(December 2023 | No. 12 | Vol. 67)
Edited by Mark Mayberry
MENTORING: Preachers and Preaching
By Chris Reeves
Synopsis: Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ is a great blessing. We need more men today who will commit to this great work, and who will do it according to God’s plan for preachers set forth in the Scriptures.
This past June 2023 marked my thirty-fifth year of preaching the gospel full-time. The four years prior to that, I preached “off and on” as much as I could while I was in college. I can honestly say that preaching the gospel of Christ is the greatest work in all the world. If I had an opportunity today to mentor other men regarding the work of preaching, I would encourage them in the following matters:
Fewer and fewer men today are willing to preach on a regular basis for a local church [Note #1]. Fewer men have the desire to preach. Fewer men are learning and training to preach [Note #2]. I’m also hearing that some congregations who have an older preacher are looking for a younger man to mentor, but these congregations are having a hard time finding young men who are interested. Why is that? The lost still need saving and the saved still need edifying. Could it be that young men know that they might have to work with a church without elders? Could it be that they believe the pay will be too small?
Why are men today not wanting to preach? Men, will you please consider doing the greatest work in the world: gospel preaching? Whether you do it full-time or part-time, the Lord needs you to proclaim His gospel. I would like to see more older preachers training men. I would like to see more congregations encouraging men to preach. Who will preach “the unsearchable riches of Christ” today? Preachers, remember Paul’s words:
Thou therefore, my child, be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things which thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:1-2) [Note #3].
Let me say here that I enjoy reading religious books! There is nothing wrong with having them. Even Paul, at the end of his life, wanted his books and parchments (2 Tim. 4:13). I continue to buy religious books (mostly used, of course) and I have a large library [Note #4]. I have profited many times through the years from these Bible reference works. Still, I have also learned that one can easily be led astray by the words of men.
Today, it is very common to hear a young preacher talk about his favorite denominational author. Many in the Lord’s church today talk about books that they have read from authors like N.T. Wright, Timothy Keller, Francis Chan, Philip Yancey, Christopher J.H. Wright, Sarah Young, Kay Arthur, Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, and Nancy Leigh DeMoss. While there may be some truths found in these books, they are often filled with errors as well. Years ago, older preachers warned about “drinking from denominational wells.” They meant that Christians can be negatively influenced by reading denominational literature. This, I fear, is going on today among our brethren. Can we get back to spending more time in the word of God and less time with the words of men? Preachers need to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2), not parrot their favorite denominational authors [Note #5].
Along the same lines, I’m hearing that fewer preachers want books by sound brethren. Why would you turn to a denominational author to learn about a biblical subject rather than a faithful, sound brother or sister in Christ? Why not read from a member of the church who has both a love for Scripture and a sound hermeneutic which keeps him from teaching error? Are you looking for the latest “scholarship,” or are you looking for a proper interpretation of Scripture?
I would encourage preachers today to include in their libraries (whether traditional or electronic) works by faithful brethren. Get those older books by sound brethren before they go out of print. I would be glad to help you find good books (old and new) by brethren. The good folks at CEI Bookstore would be glad to help you as well. Preachers, remember Paul’s words:
As I exhorted thee to tarry at Ephesus, when I was going into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine, neither to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questionings, rather than a dispensation of God which is in faith; so do I now (1 Tim. 1:3-4).
If thou put the brethren in mind of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished in the words of the faith, and of the good doctrine which thou hast followed until now: but refuse profane and old wives’ fables. And exercise thyself unto godliness (1 Tim. 4:6-7).
Till I come, give heed to reading [the public reading of Scripture—CHR], to exhortation, to teaching (1 Tim. 4:13).
If any man teacheth a different doctrine, and consenteth not to sound words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is puffed up, knowing nothing, but doting about questionings and disputes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, wranglings of men corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, supposing that godliness is a way of gain (1 Tim. 6:3-5).
O Timothy, guard that which is committed unto thee, turning away from the profane babblings and oppositions of the knowledge which is falsely so called; which some professing have erred concerning the faith (1 Tim. 6:20-21).
But flee youthful lusts, and follow after righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But foolish and ignorant questionings refuse, knowing that they gender strifes (2 Tim. 2:22-23).
but shun foolish questionings, and genealogies, and strifes, and fightings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain (Titus 3:9).
I Would Encourage Gospel Preachers to Dig Deeper into the Text of Scripture before They Make Up Their Mind about a Particular Doctrine.
It seems like many younger preachers today are making assertions about Bible doctrines before taking time to study thoroughly the matter at hand. Preachers, along with other brethren, will jump on social media and say something about what they believe a verse in the Bible is teaching before they have properly studied that verse.
