by Jefferson David Tant
Each generation passes and another follows. This has been going on —well, ever since Adam and Eve started the cycle. Included in this cycle are those who preach the gospel. Paul mentioned five functions that were assigned to men in the body of Christ — apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers in Ephesians 4:11. Of course, we know that the work of the apostles and prophets is no longer in person, but we have their words recorded in Scripture. In this article, we want to focus on evangelists, whom we also call preachers. So, as one generation passes away, how do we prepare men, young or old, to fill the shoes of those who have gone to their reward?
I’m sure one quick answer would be, “Send them to Florida College.” I wouldn’t argue with that thought, as I spent some years there as a young man, and I can’t count the number of preachers that I know who also received an education there. Bible courses are a daily part of their studies, and there are classes in the Biblical languages of Greek and Hebrew, as well as classes in Speech.
But “preacher training” is not the stated purpose of the school. Its purpose is to give a good secular education, while in an environment that supports Biblical faith. A large number of our educational institutions seem determined to destroy the faith of those ignorant God-believing students that come into their classrooms. So, whose job is it to prepare the next generation?
The 45 years I worked with the church in Roswell, Georgia provided various means to develop young men to preach. At various times we had a summer intern come and work with us. School was out, so there were basically three months for me to work with a young man who was wanting to preach. One of our families would provide a home for him for the summer. We would have studies and discussions together, and of course, he would do some of the pulpit work. And on occasion, a young man would work with us on a more permanent basis for a year or more to gain experience. There were also men in the congregation who would be encouraged to deliver a lesson. Maybe on Sunday evening, we might have two young men give a 15-minute lesson. I remember helping one 12-year-old organize his sermon. The thoughts were his, and I just helped organize them. J. P. Flores is now a full-time preacher, having recently moved from Los Angeles to work among Hispanics with the University Church in Tampa.
On Wednesday nights at the close of the service, men of the Roswell congregation would give a short invitation talk. My wife and I are now members of the Broadmoor church in Nashville. The church does not have a “full-time” preacher but has three or four men who regularly fill the pulpit. They do receive some support from the church, but the majority of their income is from their secular jobs. In addition, there are perhaps seven or eight other men who fill the pulpit on occasion. This arrangement is working well, and the church continues to grow.
When I was young, my father preached for the 10th and Francis church in Oklahoma City. We had an attendance of around 1,000 on Sunday. When my father was out of town, the elders would have to find some retired preacher somewhere to come to fill in. Why? There evidently was no program in place to train young men. Local churches need to be active in training both young and old in this vital work.
It is evident that Paul trained Timothy, and he then encouraged Timothy to “pass it on.” ”The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (II Timothy 2:2)