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      Nurturing people in the image of God since 1868.                                                                          POB 397/520 Dry Creek Rd./Smithville, TN

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THE PROBLEM WITH PREACHERS

A lady was somewhat disturbed to find herself seated to the left of her host instead of at the right, where she thought she should have been. "I suppose," she said, "it isn't always easy for you to seat people in their proper places." The host replied, "Oh, I find that those who matter don't mind, and those who mind don't matter." Pride arrogance, self-assertiveness, haughtiness and the feeling that "I'm number one" are not new problems, even in the church. Members of the first century church at Corinth not only thought they mattered, but they minded if others didn't think they mattered! The result, in the words of the apostle Paul in 1st Corinthians 3:3, was that "you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?" Interestingly enough, the source of their pride and the strife and division it engendered could be traced to a problem with preachers — "For when one says, 'I am of Paul,' and another, 'I am of Apollos,' are you not carnal (3:5)?" The problem in this case was not in the preachers themselves. Neither Paul nor Apollos sought to attach people to themselves in their ministries at Corinth (2:1-5; 16:12; Acts 18:24-28). Earlier (1st Corinthians 1:10-l) Paul had revealed the real problem to be a church disease referred to in past days as preacheritis. Members of the church at Corinth were more enamored with different messengers of Christ that they were with the message of Christ! They idolized and exalted gospel preachers until they thought more of their favorite preacher than they did the gospel itself. It's not that the preachers didn't have an important role to play, but some Christians at Corinth had attached themselves to and were more in love with a particular preacher than they were with the gospel and the Christ the preacher preached.

Preachers who think too much of themselves are a problem. But sometimes the problem with preachers is not that they think too much of themselves, but that others do. Harold McKee, an elder of the Tanner (AL) congregation, gave me an insight I have never forgotten nearly two decades ago. I asked his advice about leaving a congregation where I had labored and preached for a number of years. I told him several members had indicated their sorrow about my family's departure. That's when Bro. McKee hauled off and brought me down to earth with this pride-puncturing statement. He said, "Dan, every time a preacher announces he's going to leave, about half the congregation threatens to go with him and the other half say, `Can we help you pack?' " Preachers help point us to Christ. The problem is some Christians become more attached to a preacher than they do to the Lord.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