Where Have the Preachers Gone?

“In a strange twist, the preaching of the cross is now foolishness, not only to the world but also to the contemporary church.” (Steven J. Lawson)

I know that Jesus promised that “the gates of Hades will not prevail against” the church (Matt. 16:18). I have complete faith in the truthfulness of that statement. Even as I understand that God’s church will prevail, I notice that God doesn’t promise no adversity for His Bride. In fact, just the opposite is promised. Jesus said to His followers, “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22).

I entered the ministry in August, 1980. I was encouraged by some great preachers through the years. I read and listened and studied and have attempted to follow the advice given to me by my mentors — Always…without exception…PREACH THE WORD. I listened to Vance Havner, W.A. Criswell, Junior Hill, Bailey Smith, Adrian Rogers and a host of others. They instilled within me a love for the Bible and a desire to know more and more about God by studying His Word.

More and more today, I’m finding fewer and fewer of those who preach the word. Instead they have been replaced with men who are more interested in a business plan. They spend more time in leadership books than in THE BOOK. Their mentors are men and women who have succeeded in the corporate world rather than those who have suffered for the Kingdom of God. If Rip van Winkle were a Christian, and if he had fallen asleep fifty years ago, and awakened in 2018, he would be stunned. He would never have imagined a church full of people who are 3 miles long and 3 inches deep spiritually.

Way back in 1987, Eugene Peterson wrote a book called, “Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Ministry.” What Peterson wrote then is even more true today. Here’s a short portion of his thoughts.

“American pastors are abandoning their posts, left and right, and at an alarming rate. They are not leaving their churches and getting other jobs. Congregations still pay their salaries. Their names remain on the church stationery and they continue to appear in pulpits on Sundays. But they are abandoning their posts, their calling. They have gone whoring after other gods. What they do with their time under the guise of pastoral ministry hasn’t the remotest connection with what the church’s pastors have done for most of twenty centuries…

The pastors of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches. They are preoccupied with shopkeeper’s concerns — how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package the goods so that the customers will lay out more money.

Some of them are very good shopkeepers. They attract a lot of customers, pull in great sums of money, develop splendid reputations. Yet it’s still shopkeeping; religious shopkeeping, to be sure, but shopkeeping all the same. The marketing strategies of the fast-food franchise occupy the waking minds of their entrepreneurs…

The biblical fact is there are no successful churches. There are, instead, communities of sinners, gathered before God week after week in towns and villages all over the world. The Holy Spirit gathers them and does his work in them. In these communities of sinners, one of the sinners is called pastor and given a designated responsibility in the community. The pastor’s responsibility is to keep the community attentive to God. It is his responsibility that is being abandoned in spades.” (Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Ministry, Eugene H. Peterson, 1987)

Where are the pastors who consistently, repeatedly, and faithfully stand before their congregations with a message from God? Where are the booming voices that say, “Thus says the Lord”? If you attend a church where one of these dinosaurs resides…pray for him. Encourage him. It is becoming increasingly hard to find such creatures.

Preachers, we are aliens in a strange land. This world is not our home. We must remain true to our calling. “Preach the Word. Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (II Timothy 4:2-5).

Thank God for the men who continue to preach that Heaven is real, Hell is hot and that Jesus is Glorious! May their tribe increase in these last days.