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LOCAL PREACHER TENURE
The Long and Short of the Matter
By Al Diestelkamp
I was recently encouraged to write about the “pros and cons” of a
preacher working in one location over a long period of time. The fact
that I am in my 25th year in the same community might make me qualified
to share my thoughts about the subject. However, based on that
criterion, I have two brothers and a son all of whom have been in their
current works even longer than I, and if asked, any one of them might
offer a different perspective on this topic.
In this regard my brothers and I have not imitated our father’s
practice of relocating every three or four years. His preaching,
especially in the decades of the 40s and 50s, was during a time of
substantial growth among the Lord’s people. It was also a time when
advocates of centralization and other unscriptural innovations were
recruiting churches to their causes, and some of his moves were
attempts to meet those challenges. However, even in his later years of
preaching he tended not to “let any grass grow under his feet.”
As I thought about my “assignment” for this essay, I did a little
research regarding preacher changes in churches nearby to me. I decided
to look at the changes that have taken place in the 12 nearest
congregations to me that have had preachers working among them. In the
years I have “stayed put” these congregations have had no less than 52
preachers. One congregation has had eight preachers in that time period.
Before I get into the “pro and cons” of lengthy preacher tenures, let
me make it clear that whether a preacher’s stay is short-term, or he
becomes a “permanent fixture” is a matter to be determined by those
involved. In fact, I believe there is a need for those who will stay
put, and also for those who will move on to other challenges. It is not
a matter of right and wrong.
As I made my list of advantages and disadvantages I noticed some
double-edged swords. For instance, a lengthy stay often improves the
preacher’s ability to purchase a house, and hopefully accrue some
equity, but on the other side, home ownership might hamper his ability
to relocate when it would be wise or necessary.
Many preachers consider it an advantage to stay in one place longer so
that their children are not uprooted from their schools. Personally, I
can’t relate too well to that as an advantage since, as a child, I
considered our frequent moves an adventure, even though I ended up
attending five different elementary and two high schools. It is my
opinion (for what it’s worth) that children are much more resilient
than we give them credit for, and we sometimes place undue emphasis on
secular education. If the children’s educational situation is the
primary reason for a preacher to stay where he is, that may turn out to
be a disadvantage to his work for the Lord.
Another advantage to staying in one location might be that it enables
the preacher and his wife to develop close friendships. This can be a
great blessing, but the preacher must be wary of the temptation to
adjust one’s preaching to the liking of his friends. Let’s face it;
even among the closest of friends there will be differences of
convictions on controversial issues. The faithful preacher cannot allow
his friendships to shape his preaching.
The advantages we have discussed so far may benefit the preacher and
his family, but not necessarily the congregation. While enjoying these
advantages, it should be noted that it would be selfish to base one’s
decision to stay or go based solely on “what’s best for me.” So we now
turn our attention to some possible “pros and cons” of long-term
preacher tenure from the local congregation’s perspective.
The most obvious benefit of extended preacher tenure is the cost
savings. Most moving costs of an incoming preacher are usually borne by
Ideally, the longer one remains in a given location the greater his
influence should be in that community and the local congregation. Of
course, this should be true of every Christian—not just the preacher.
However, because the preacher has a very visible role in the
congregation, there is a danger of evolving into a “preacher rule”
situation. This is especially true in congregations lacking elders.
Even when the preacher tries not to exert undue influence, it is
sometimes thrust upon him. If a congregation thinks too highly of the
preacher they run the risk of relying on him “beyond what is written”
(1 Cor. 4:6).
Perhaps one of the greatest advantages for a preacher to stay in a
congregation long-term is the possibility of him serving as an elder.
Considering the preacher to serve as an elder often doubles the ability
of a congregation to “set in order the things that are lacking” (Tit.
Finally, we should consider a couple of disadvantages that may not have
any corresponding advantages when a preacher stays long-term in one
The preacher may find it difficult to stay “fresh” in his presentation.
The message must remain the same, and he may have trouble finding ways
to covey that message in a way that keeps listeners’ attention.
Eventually the preacher is going to enter a time when “difficult days
come,” and “the day when the keepers of the house tremble” (Eccl.
12:2-3). Along with advanced age may come diminished abilities that can
test the patience of a congregation.
So, as one who has stayed in one place for many years, here is my
suggestion to other preachers: Go somewhere you are needed; preach the
word; when considering whether to relocate, make a selfless decision
based on what is best for the cause of Christ, including the
congregation you may be leaving. In doing that, whether your stay in a
given location is short or long, it will be to the glory of God.
