In the Forum section of the Christian Chronicles (CC), January 87, there was a letter from a pathetic young man who is terribly hurt and frustrated because he can't find employment as a Pulpit Minister. He says that the CC published "an editorial expressing a desire to see more of our young men encouraged to consider a career in preaching the gospel and detailing the great need within our brotherhood for such men." The CC does do a lot of this, as do other Church of Christ publications, and they are very wrong in doing so!
This young man says:
"I have been actively seeking a preaching position for about one and one-half years. To date, I have yet to secure employment, or even a single offer of same" (emphasis mine, CAH).
Isn't it sad that this young man has been so mistaught and deceived? He is trying to get a job in a "preaching position, that is, as a Pulpit Minister or what some erroneously call a "full time gospel preacher." He wants to be hired by some local Church of Christ Church into an employer-employee relationship - just like all these "local preachers" or Ministers have. Just like any other organization or business hires employees. These Pulpit Ministers are not hired and paid to work for Jesus Christ our Lord. Their boss or lord is "the local church" organization under absolute control of The Eldership - which is the boss in reality. (In the absence of The Eldership or The Lordship, then "the local church" operation substitutes "the Men's Business Meeting" as the ruling body.)
The idea is that the main "preaching position" today is the Pulpit Minister who stands in the pulpit in a Church building twice on Sunday to deliver a talk to the same people every time. For this "work" (?) and the other "duties" prescribed in his job description and work contract, he is to be well-paid in salary and a nice "compensation package," as it is called. If you can please the Boss (Eldership) and like to perform the prescribed duties within the expected guidelines, many of the preaching jobs are quite lucrative and rewarding materially.
Bless his heart, this young man has a "dream" about finding such a "preaching position." "But after 18 months of job hunting, he has not found a job. In fact, not even a single offer of same." My heart goes out to such young men as I see the sincere concern to do service for the Lord, yet so deluded as to think that this is the way to do it. In fact, the idea prevails widely that this is the only way to really serve the Lord. But going into the professional Pulpit Minister job, as an employee of the local church that hires him, is all from men! One is in the service of men! It is denominational to the core! Our Church of Christ Church system of the clergy, who are our "hirelings" to fill pulpits as the Chief Pastor is not from the Lord Jesus Christ. Honest, conscientious, capable young men are being deceived into thinking that they are "preachers of the gospel" when they hire out as the professional pulpit performer.
They need to secure themselves with a "tent making" skill, with a real trade or profession so they can honorably earn their own living and not enslave themselves to some "local church" by being controlled by and dependent upon the whims and fancies of the Eldership and members. If they are free from this yoke of men, then they have a freedom to preach and teach and be answerable only to the one and only Lord and Master! They can teach and preach when and where they can find or make the opportunity, and do so without fear or favor of men or some Eldership or Church!
Paul's question, "Am I not free?" is a vital question. He was free. He could not be "hired" to work for men or any Board of Elders or Church Organization. No one told him what he could or could not preach. True enough, it is right and scriptural for men who preach the gospel to be given "wages" for the laborer is "worthy of his hire." But our clergy try to make this "hire" mean that he is "hired" by men as an employee and is therefore paid for his work under their direction and control! No way! The "hire" is a proper response in giving support or wages to the Lord's servant who preaches the gospel. Those who benefit from the work of the Lord's servant should help provide for the one who teaches. But it is not in an employee-employer relationship. Nor is it to be a Pulpit Minister making talks to the same people all the time; saints who are spiritual babes and will never learn God's word or be able to teach it to others. Our "clergy system," the "Pulpit Minister" set-up is a miserable failure!
Anyone who can't see the difference between (1) being hired by "the local church"/Eldership as an employee to "preach for and to" that church; and (2) one who preaches/teaches as the Lord's servant, and from those taught receives "wages," has a real problem that I shall not here try to explain. If you can't understand the difference, don't worry about it.
Paul said: "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave of all, that I might win the more" (I Cor. 9:19)· He was "free from all men;' "hired," directed and controlled by no man or group of men in so far as his preaching and teaching were concerned. He belonged to the Lord and was totally His servant. But, as his Lord had done before him, he was willing to become a slave in serving others that he might win them to Christ. To the Jews he became a Jew and to the Gentiles a Gentile. What an example he was! Free, yet a servant. That is the way it should be with us today. The "wages" he received was not because he preached "for and to" some local church organization as the one hired to fill the pulpit and deliver a "message" two or three times each week. He did not have a work contract with some Eldership to do so much Pulpit Ministering for so much pay. Paul did not work for some "local church."
Last year one of our hired Pulpit Ministers was given a banquet and a plaque in honor of his "preaching for and to the _________ Church of Christ for 25 years." He has the job or employment of being the hired preacher of that church! He works for that church institution, identified by its specific name, just like I used to work for TVA. Never do you read in the Scriptures of any such set-up, employee-employer relationship, on the part of any of the Lord's disciples.
But back to our young man and his situation. He writes that he has not been able "to convince anyone to discuss employment" with him. Only a few churches have even replied to his inquiries, even though these churches are "actively soliciting" applications for the job of Pulpit Minister.
This is a sad case, but not unusual. It is part of the system. I wish I could talk with him and encourage him to learn a trade and be prepared to earn his livelihood, and be fully free to preach and teach wherever and whenever he has opportunity. It is far better to be "free in Christ" as His servant than to be an employee of some church to do their bidding and try to please them for one's hire. I feel sorry for our hired preachers who are dependent upon the dole of some church for their livelihood. They are in slavery to men and refuse to see it. May God bless them for I believe that the vast majority are good men who are caught up in the vicious Church of Christ Church clergy system. - CAH.