When Looking for a Preacher

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (II Corinthians 10:12).

Paul had many frustrations with false teachers in his day. The focus was taken off the accuracy of what Paul and the source of his teachings and put on things people value. “"For his letters," they say, "are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible."” (II Corinthians 2:10). When the standard of measure is people, everyone comes up short.

Allow me to illustrate the problem. Back in your younger days, how many of you tried to seriously date two or more people at the same time? You probably guffawed at the very thought. Multiple dating a good way to get yourself into serious hot water when it is discovered. Yet many of us know one or two foolish young men who tried it because they couldn’t make up their minds regarding who they liked better. Eventually they are discovered, their whole world unravels, and they are left with neither girl since no one is speaking to them.

People understand that trying to play two people off each other is just foolishness when deciding to whom you want to be committed. Even if it isn’t going to work out, you want to consider one person at a time. Two-timing hints at problems with being firm in your commitments and you come across looking less than honest.

Every person has his own mixture of good and not so good points. Every person has his own idea of what are the important good points and rarely does one person perfectly match those expectations. “Sam buys me nice gifts. But Joe is really sweet. Still, Tom has the better smile.” When a person starts comparing one person to another, all you end up with is indecision over which best qualities is really the best.

So why do congregations, when looking for a preacher to work with them, stoop to playing one preacher off of another? Asking someone to move into your town to teach the gospel and represent the church is a serious commitment on both the preacher’s and the congregation’s part.

When a congregation invites several men in to “try out” and then vote on who they like best, the vote gets split. One man will have the most experience, one will be the most eloquent, one will best conduct a class, one will be most personable, but rarely will you find one who is best in all attributes being considered. Thus, while a man may be very good in all areas, because he is not the best in one or more areas, he is overlooked.

As preachers are compared one to another, the one important, critical element -- the ability to accurately teach and defend the Word of God -- is overshadowed by personal preferences, such as how well a man dresses, whether he can make you laugh, or whether he said “hello.” How a man makes people feel becomes the standard and since people are flawed, the standard is flawed as well. Isn't that the mistake the Pharisee made (Luke 18:10-14)?

If you want a good preacher for your congregation, then know the biblical duties God has laid out for preachers. Know also the characteristics that mark a man as a false teacher. Consider a man whom you think may be suitable from his introduction, his references, his writings, and his reputation. Then invite him to come to see if he is the type of man you expected. Ask questions about issues important in your area. Check his responses against the teachings in the Bible. Then decide if this man will benefit the congregation by being a part of the work.

But don’t violate the wisdom of God by ranking one man against another. Doing so is never wise.