P.O. Box 891, Cortland, Illinois 60112
|Attempts to Circumvent Jesus' Teaching|
By Andy Diestelkamp
As I write this
article I am sitting behind a table at the Livingston County/4-H Fair
for my 26th year in a row. The commercial building has far less
displays in it that it did years ago. The number of people who pass
through this building is substantially diminished and those who stop at
the table at which I am sitting are even fewer. I do not take this
personally, I just recognize that most fair-goers have little interest
in engaging in spiritual discussion with a relative stranger. Who knows
where that conversation would lead?
In recent years we have borrowed a quiz box for which I made up four
series (one for each day of the fair) of 18 true/false or multiple
choice questions. These questions are not “trick” questions, but some
(due to their ignorance) think of some of them that way. Some are
relatively easy, others intentionally challenge prevalent
misconceptions. Some of those misconceptions are minor, but some of
them are major. With each question I list the Scripture reference that
supports the correct answer. A Bible is always laying there so those
references can be examined in their context.
One of my multiple choice questions is, “Jesus taught, whoever divorces
and marries another commits: blasphemy, murder, adultery, theft.” The
reference cited is Mark 10:11,12. The teaching of Jesus on this subject
is consistently met with incredulity and resistance. This resistance
does not come only from the ignorant. Those very familiar with Jesus’
teaching have become quite creative in their efforts to circumvent it.
A common ethical question and proposed exception to Jesus’ teaching
against divorce pertains to domestic abuse. It seems unfathomable to
many that Jesus might expect a wife to remain in a marriage that was
dangerous to her life. Of course, the word abuse can include everything
from neglect, to meanness, to mental cruelty, to physical violence.
Indeed, all of these would certainly involve a spouse sinning against
his or her mate. Does the failure of a spouse to be what he should be
excuse his mate to create exceptions to Jesus’ teaching about marriage?
Here are two other “true or false” statements that I use on the quiz
box. “A husband must love, nourish, cherish and honor his wife.” The
references cited are Ephesians 5:25-29 and 1 Peter 3:7. Immediately
following is the statement, “A wife is to submit to her husband as to
the Lord.” The references cited are Ephesians 5:22 and 1 Peter 3:1-6.
Of course, if you are familiar with the texts referenced, then you know
that both of the above statements are true. However, one year I
overheard a woman comment to a companion that the latter statement was
“only true if” the husband was being what he ought to be. This is a
Indeed, the context of 1 Peter 3:1-6 makes it clear to anyone who can
follow a train of thought that a woman is to be the kind of wife that
she ought to be regardless of whether or not her husband is being what
he ought to be, and “likewise” the husband must be what he ought to be
toward his wife regardless of her behavior. Since Peter expected the
first Christians to submit to the governing authorities (Rome) and
harsh and unfair masters (2:13-20), there can be no misunderstanding
what we are called to do in the context of marriage. “For this is
commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief,
suffering wrongfully.... For to this you were called, because Christ
also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His
Followers of Jesus’ example do not modify His teaching on marriage (or
any other subject) simply because it may require them to suffer unfair
or harsh treatment... “even the death of the cross” (cf. Phil. 2:8).
Indeed, when men presumptuously modify Jesus’ teaching in the name of
justice and fairness so as to avoid the inconveniences, discomforts,
and sacrifices that arise from following our Lord, then they miss their
We do not expect the world to appreciate this teaching, but it ought to
resonate as true with those of us who confess Jesus as Lord and
recognize that “when He was reviled, [He] did not revile in return;
when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who
judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the
tree...by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Pet. 2:23,24).
Lest I be misunderstood, I am not suggesting that men who abuse their
wives should go uncorrected or unpunished. Peter’s instructions to
servants to endure harsh treatment is not in any respect tolerating
abusive masters. Indeed, masters will have to answer to their Master
for how they treated their servants (Eph. 6:9; Col. 4:1). So, it must
not be presumed that I am calling for women or society to tolerate
abusive husbands. Indeed, it should not be tolerated, but confronted. I
am saying that divorce is not the proper response. Nevertheless, in the
name of compassion we have often lowered the standards of God’s word to
excuse ourselves from our calling.
God’s word has much wise instruction and counsel that should be applied
to the best and worst of marriages, but spouses, families, churches and
communities are foolishly ignoring those principles in favor of divorce
despite Jesus’ clear prohibition. The Sermon on the Mount by itself is
a treasure trove of guiding principles that many have never thought to
apply to their marriages. Shame on us. We can do better. We must do
better if we expect to enjoy citizenship in the kingdom of heaven
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By Rick Liggin
In an earlier article, we demonstrated that the church Jesus established (and is building) has no identity apart from people. When Jesus established the church, He did not establish something,
and then invite people to join “it” (like a club or a society).
