In this article, L. H. (“Leon”) Appel offered a mix of reporting and opinion. Appel, the minister of Lincoln (Ill.) Christian Church at the time, shared elders’ and deacons’ opinions as to the mistakes preachers commonly make, but then he expanded on those leaders’ italicized quotations. The church leaders had gathered in early May 1953 for the Kiamichi Christian Men’s Clinic at “Christ’s Forty Acres” near Honobia, Okla.
Appel served as senior minister of LCC from 1950 to 1970, when he became a vice president at Lincoln Christian College (now University). In 1973, he became president of the school, but then he died in 1974 at age 52 after suffering a heart attack. (His son, Gene, serves as senior pastor with Eastside Christian Church in Anaheim, Calif.)
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‘Outstanding Mistakes of Preachers‘
By L. H. Appel
June 20, 1953; p. 9
The chapel at “Christ’s Forty Acres,” deep in the heart of [the] Kiamichi Mountains was filled to capacity. Men were standing in the doorways listening intently as the subject “Outstanding Mistakes of Preachers” got under way. The men who participated were elders and deacons who loved their preachers, and they participated only because they were eager that a more complete service be rendered for the glory of God.
Every honest preacher regrets that he is not doing the work as effectively as it could be done. There may be times when the preacher lacks in ability, or when the congregation he serves is slow in moving. However it is highly probable that the preacher is failing to apply himself in some phases of his ministry, and that which is not being realized is his fault.
A few of the suggestions made by elders and deacons at this clinic, if taken seriously, may help the preacher to extend the term of his ministry in a given field, and enlarge his measure of usefulness.
“The biggest mistake some men make in the ministry,” said one, “is in deciding to be preachers.” We have too many round pegs in square holes. Not a few good farmers have been ruined to make poor preachers. Perhaps the eagerness of the church and the Bible college to recruit ministerial timber has given way to pushing young men into the ministry who could have done a more effective job, after receiving their Bible college training, if they had entered some other field of Christian service.
“Preachers are not training the elders,” another said. Much of the lamenting that is abroad over elders not functioning properly might be remedied if the preacher would constructively face the matter and school “the pastors” in their field of service. Greater attention given to this work would help us get back to the New Testament procedure of the elders caring for the pastoral work of the local church and free the preacher to do the work of an evangelist.
“Preachers are not doing enough calling and personal work among the unconverted.” The main reason for this weakness seems to be that they are allowing their energies to be exhausted in extra activities that lead them to whittle instead of really cutting wood. The result has been a certain amount of mechanical operation developing in the minister’s life, while he is losing his passion and zeal for souls.
“Too many preachers fail to recognize the capacity of their congregations to receive their message.” When hungry hearts are waiting for the bread of life, woe be to the preacher who does not put it down where the lambs can get it. The crowds will come where they are getting their hearts warmed and their spirits fed.
“Some preachers do not know when to quit.” If a man has a theme that takes forty minutes to develop, it would be a sin to ruin it with a twenty-minute sermonette. However, for a man to take a twenty-minute sermonette and extend it into forty minutes takes the effectiveness out of his message. The average preacher can learn from the engineer on the railroad, who knows enough to stop after he has whistled three times.
“Preachers often lack the spirit of Christ.” Most ministers are good enough morally, on the whole they are intelligent, but fall short too often by not being big enough in attitude. Many troubles in the churches relate to the lack of true Christian spirit in the pulpit. A sickening havoc often has been wrought where preachers have been more desirous to save face than to save the world. Let the minister study and pray much over Romans 12:3-19. By preserving the Christian spirit in his ministry he will do a more effective work for God.
“Preachers so often lose their sense of equilibrium.” Men are of no more value when out of balance than a scale. Yet men have killed themselves in the service of God by going to seed on their “pet peeves” or on some particular doctrine to the neglect of others equally important. Every preacher would do well to examine himself and his preaching, regularly and carefully.
“Preachers, too, often show poor judgment in choosing content for farewell sermons.” If a man has not solved the inner problems of the church during his ministry, it is doubtful if he can help the situation by resorting to name calling, sarcasm, and a “really-telling-them-off” attitude in his message the last Sunday. Such a procedure not only casts reflection upon the caliber of the preacher, but often inflicts wounds in a church that requires many years to heal.
Great is the responsibility of the man to whom the proclamation of the glorious gospel of the blessed God has been entrusted. Sometimes by a single betrayal, omission, or a tragic transgression, he can cause great hurt to come to the body of Christ.
The preacher ought always to remember what Christ said to Peter, “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” The evil one would rather sift the preacher of his industry, prayer, zeal, and Christian spirit, than any other man. The motto of every earnest preacher should be that of the great Shepherd who said, “For their sakes I sanctify myself.”