The invaluable lessons of studying in a preacher training program cannot be measured, and it is only upon reflection that this young preacher has come to realize just how fortunate he is to have spent two years with the Lord’s church in Beaverton studying, learning, being humbled, being trained, and being loved by Christians of the finest caliber. Mark Dunagan is an evangelist who works tirelessly. The elders are men of good repute, who fulfill their duties well. The deacons work hard keeping the church functioning smoothly. The husbands and wives are shining examples to one entering his own marriage in a few months. The children are dear to my heart, and have proven to me over and over again why the Lord Himself praised the hearts of the “little ones” of this world (Mark 10:13-16). The teenagers show that there is promise for the future, which seems to be approaching faster and faster as my years increase in number. There is no better way that I could have spent the last two years. No better education. No better training experience. And most certainly no better congregation to hone and develop my skills as a minister of the Holy Word of God.
It should be a goal of every congregation to develop preachers, whether in an organized training program or not. “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). This is our mission from God in preparing for the future of preaching and teaching in the Lord’s church. For every person we educate and train, he will be able to do the same to others, which just shows, without any doubt, that our actions have far reaching consequences (Romans 16:19, 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7).
In tolerating my youth for these last few years, you have had a hand in making me capable of finding my own job as an evangelist, a ministry in Sweet Home and an open door of service that I will never take lightly. As a matter of summation, I want to outline some of the lessons learned over the last few years, and give you encouragement to keep the program going in the future.
Qualifications of Evangelists
The misconception is that preachers must be local superheroes, able to handle every detail of church life, mediating as a judge between all church disputes, seeing to the physical needs of every member, and possessing the keenest counseling skills for marriage, child-rearing, and job-training. One writer put it well when he described the role of a preacher this way: “The local preacher must be loud and soft, strong and gentle, handsome but humble, good with his hands but a master of thought, he must have no children but ten kids who are all quiet during services, a wife who is beautiful but homely enough to not intimidate the other women, he must preach long but make his sermons short, he must take up his time in the study of the scriptures and spend all day visiting widows, he must work for little and put into the collection plate much, he must have the appearance of a modern fashion model, the eye of an eagle, the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Samson, the gentleness of Mary’s little lamb, the meekness of Moses, the fiery zeal of Peter, the endurance of Job, the walking powers of a camel, the friendliness of a political candidate, the dignity of a judge, the pureness of an angel and the appetite of a canary. Oh, it’s wonderfully great to be a preacher!” Many churches do not really understand what is expected of a preacher in the Bible. The mentality is that we are able to “pay someone else to do our spiritual work for us.”
According to the Bible, a preacher’s job is to preach. Nothing more and nothing less. His entire commission is based on the simple mission of preaching the Gospel to lost souls and educating Christians to improve their spiritual lives. As preachers, this is our supreme, God-given duty. “For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). A few of the qualifications include:
But do not be dismayed, friends. While this lot is a difficult one, it is also extremely rewarding. In fact, I would say that I have the best job in the world. What can be more rewarding and fulfilling then spending your days studying the Bible and preaching the Good News to a world that desperately needs it? Being a preacher is a struggle worth all the pain. It is like climbing a mountain – painful every step of the way, but more beautiful than words can describe once you reach the top. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Truly, one of the most important lessons learned over the course of the preacher training program was humility. “For by the grace given to me, I bid everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (Romans 12:3). How many cocky young people today fall into the trap of thinking too highly of themselves? It is a hard lesson to learn to come to the realization that we are not as smart as we think we are! But there are times when many of us, especially young people, need to stop talking so much and just listen. What a world it would be if more young men acted like Elihu in Job 32:4-10, who was humble enough to allow all of his more experienced and educated associates speak before he did. He was unwilling to interrupt the conversation until everybody else had spoken their mind. When we do this, it forces us to sit and think about what we say before we say it, instead of making wild assertions in the middle of an adult Bible class, or arguing some aspect of a doctrine that we do not fully understand.
“The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3). As much we sometimes hate to admit it, we do not know everything in the world! We are not experts on certain aspects of the Bible, maybe even most of the Bible (if we have not adequately studied, yet persist in believing strange doctrines). There are times as a young man when I just need to close my mouth and listen. Albert Guinon once said, “”
And this is the point that all proud people do not understand: the absence of humility just makes us look bad in the end. People who are too proud to admit when they are wrong almost always end up being wrong – indeed, pride has led some people to essentially commit suicide by ignoring the warning labels on cigarettes and alcohol, pride caused the downfall of Nazi Germany, pride gets cocky young people killed when they spend their lives going from one extremely dangerous sport to the next, pride destroys us spiritually because we end up thinking that we can handle more spiritual pressure than we actually can. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes…” (Proverbs 12:15). Also, it becomes very clear from passages such as Proverbs 16:18, one of the most frequently quoted of all Bible verses, that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” We can all be pretty sure that where pride and haughtiness go, an embarrassment will come soon after. Haman will always serve as one of the best examples of this truth. It was his pride that made him so angry with Mordecai, which swelled into vengeance, which led to his being hanged on his own gallows (Esther 7:10). “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2).