Once in a while, one ponders a question that has more answers than one. Our subject is such a query.
One possible answer is “no.” Preachers deserve no more respect than any other member of the Lord’s church. Denominationalism wallows in the error of a clergy-laity distinction, found nowhere in the Scriptures. In fact, the Lord taught against such artificial homage (Matthew 23:8-12). Paul’s perpetual humility shone through even in the midst of defending himself against attacks on his apostleship: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5). Also, “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).
Another possible answer is “yes.” Preachers deserve some amount of respect for the work they do, even to the point of adequate financial remuneration. Paul experienced the eternal losing battle on this issue, defending his right to receive funds, while not exercising this right (1 Corinthians 9:1-15). Some, it seems, would criticize him for taking pay, but then some even found fault with his not doing so when he did not (2 Corinthians 12:13). In any case, the right in itself was a sign of honor (compare elders’ pay as an indication of their double honor—1 Timothy 5:17-18).
Proper balance is often an elusive trait. There was a day (and there are probably still places) where anyone calling himself a preacher probably received too much deference. People would believe him because of his position, and even take pride in association with said evangelist. This was the problem of 1 Corinthians 1, and is in direct contradiction of the noble searchers’ attitude of Acts 17:11.
Pendulums swing, though, and many—even in the Lord’s church—regard preachers as a whole with an unwarranted disdain. They are seen as “just preachers” who may be able to study and present lessons, but they really don’t know anything about life. They are horrible with finances and don’t know how to do anything of practical use. This is a common rejoinder implied from many sources to this author over his twenty-five years of preaching.
“One bad apple spoils the whole bunch” is a secular proverb that need not apply here. Many preachers (and their wives) are unheralded financial experts. How else would they be able to manage their homes and families, and even provide good educations for their children, on the woeful budget many congregations are willing to pay? Such budgetary concerns often constrain the same preachers to be consummate handymen.
These constraints, further, force time-management skills beyond most folks’ recognition. While juggling the responsibilities to come up with two brilliant (as the expectation goes) discourses (packed in the allowable 25 minutes), a bulletin article, perhaps a newspaper article and radio program, and, oh, yes, two Bible classes of equal value, and however many Bible studies with individuals can be gained during the week, along with visiting the members faithfully in their homes, nursing facilities, and hospitals (sometimes the driving time is overwhelming, and the gas money staggering—another budgetary consideration), and often being in charge of the educational program, ordering the materials, preparing the business meeting notes, and the endless hours of conversation aimed at keeping peace between brethren, the preacher lacks hours. The run-on sentence was purposeful. It is a run-on life! (Did I mention answering angry phone calls and letters, correspondence courses, and furthering his education?)
These things need to be said, lest preachers be unfairly disdained. Most will not speak on their own behalf, lest they be deemed whiners and disrupters of the status quo. This author has frankly been treated quite well, but has witnessed many selfless, quiet sufferers who were not. Appreciate the preacher, dear brethren. At least, as the colloquialism goes: “Cut him a little slack.”