Instead, salvation was offered through the word preached, and those who
received and obeyed it were saved. The Lord then added to the church
(collected together in a group) those who were being saved! The church
is the results of salvation…not the means of salvation. So, when we
think “church,” we must think, not of something, but of some ones…a group of saved people.
So far, we have been using the word “church” in its broadest universal
sense…the way Jesus used it when He promised to build His “church”
(Matt. 16:18). In this universal sense, the “church” is a collection of
all saved people in all the world throughout all time since Christ
first began building it. This universal church has no earthly
organization, and it does not act collectively. It only acts
distributively, as each member does what God requires of him. These
saved people are collected together figuratively as the “church” (group
or assembly) of Christ because all of them share in a common
relationship with God that is maintained as each one individually obeys
His will (1 Jn. 1:5-9).
But Jesus also used the word “church” in a local
sense (Matt. 18:17), which illustrates that He intended for local
churches to exist. We are not surprised, then, when we repeatedly read
in the New Testament about the existence of local churches (1 Cor. 1:2;
1 Thess. 1:1; Rev. 2:1; 2:12; 2:18; 3:1; etc.); and about the apostles
grouping disciples together in local flocks with elders to oversee and
shepherd them (Phil. 1:1; Ac. 11:19-26; 13:1; 14:21-23). In fact, the
New Testament actually limits the oversight of elders to “the flock of God among you” (1 Pet. 5:2). This statement clearly implies, not only the existence of known
local flocks (churches), but also that the Lord intends for every
disciple to become a member of some local flock. If the oversight of
elders is, indeed, limited to “the flock of God among you,” elders must be able to identify exactly who is and who is not in their flock.
We draw attention to this fact because some among us seem to be under
the impression that local church membership is unnecessary: “We are
members of the universal church, and that’s enough.” This view simply
is not supported in Scripture. We do not read in the New Testament
about “floating members,” who were not a part of any local flock. In
fact, the apostle Paul’s own personal example illustrates our point:
when he first came to Jerusalem after his conversion, he tried “to
associate with” or “join himself to the disciples” there (Ac. 9:26-28).
The Jerusalem brethren were initially skeptical; but when Barnabas
spoke for Paul, he was accepted, and was then “with them” in their work
until Jewish persecution made it impossible (9:27-30). The point is
that this event illustrates the fact that first century disciples
joined themselves to local congregations: they became members of local
An equally wrong concept of some today is that one can “keep his
membership” at one local church, while indefinitely attending services
or “visiting” with another. Listen: you can’t be a member of a church
if you don’t attend its gatherings or participate in its work! You will
remember that Barnabas was a part of the church in Jerusalem when he
was sent by that church to Antioch where the gospel had only recently
been preached (cf. Ac. 11:19-26). Did Barnabas “keep his membership” in
the Jerusalem church while he worked in Antioch for at least “an entire
year”? Clearly, he did not, since after this we read that Barnabas was
one of the teachers “at Antioch, in the church that was there” (13:1).
But how does one become a member of a local church? Doesn’t being added
to the universal church also add one to the local church? The answer
is, “No.” How one becomes a member of a local church differs from how
one becomes a member of the universal church. Ideally, the local church
is comprised only of God’s (saved) people, but the New Testament shows
that this is not always the case. When one is saved though his
obedience to the gospel, the Lord adds him to the universal church (1
Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27; Ac. 2:47). The Lord is the One who does this
adding, since He is the only One who can know whether or not a person’s
conversion is genuine (2 Tim. 2:19). And of course, since the Lord is
the One who does it—since there is no human element in determining who
is and who isn’t added —there are no mistakes! Only those truly saved
are added into the Lord’s (universal) church! It is not this way when
it comes to the local church. One becomes a member of a local church by
mutual acceptance and agreement (Ac. 9:26-28). We judge one another to
be faithful to the Lord, and then agree to work together as a local
When anyone asks to be a part of a local church (like Paul did when he
first went to Jerusalem (Ac. 9:26), the local brethren must judge
whether or not they consider the person to be faithful, and then either
accept or reject the person based on that judgment. If accepted, then
all agree to work together and the individual is added to the group.
But unlike universal church membership, which is determined only by the
Lord, there is a human element when it comes to determining local
church membership. This human element, at times, results in faulty
judgment and mistakes are made in accepting or rejecting individuals.
Sometimes, a local church rejects someone who ought to be accepted.
