OceanSide church of Christ
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WHAT PREACHING MEANS TO ME
Victor M. Eskew
This writer graduated from the Memphis School of Preaching in 1982. While in school, I preached for the Dell church of Christ in Dell, Arkansas. My first work was with Daugherty Street church of Christ in Eastland, Texas. I was an associate there with Ernie Christie. I have also preached the gospel for the Fulton church of Christ (Fulton, MS), the Hayti church of Christ, (Hayti, MO), the Second Street church of Christ (Belmont, MS), the Yazoo City church of Christ (Yazoo City, MS), the Pocahontas church of Christ (Pocahontas, TN), the Brookland church of Christ (Brookland, AR), the East Wood church of Christ (Paris, TN), and the OceanSide church of Christ (Atlantic Beach, FL). Preaching over the last thirty-five years has not always been easy, but it has always been a joy. In this article, I want to briefly discuss: “What Preaching Means to Me.”
First, preaching means “a way of life.” Preaching is not a job. It not something to which one gives only forty hours each week. Preaching involves the preparation and proclamation of sermons, the teaching of Bible classes, and the writing of bulletin articles, but there is so much more. A preacher is available. A preacher is on-call. A preacher may rise early in the morning and go to bed late at night. He may work seven days a week for several weeks at a time. His wife and children and their plans may have to be put on hold. He may get called back from a vacation. He may be called to do a funeral or a wedding. He is out several nights of the week, visiting, studying with others, teaching classes, or catching up on his studies. His work is 24/7/365. Those who seek to reduce preaching to less than a way of life have turned it into something it was never intended to be.
Second, preaching is a mission. It is the continuation of the mission Jesus gave to His disciples almost two thousand years ago. He told His apostles: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Paul tells us: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). This fact makes the gospel relevant for all men. In the pages of the New Testament, a plan can be found whereby God makes men righteous (Rom. 1:16-17; 6:16-18; Tit. 2:11-12). Those who preach the gospel understand the mission. They realize that preaching is the method God has chosen for men to be saved (I Cor. 1:21). They want to be part of that mission. We may not always do the best job in carrying it out, but we do realize the burden.
Third, preaching involves challenges. The challenges of preaching are many. Preaching is not a lucrative labor. It does not provide a benefits package (medical coverage, life insurance, retirement, etc.). There are many men in the field who are really struggling financially. Preaching is also challenging because the preacher’s expectations and reality do not always correspond. The preacher expects the church to love the truth as much as he does. The preacher expects every Christian to be 100% faithful in all things. The preacher expects the church to hold to the truth and never believe false doctrine. The preacher expects all of the church to practice holiness instead of being involved in sin. The preacher expects the elders to be good shepherds who carry out all their duties including leading the church in discipline when necessary. The preacher expects all other preachers to be civil, humble, confidential, kind, understanding, and courageous. Preachers soon find that expectations are not reality. This can fill his heart with disappointment, discouragement, and despair if he lets it. The preacher also faces such things as rejection, internal church conflicts, member expectations, brotherhood issues, struggles within his own home, and personal temptations. All of these things can burden a preacher. Many quit preaching because of these and other challenges. This is why Paul wrote Timothy these words: “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (II Tim. 2:3).
Fourth, preaching means involvement. A preacher is a Christian who is in the trenches. He is constantly involved in the lives of his brothers and sisters in Christ. He learns the good, the bad, and the ugly about the members of the congregation where he preaches. He is one of the first called when they struggle. He is one of the first on the doorstep when sin enters into their lives. He rejoices with them when there is a birth or a wedding. He weeps with them when there is sickness or a death. He gets to know their children and their grandchildren. He is introduced to friends and extended family members. He is invited to birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weddings, family reunions, and other celebrations. He seeks to be a friend to all. He wants to minister to every member as impartially as possible. He wants all to know that he cares for them and loves them. Some get closer than others. Often this is their choice. These friendships do not ever dissolve. The minister may move, but the ties that bind remain.
Fifth, preaching involves a work that follows in the footsteps of many great people of the past. The preacher knows that he is following in the steps of the apostles and prophets of days long gone. He is walking behind such notables as John the Baptist, Peter and John, Phillip the evangelist, Barnabas, Silas, the apostle Paul, Timothy, Titus, and Jesus Christ the Son of God. He also knows that bold restoration preachers went before him and made his way so much easier. All of these individuals left him an example to follow. Their lives have left an extremely high standard for him to meet. The challenges they faced, the obstacles they overcame, the fires through which they walked, and the storms they weathered are almost incomprehensible. Ministers of today bear very light burdens compared to the burdens that preachers of the past carried. Yet, the men of the past kept the faith and preached the Word of God in season and out of season. It is an honor to be listed last on a roll with such men. What a privilege to be listed as a preacher of the gospel of Christ.
Sixth, preaching also means obedience to God. The preacher is a servant of Jesus Christ like all other members. His has a responsibility to obey the Lord in all things. This involves his message, his manner of presentation, and his manner of life. Paul understood the need to be constantly on guard as he lived his life as a minister of Jesus Christ. He wrote: “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (I Cor. 9:27).
Yes, preaching has its challenges and its valleys, but, as we said at the outset of this article, it is a joy. It is a joy to be able to study the Word of God for several hours each day. It is a joy to preach the gospel of Christ throughout the world. It is a joy to see individuals obey the gospel. It is a joy to see members grow and get excited about their Christian lives. It is a joy to be involved in the lives of hundreds and hundreds of people. It is a joy to suffer, if in a small way, like Christ suffered. It will be a joy to come to the end of life, and be able to say: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me in that day…” (II Tim. 4:7-8).