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth. – Ecclesiastes 12:9-10
For God’s Glory,
Chelsea Bolks is a church of Christ minister’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.