We have a couple of other men here who fill in with the preaching service occasionally and have asked me for suggestions that might help them improve. One of them has expressed an interest in possibly looking for a preaching job. So, I believe a "preacher training class" would be in order.
The question I want to ask you is what some brethren ask when a preacher applies for a preaching job. I thought it would be good to prepare him for his answering the questions if and when the time should come.
What Congregations Look For
When a congregation is considering a man to help them in preaching the gospel in their area, most of the questions will deal with the doctrine he believes and teaches. False teachers are prevalent (I John 4:1), so anyone wanting to preach ought to expect many questions to understand his knowledge of the Bible. Certain issues become hot topics among brethren, so expect questions on these topics. Writings and samples of lessons given ways to further understand a man's knowledge of the Scriptures.
One thing a congregation ought to be concerned about is the breath of a man's knowledge. I've seen far too many one topic preachers. Oh, they preach on a variety of issues, but one particular topic keeps coming up with predictable regularity. Does the person teach from both the Old and New Testament (Romans 15:4; I Corinthians 10:11)? While we live under the New Testament, the Old Testament provides the background material and yields rich stories for illustrating points. And does the man teach both positive and negative lessons? Does he teach easy to understand lessons and lessons that take some thought? In other words, is he teaching the whole council of God (Acts 20:7)?
A mistake many congregations make is assuming that a man's education will tell you about his knowledge and his stands. What college a man attends tells you nothing about the man. Better is to know the preachers he has worked with and who he thinks are reputable preachers. That will give a congregation a better clue as to where a man stands.
Since a preacher is involved in reaching the lost, a congregation will want to know about a man's experiences in teaching others and the ideas he might have about reaching people in the community. The questions ought to be both about ideas to reach those who never heard the gospel as well as those who have left the faith. It isn't the number of conversions which is important. Much depends on the area in which a man works. But even in an area where few respond, you should see the effort a man puts into the work.
Many congregations want to know how much time a man is willing to devote to preaching. There are a lot of people who treat preaching as a 9 to 5 job. The questions might be indirect, but realize the core is finding out whether a man sees preaching as a job or as a life passion. They probably will want some idea how long you are committed to staying in the area as well.
There also ought to be questions about references. You can't get to know someone well by just talking to him for a few hours. Congregations will want contacts of reputable people who can give them some idea whether the man is worth supporting while he is in their area. They should want to talk to congregations where you've preached and know how long you tend to stay in various congregations. They should be looking to see if a congregation benefited from the preachers time with them or was it a period of turmoil and division. Sometimes division is necessary (I Corinthians 11:19), but if a man takes the wrong side then a congregation shouldn't want him. If it seems that division happens everywhere he goes, then the man is not leading the lost back to the truth (II Timothy 2:24-26).
What Preachers Look For
But few preachers realize that they should be asking questions of their own. It isn't enough to know whether a congregation wants you to work with them. You need to decide whether this is a group you can work with.
Find out what the congregation does, separate from past preachers, in reaching the lost. How many conversions occur solely because of the preacher's efforts and how many were brought to Christ by the members.
How hospitable is the group? Do they love each other, or only spend minimal time with one another? How many Bible studies are going on in people's homes? How often do people get together? My brother told me that he turned down one group when he realized that one elder had not been over to another elder's home in over a decade.
What types of problems are going on in the congregation? Are there factions? Is the doctrine being taught sound? Every congregation has problems. The question for you is whether you are willing and able to deal with the particular set of problems at this congregation.
How many members are involved in teaching? Are there men willing to fill in when you have to be out of town?
What is the congregation's attitude toward paying a preacher? Few good preachers are serving for the money, but if you have a group which thinks it is their responsibility to pay as little as they can for preaching you're going to run into problems. One of the things I consider is how my time was treated while visiting with a congregation. Did they offer to pay travel expenses? Did they offer to pay for the time spent in giving lessons? You want to have a group whom you can feel "has your back" so you can focus on reaching the lost and not wonder if you're going to make next month's rent.
A critical factor to me is who were the past preachers and how long did they stay. Congregations that go through preachers every few years tend to indicate they are not content or have a lot of hidden issues.
I most certainly appreciate the time and effort that you have taken to assist me with what I consider to be a very important subject. Also, I believe it to be a subject that is desperately in need of being taught and studied much more in depth than the average congregation does because the work and responsibility of a preacher is grossly misunderstood by far too many brethren. Time allowable, my plan is to use your thoughts as well as some of my own and create a lesson series teaching this for all interested in learning more about the subject.
You mentioned your brother turning down a preaching position reminded me of an experience I had several years ago when I also refused an offer when discussing the matter with the men I asked what classes the brethren were teaching and how many filled in for the preacher? I learned that the preacher did ALL of the preaching and teaching!
Visiting?..... Awww yes! I could talk at length about lax brethren when it comes to being hospitable and accepting their personal responsibilities of a Christian who are supposed to be members working together. There have been several times that I have mentioned both publicly and on a one-on-one basis that there are very few who are unable to do "something" to assist with the work of the church.