I was barely 21 the Sunday night I was asked to preach at the Holt Street congregation in Montgomery, Alabama. Kathy, whom I had not been dating for very long, went with me to this memorable appointment. This good church was exemplary for its “vocal encouragement.” As I preached through one of my early sermonic attempts, the good brothers on the pew were constantly saying “amen” to what I was presenting. They also filled the air with a steady chorus of “yes,” “that’s right,” and “preach on, brother.” It was bliss to be spurred on from start to finish! Driving back to campus, I asked Kathy what she thought of my preaching that evening. She said, and has said more than once since then, that it was one of my best efforts. Could the steady encouragement of the brethren have made that much difference?
The draining effect of preachers deciding to leave full-time ministry among the Lord’s church has long since become anecdotally acknowledged throughout our great brotherhood. There are various reasons why men are leaving. Some are forced to do so because of personal messes they or their spouse make. Others have had to make this choice for financial reasons. There comes a time when it seems that a man’s age limits or nearly eliminates his opportunities to put his accumulated wisdom to work in the local setting. However, the plague of discouragement may claim more preachers than any other cause.
Not all discouragement comes from external sources. Preachers are people, too. They are not immune from allowing the problems, pressures, and perplexities of life to get the better of them. Like anyone else, the preacher can bring discouragement on himself through his habits, shortcomings, or faulty perceptions. Certainly, every preacher can tell stories of how they have been discouraged by the unfair actions of others. Furthermore, the same problems that confront others at various stages of life face the preacher from the time he is single through his golden years. Marital and family struggles are matters with which he must cope as much as any other.
Yet, hopefully, the preacher comes to appreciate that his work can be more rewarding and joyful than any other earthly path could be. He gets to work with the best people on earth, serving the greatest Employer an earthly worker could have, getting to do the greatest work on earth, and being involved in the most important business of all time and eternity. If you are a preacher, you have a special place in the heart of God. Someone thrillingly put it, “God had one Son, and He was a preacher!”
If you attend a congregation that has a preacher, you probably know that his is a world that in many ways is different from the world in which most others live. Yet, hopefully, he loves what he does and he loves the church. There will be those who do not fit into this general pattern, including the lazy, the cantankerous, the perpetual victim, and the proud. However, such are the exceptions rather than the rule. In a day when Satan and his willing servants are growing bolder and stronger, we need to encourage more great men and say to them in every way that we can, “Preach on, brother!”