Years ago, preachers took their time to study thoroughly a Bible passage before speaking about it. They would take their time to do word studies, consider the context, look up all the supporting passages, etc. They would study, study, study. Debates and exchanges between preachers over Bible matters would take weeks and even months because preachers were taking their time to give due diligence to a study of Scripture. Today, Bible matters are brought up on social media and decided within the first thirty minutes of posting. Brethren, this is not good Bible study, and it’s irresponsible. Preachers, remember Paul’s words:
Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them in the sight of the Lord, that they strive not about words, to no profit, to the subverting of them that hear. Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth. But shun profane babblings: for they will proceed further in ungodliness (2 Tim. 2:14-16).
We live in a world where much of our preaching is now posted online. This can be a good thing. We are blessed to have the technology today to broadcast the gospel message locally and around the world.
However, let us beware that we do not preach a message in such a way simply to get “likes” and “fans” from our regular “followers.” Our Facebook “friends” and “groups” do not determine the truthfulness of our message, the Scriptures do. As preachers, we are not aiming for a “recommendation,” “reply,” or “retweet” each week, but for accuracy with the Scriptures. We are not trying to promote our FB “story,” but the story of God’s word. We are not looking for what is “trending,” but what is truth. We are not wanting to go “viral,” but to be pleasing to God.
A preacher today can fall into a social media trap very quickly. Some preachers today may be looking for a large following with their posts, podcasts, and blogs. If they are seeking to gain a social media following, they can be tempted to change the gospel message ever so slightly so as to please their audience. If the audience does not really know God’s word themselves, they will want “their” favorite online preacher to preach it the way they believe it should be preached. Some preachers may also be aware of audiences who say something like “our generation has different needs,” so they change the gospel to meet those needs. Other preachers have a message that they want to just “put out there” on social media, but they don’t necessarily want to back it up with sound, scriptural arguments.
A preacher today can easily find himself teaching elements of denominational thinking, like Calvinism, in order to please his audience. Sometimes, he will avoid touching on certain topics that do not get good “reviews” from his followers. A preacher may even find himself focused more on what his audience wants and how to present it to them, than on the text of Scripture and his accurate study of it. His “sound” will be great, while his “substance” will be lacking. Preachers need to be concerned about their “sound” doctrine, not how they “sound” in the pulpit.
Preachers need to be concerned with being right with God’s word and not being right with the virtual world. Preachers, remember Paul’s words:
Hold the pattern of sound words which thou hast heard from me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee guard through the Holy Spirit which dwelleth in us (2 Tim. 1:13-14).
But abide thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a babe thou hast known the sacred writings which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Every Scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: (2 Tim. 3:14-16).
For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
I Would Encourage Gospel Preachers to Sacrifice and Serve in Order to Do the Work of the Evangelist.
Preachers, your work as an evangelist is just that, work [Note #6]. Faithful gospel preachers of years gone by made great sacrifices to preach the gospel. They labored for little pay. They often moved themselves and their families to meet the needs of the lost or other brethren. Frequently, they did not own a home. They preached protracted gospel meetings. They wrote tirelessly, travelled extensively, preached on the radio, held debates, etc. They put much of their own time and money into preaching. They suffered hardship for the gospel, and were completely devoted to their work [Note #7].
A preacher today needs to be careful not to become a “professional speaker” who does only the bare minimum. It’s relatively easy to be a public speaker and that may be why some men are getting into preaching these days. However, preaching is not just a nice “gig” where you get up a couple of times a week, speak, and get paid for it. Preachers need to resist the urge to waste time throughout the week, procrastinate, and then download someone else’s lesson from online at the end of the week in preparation for Sunday. Preaching, when done right, is a hard work. When we do that hard work, there will be great blessings and results in the Lord’s kingdom. Preachers, remember Paul’s words:
that thou keep the commandment, without spot, without reproach, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 6:14).
For which cause I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee through the laying on of my hands. For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline. Be not ashamed therefore of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but suffer hardship with the gospel according to the power of God (2 Tim. 1:6-8).
Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier on service entangleth himself in the affairs of this life; that he may please him who enrolled him as a soldier. And if also a man contend in the games, he is not crowned, except he have contended lawfully. The husbandman that laboreth must be the first to partake of the fruits (2 Tim. 2:3-6).
But be thou sober in all things, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil thy ministry (2 Tim. 4:5).
We all have issues that we believe need to be addressed at a particular time in our work. I have addressed them from the pulpit and in writing some myself and I will continue to do so. Yet, while we are contending earnestly for the faith (Jude 3) against a particular error, let us also remember to proclaim the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:20, 27).
Let us be mindful of all the needs of the brethren who hear us from week-to-week. The congregations where we labor need to hear all of God’s word on a regular basis. Visitors and the lost will probably not know the details of the “issue” that we are addressing. They too require lessons geared toward their needs. Yes, stand for truth and against error, but remember, all of God’s word needs to be regularly proclaimed. Preachers, remember Paul’s words:
preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching (2 Tim. 4:2).
But speak thou the things which befit the sound doctrine (Titus 2:1).
These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no man despise thee (Titus 2:15).
