This article is intended to show what preaching the Gospel is all about. Today, it seems, that some who enter the ministry pursue it as some sort of religious professional career with fringe benefits such as a 401-K Plan/Pension Annuity plan, Life Insurance, travel reimbursement, housing ['parsonage'] allowance, vacation benefits, college tuition for children in some cases; having stock options, royalties from book deals or sermons recorded on CD's, and other amenities or perks; much like entertainment celebrities or Executives of FORTUNE 500 Companies.
Of course this rather extreme example pertains to just a few preachers of Mega-Churches attended by members who are affluent, college-educated professionals and business owners, mostly living in the residential communities of suburban America. Even among those who appear on the surface to be dedicated soldiers of the cross, and who do not fall into this category, nonetheless fail to grasp or even emulate the sacrifice like the ones who first held aloft the bloodstained banner of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ the Nazarene.
How many of the clergy, ministers of the Word of God have so upset people that they were brought before the Courts, denied certain legal protections guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States, abused while in custody or during interrogation, and sentenced to prison; all for preaching the Gospel? How has the "Good News" reached the ears, hearts, and minds of those who live in the communities and cities rampant with gang activity, violence, poverty, illiteracy, prostitution, drugs, despair, hopelessness, and a shrinking or almost non-existent economic base; what will the words of Jesus or the grace of God mean to them?
In most Christian Church services there is way too much preaching to the choir (those who believe the way we do) and when there is a response to the Gospel invocation, in a few instances it may only be superficial and not a real deep commitment to living for God (Cp. Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23).
Many of those who preach do not want to face the challenges of struggle, deprivation, pain, isolation, anxiety even questioning the role of God in their lives as some of the greatest saints who ever lived have had to struggle with. These spoiled ecclesiastical clouds without moisture want to enjoy all the comforts of an affluent society and would not consent to living among those and proclaiming the message of salvation in the most impoverished towns on earth; but they eagerly bestow their blessings on others (missionaries) who feel guided by God to do so. How many applications have been filed for passports and travel visas to live in the most remote communities on planet earth by those of the true 'Faith'?
Here are some examples of sacrifice in the Church's beginning:
Acts 4: 1-3
Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day.
5: 17-18, 33, 40
Then the high priests rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them. When they had called the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.
14: 5, 19b
And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers to abuse and stone them. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.
Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
18: 12, 17
When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat. Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. But Gallio took no notice of these things.
24: 1-2a, 5
Now after five days Ananias the high priest came down with the elders and a certain orator named Tertullus. These gave evidence ['discovery'??] to the governor against Paul. And when he was called upon, Tertullus began his accusation ['prosecutorial argumentation'??]
II Corinthians 1: 3-4a, 8-9a
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation (comfort) also abounds through Christ. For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia; that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves.
II Corinthians 7: 4b-5
For I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation. For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears.
Hebrews 10: 34a
For you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plunder of your goods.
13: 3, 23
Remember the prisoners as if chained with them-those who are mistreated-since you yourselves are also in the body. Know that our brother Timothy has been set free
[from 'prison'??], with whom I shall see you if he comes shortly.
In numerous instances the New Testament Gospels as well as the Epistles mention about being brought before the rulers (both secular and religious), as well as betrayal by those within your own family, beatings, mistreatment in the local community or foreign lands, as well as imprisonment. The one thing that stands out in Paul's letters is the mention of being a 'prisoner.'
Today's Christian Church talks about a "Prison Ministry" to bring the 'Good News' to felons who committed a civil crime against society based upon the Criminal Law Code, but in the First Century, the Christians were subjected to the cruelty of the ancient penal system simply because of their testimony and witness to the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. How many members of the clergy can boast and glory in the Lord that they were arrested and incarcerated for the same?
I Corinthians 4: 11-13
To the present hour we both hunger and thirst and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless, being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the off-scouring of all things until now.
I Corinthians 2: 4a
And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom. . .
II Corinthians 4: 1-2a, 5
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy we faint not. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus sake.
A final thought is summed up in II Corinthians 6: 3-5:
We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed ['ineffective'??]. But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God; in much patience (endurance), in tribulations, in needs ['deprivation'??], in distress, in stripes [beatings], in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, [and] in fasting [and 'prayer'??]
Also, let it not be said about the clergy as in Micah 3: 11a
Her priests teach for pay, and her prophets divine for money.
Lastly, it states in I Corinthians 4: 1-2, "Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.
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