This is what the Jerusalem church initially did with Paul: at first,
they rejected Paul, “not believing that he was a disciple” (Ac. 9:26),
and if Barnabas had not spoken up for Paul, they would have been
refusing to receive someone that the Lord clearly accepted (cf. 3 Jn.
9-10). But the converse also occurs: sometimes we accept those that we
ought to refuse! The Corinthian church, for example, accepted a
fornicating brother, when God had rejected him (1 Cor. 5:1-13; cf. Rev.
That brings me to this important practical point: your acceptance into
a local church is no guarantee that you are acceptable to God! We say
this because some “Christians” seem to see their membership in a local
church as evidence of their acceptance with God! But please be warned:
brethren, including elders, are human and cannot see into the heart!
And so, they may judge you to be worthy of fellowship in the local
church, when in fact, you are not…or vice versa! This is wrong:
brethren should approve what God approves and disapprove what He
disapproves, but it doesn’t change the facts. Local churches make
mistakes in these matters; and when it happens, God knows the
difference and He judges accordingly (i.e. correctly)!
Being a part of a sound local church is necessary and good; but being
right with God is not guaranteed by the fact that a local church
accepts me into its membership. Being right with God is determined by
my own diligent obedience to the Word of my Lord and by my loyalty to
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By Al Diestelkamp
a brother or sister becomes unfaithful, either in lifestyle or through
neglect, it’s the duty of the faithful to “restore such a one” (Gal.
6:1). If the disorderly walk continues we are commanded to “withdraw”
from that person (2 Thess. 3:6). It’s not uncommon when attempts at
restoration are made, that ones determined to continue in sin will
withdraw themselves from association with Christians, including
does not relieve the local church from the disciplinary process, but it
often presents a problem. When the erring one doesn’t want the
confrontation, he has many tools at his disposal to avoid face-to-face
exhortation. Even efforts to reach the person by phone can be easily
foiled by caller ID.
confess that I fail to understand how ones who have prayed, sang and
studied with us, and have also played, laughed and ate at each other’s
table, can suddenly cut off all communication with us, but it does
happen! The question that lingers is just how far the Lord expects us
to continue to “hunt down” those who clearly don’t want to be
one among us “wanders from the truth” we will try our best to “turn him
back,” but the sinner must want to save his soul (cf. Jas. 5:19-20). In
searching for first century examples, there are no clear-cut guidelines
as what to do when the sinner does not offer any opportunity to exhort
him. Aside from delivering Hymenaeus and Alexander to Satan, we don’t
see evidence that the apostle Paul continued to pursue them. Nor do we
see Jesus pursuing some of His disciples who “walked with him no more”
comes a time when faithful brethren must move on, and direct their
efforts to more productive pursuits, while continuing to pray for those
who have turned aside, and remaining open to aiding them should they
regain their senses.
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P.O. Box 891, Cortland, Illinois 60112
By Steve Fontenot
• 1 Tim. 5:14 (“rule the household” asv; “manage their households”
esv) - by being a good manager of her house. Not lazy, without
direction, acting only impulsively and selfishly, but accepting the
role of leadership, with its rewards, disappointments, mistakes, and
headaches. As with any good management there will be a basic plan and
purpose (God’s Word and will), and allocation of time, energy, and
resources to the fulfilling of that plan.
• Prov. 1:8 (“mother’s teaching”)
- Providing teaching, counsel, guidance that will “grace” the children
and preserve them from pitfalls (see context, vv9f). This is more than
barking orders, issuing threats, or using the children as servants.
• Prov. 23:22-25 (“Listen to...your mother...Buy truth…”)
- She will work to be sure her words of counsel are “truth,” not simply
intuition, family tradition, or something she read in a book or saw on
television (Psa. 19:7-11).
• Prov. 24:3-4 (“By wisdom a house is built...by understanding...by knowledge…”)
- She must equip herself with “wisdom” and “understanding” and
“knowledge.” How will she gain these? She will be a woman devoted to
study and meditation on the Word of God, thoughtful contemplation on
its meaning and application to herself and her family, and prayer for
• Prov. 29:15 (“a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother”)
- She will be diligent to follow up and be consistent in her discipline
and not let the child “win” and “get its own way.” She must be in
control, with love and wisdom guiding her. Training and molding
character will be the focus of her “rod and reproof.”
• Prov. 31:26-27 (“opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue”)
- With kind words of wisdom she “looks well to the ways of her
household” and prepares them well for the “future” (v25), when they may
well face the cold winds of adversity (v21). To do this, she will be
industrious in preparing herself with “strength and dignity” of
• Tit. 2:3-4 (“teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to…”) - She will strive to prepare the next generation to wisely build their house by training them in God’s will and plan (vv4-5).
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