The churches of Christ in this country are experiencing a preacher shortage. When a large congregation advertises an empty pulpit, resumes flood in by the score. This outpouring of interest is misleading, though. Primarily, it reflects the perceived opportunity for advancement a bigger church affords. When a smaller congregation looks for a preaching minister, the search is often long and frustrating.
Why are so few well-prepared preachers available these days? Many churches, assuming that other congregations will raise up future preachers for the brotherhood, do almost nothing to encourage their young men to make preaching their life’s work. Dads worry that a career in ministry may have financial disadvantages. And moms are reluctant to encourage a profession that almost inevitably results in a son’s moving away.
Timothy’s calling suggests the way to address this problem. The young man was a native of Lystra, a city in the Roman province of Galatia. Timothy had no Damascus road experience like his mentor Paul, but the environment in which he grew up strongly influenced his decision to preach the gospel. Timothy’s training began at the knees of Eunice and Lois, his mother and grandmother. Paul reminded Timothy that “from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). The church played a key role in Timothy’s calling too. Even as a teenager, Timothy “was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra” (Acts 16:2). That is, the congregation said encouraging things about Timothy – and to him. And the elders laid their hands on him (1 Tim. 4:14), communicating their affection, support, and approval.
The Seagoville church cannot force its young men to preach, nor should any such attempt be made. But are we planting the seeds of encouragement? Are we telling our boys that preaching the gospel or serving as a missionary is the greatest work in the world?