Here today, still here tomorrow

The other day I read the profile of a preacher who had “lectured at twenty-two lectureships, and preached in sixty-five nations of the world.”

I wondered if it would be appropriate to say of another kind of preacher, “He preached in one place for fifteen years.”

Every preacher who has stuck it out in one location has done so in spite of temptations to quit with a broken heart, or to move to what seems a more glamorous location to preach. I’m not against hearing someone who delivers “full-time seminars” on this or that subject, but I am even more impressed with the man who stays in one location, builds a sustained relationship with his congregation, and does the in-the-trenches work of serving one local community. Though I am someone else’s guest speaker from time to time, I would hate to be a guest speaker every Sunday!

Have you considered what your local preacher does? Let’s do some math: Let’s say he delvers four messages a week (two Sunday sermons, a Bible class Sunday morning and Wednesday night) for fifty weeks a year. That’s two hundred messages! Let’s say he stays at that congregation for five years. That’s one thousand messages. If he stays ten years, that would be two thousand. This is in addition to home Bible studies, counseling, hospital visits and so on.

The only way a man can sustain this is by studying. He will have to dig deeply into God’s word. He will have to grow. He has earned the right to say tough things to his own people. They have seen him praying over their sick grandparent, or at the county jail when their teenage son is released following a DUI. He has been present at births, baptisms, burials.

Paul was right. We should “honor such men” (Philippians 2:29).

No man is the essential element in the church. That place is reserved for one individual, and one individual alone. You know who he is. The rest of us, famous or obscure, in demand across the brotherhood or speaking in an unglamorous corner of that same brotherhood, serve him.

So my respect and gratitude is offered to all those who serve on the mission field or in small congregations, for years or decades, and who do so because that is where the Lord has placed them. You may not hear them at someone’s lectureship, or read his best selling book, but you “get to” hear him every Sunday, earnestly pleading, building up, and warning souls for eternity in a local congregation.

“You know,” one of those preachers observed, “how I lived among you the whole time from the first day I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials …” (Acts 20:18,19).

They knew and loved him for that. So should we. This week, thank a long-time preacher.

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