Faithful is the saying, and concerning these things I desire that thou affirm confidently, to the end that they who have believed God may be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men (Titus 3:8).
I Would Encourage Gospel Preachers to Continue to Fight against Sin, Worldliness, and Denominationalism.
We live in a time when it is popular to preach in such a way as to condone sin and error. Years ago, faithful evangelists would preach hard against sin, worldliness, dancing, drinking, gambling, etc. They would preach against the denominations and they would debate with denominationalists.
Yet, today you see less of that being done. Some preachers today will not preach any more about the “one true church.” They will not denounce and repudiate the denominations. It has been reported to me that some say that the church of Christ is a denomination just like the other denominations [Note #8]. Brethren, whether or not we want to admit it, there is a spiritual war going on and preachers need to continue to fight against sin and error, both in the world and in the church. Preachers, remember Paul’s words:
This charge I commit unto thee, my child Timothy, according to the prophecies which led the way to thee, that by them thou mayest war the good warfare… (1 Tim. 1:18).
These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly; but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:14-15).
But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of the faith, lay hold on the life eternal, whereunto thou wast called, and didst confess the good confession in the sight of many witnesses (1 Tim. 6:11-12).
And the Lord’s servant must not strive, but be gentle towards all, apt to teach, forbearing, in meekness correcting them that oppose themselves; if peradventure, God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him unto his will (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
This testimony is true. For which cause reprove them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men who turn away from the truth (Titus 1:13-14).
Often, a gospel preacher today will be doing a good work, but his wife or his children will be causing a problem in some way in the church, which negatively affects his work. Some preachers are also spending so much time with their work that they are neglecting their wife and the proper raising of their children. If a preacher is married with children, then the whole family, not just the preacher, needs to be faithful to the Lord. Preachers, remember Paul’s words:
Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an ensample to them that believe, in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity (1 Tim. 4:12).
in all things showing thyself an ensample of good works; in thy doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of us (Titus 2:7-8).
Growing up, I was blessed to have a father (Bill Reeves) who was a faithful gospel preacher. Once I started preaching, I also had three brothers who were, and continue to be, faithful gospel preachers (Steve Reeves, Tim Reeves, and Mark Reeves). When I got married, my father-in-law (Charles G. Goodall) was a faithful gospel preacher. Today, my three sons (Jacob, Mason, and Carlin) and son-in-law (Caleb Chapman) preach from time-to-time in the congregations where they are members.
Because I have been surrounded by so many good gospel preachers in my life, I see the great importance and value of being a gospel preacher today. I hope that good men will want to do that same great work of preaching in days to come. May the good Lord raise up servants to proclaim His word. May you, my good brother who is reading this article, be the one who does it.
[Note #1] Preacher shortages, in fact, are not new. Brother James Needham wrote back in 1969 about the preacher shortages of his day in his book, Preachers and Preaching. Second Edition. Bulwarks Bookstore and Bindery, 1985.
[Note #2] The following good books can be used in preacher training: Letters to Young Preachers, edited by Warren Berkley and Mark Roberts (Spiritbuilding Publishing, 2011); Behind the Preacher’s Door, edited by Warren Berkley (Spiritbuilding Publishing, 2009); and, Common Sense Preaching, by Dee Bowman (Florida College Press, 1999).
[Note #3] All Scripture references in this article are taken from the American Standard Version (1901).
[Note #4] I am indebted to my mother-in-law, Vernita Goodall, who managed the Florida College Bookstore for many years and helped me to get many of the books that I have in my library to this day.
[Note #5] See The Bible in Preaching, by Roy E. Cogdill (Largo Church of Christ, n.d.).
[Note #6] For a good examination of the different Greek words and their meanings associated with the work of preaching, see Homer Hailey’s Carrying Out the Great Commission: According to the New Testament Pattern (Religious Supply, Inc., n.d.) and The Preacher—His Spirit and Work: 2 Corinthians, 1-2 Timothy, Titus. Bible Class Notes (Florida College Bookstore, n.d.).
[Note #7] I would encourage preachers today to read the biographies of hard-working, sacrificial preachers from years gone by and see what real preaching is all about. While many have been written, here are two: Preaching in A Changing World, by Irven Lee (Privately Published, 1975) and What It Is, Is Preaching, by Robert F. Turner (Harwell/Lewis Publishing, Co., 1998).
[Note #8] It appears that some preachers today are suffering from the terrible effects of modern society; namely, pluralism, all-positive preaching, and unity-in-diversity. My father-in-law, Charles G. Goodall, discussed these effects and how they have infiltrated the non-institutional segment of the Lord’s church in his excellent book, Evangelizing in the 21st Century: Strategies for Bringing Souls to Christ Beyond the Pulpit. Truth Publications, 2014.
Chris Reeves has preached for the Warfield Blvd. church of Christ in Clarksville, TN, since 2016. He and his wife, Cheri, have four children and two grandchildren. His Bible study website is here. The church website is here. He can be reached at here.…