“HOW TO PICK A PREACHER, Part 2”
Wayne Coats (1927-2013)
I was assigned the subject of temperance to be discussed during a lectureship. I will never forget the feeling of self-condemnation which became a part of my life as I prepared my lecture and studied the Bible, which I held across my fat belly. My clothes were getting too small and my breathing was out of control. I could do a fairly good job preaching to the brethren and sisters about what they should and should not do. They needed to practice self-control but did I not need to do the same?
A lengthy spell of illness has helped me to practice temperance and self-control which is a real problem, but such is my duty as a Christian. The food which I relish so much must be rejected and I can do it. I am doing it.
One occasion was a Gospel Meeting and the other was a home-coming service when I was invited to return and speak where I had formerly preached. On both occasions a bountiful lunch had been prepared by the good sisters. When the closing “amen” was said, people moved out into the area when lunch was being served. At both of those congregations I tried to act as if I had a bit of manners and stood greeting the people as they moved out of the auditorium. At one of the congregations, a good lady who had been the wife of a deceased elder came and asked me to come along to lunch. When she and I entered the lunch room I saw the local preacher all bent over a plate filled with food and shoveling it in somewhat like a hog eating out of a trough. The two occasions mentioned above were almost identical. To surmise that I wanted special treatment is sheer nonsense. One thing which is sickening, nauseating and downright disgusting is to see preachers who have no manners or self-control and who feel justified in ignoring those Scriptures which tell us to be temperate. It doesn’t take much sense for a normal human to learn a few decent manners and if such are not learned, please spare me the thrill of having to be around such people.
In picking a preacher, let me refuse the temptation to lobby for my close friend and demand that all the others kow-tow to my whims. There is no kind of politics as dirty as church politics. If you have not seen this, live a little longer. Diotrephes will pay a visit by and by (3 John 9). One dear sister described her husband by saying, “All he does is attend a business meeting and run off his mouth.” She hit the nail on the head. Self-willed people can be a pain in the neck.
There are some other characteristics which I deem to be important in picking a preacher but I do not have time to write an entire book on this. Pity the people who have picked the wrong preacher! Getting rid of the wrong preacher can be like getting rid of the seven-year itch. There will usually be a lot of clawing and scratching — which God hates (Prov. 6:16).
I believe if I was engaged in picking a preacher, it would be of tremendous value to pick one that could also be “unpicked” if need be. Some preachers just do not blend. The mix isn’t right. Why rip a congregation to pieces over purely personal desires? I shudder to think of the sorry mess which has developed over picking the wrong preacher. The same is true in trying to change preachers, in some places.
If I picked a preacher I would earnestly pray for one who was constrained to preach the Gospel. I mean the preacher like Paul who had some deep convictions about preaching! The dear brother with all his trials declared, “woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16).
The phone rang and the brother who called wanted to know if I knew of a place needing a preacher. He said he used to preach but quit and went into secular work but he just couldn’t make a living in secular jobs so he decided he would try preaching again. Well, er, ugh, I don’t know about no church who needs that kind of preacher. I like the man who can say — “woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!”
Incidentally, no congregation has invited me to pick a preacher for the group and I am not anticipating that any will. It sounds fairly cranky I know, but if I should ever be saddled with the awesome task of picking a preacher, I would really want to view two places. I would want to look at the seat of his britches to see how slick his pants were (from sitting around), and I would also want to look at the soles of his shoes to see how thin they were from moving about. I read somewhere about “making full proof of thy ministry.” This did not say, “make a fool of thy ministry.”