Can a Preacher Learn from Jesus? - 1911

[Please note, this document was not originally created by a member of The Truth fellowship, but is in circulation among the fellowship. - Truth Archivist]

At a preacher's conference held in Linroping, Sweden, in January 1911, the above question was put forth for discussion.

After the preliminary remarks were put forth, a spirited preacher stood up and asked for a word. "Honorable Father, and Brethren, I can honestly confess that it is a risky thing to discuss this subject, but will try to prove the saying which Jesus spoke to His Disciples:  "If any man serve Me, let him follow Me and where I am, there shall also My servant be" (John 12:26). But for us, as preachers, it can not be possible to follow Jesus, as we are bound down by the statues of the church.

"Our Lord and Christ did not become a public teacher until He was thirty, but our preachers are ordained even in their youth, to be leaders and teachers of others. None are following after this example. Jesus was never ordained to be a preacher by either a worldly or church power and He never sought for a pulpit, not even a Levical service in the Temple. Had He lived in our time, He would not have been able to preach in any pulpit without being ordained or without a letter of recommendation. He would not have been able to preach in a mission house.

"He never preached as one sent by men, and never had a church's authority, but we look upon all who preach without being called of men and having their authority, to be deluded and pushing themselves into a work that does not belong to them, and as such they should be forbidden.

"Christ never had a priestly array of robe. This is all copied from the heathen - an imitation from the old Egyptian, Chaldean and Roman Priests - costly array. Furthermore I call attention to the fact that our Saviour never had altar service, which is wholly and fully a fine imitation of the heathendom. He never commanded men to build churches for the worship of the Almighty, but on the contrary, He said to the Samaritan woman, 'Woman, believe Me the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet in Jerusalem worship the Father, but the hour cometh and NOW is when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Farther seeketh such to worship Him' (John 4:21-23) He also said that He Himself was then the temple:  'The Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands but in the hearts of men and women.'

"He never used the ringing of bells or tried to charm the people by music of organ, nor had around Him any Salvation Army with the music of all kinds to draw attention to Him. All these are later inventions used as substitute for empty and spiritless sermons that are given to the congregation. Furthermore, we learn that Jesus never wrote His sermons or used other written ones, nor did He use any prayer book with written prayers. Of course, I could not find fault with this as it is so much easier to use already made prayers. Otherwise, we might be in danger of not knowing how to do and act. Jesus never bothered with religious ceremonies as we are commanded to do. It is even said that He never baptized anyone, (John 4:12), and when one of His Disciples asked to go and bury his father, He answered, 'Follow Me, and let the dead bury their dead.' (Matthew 8:22)  He never asked any preachers to administer at His funeral nor did the Apostles ask for this either and yet today, he who dares to live and be buried like Jesus is looked upon more as a heathen.

"Think of what perverse conditions:  We are preachers and always using heathen customs to make people believe that this is Christianity. Yea, we go as far in this deception that we dedicate, anoint, and baptize churches, bells, graveyards that ought to be free from such witchcraft.

"Jesus went into towns and villages preaching. He even preached on the mountains, in orchards, and fishing boats and healed the sick and fed the hungry by the thousands, but one cannot expect that we can do the same. There is not a minister in the land that would make up his mind to follow Jesus' pattern and example this way. If he did, he would be the laughing stock of the whole country. Our Saviour left those who would not hear Him, but we cannot leave our call and congregation that will not hear us. When the people said, 'Leave our coasts,' He did go. (Matthew 8:34), but we must stay when we are even if no one will hear us. Jesus did not seek to please men. He called Israel's honorable scribes and lawyers 'Generation of Vipers' and 'Whited Sepulchers' and King Herod, He called a 'Fox.'

"He would not be chosen as a Chaplain to the king, nor to talk at the opening of the Parliament. I would ask who amongst us would dare to condemn the rich and say, 'Woe unto them' like Christ did? We must honor the king and obey men, rather than God. We are demanded to read prayers, both before and after preaching, but may I ask what prayer it was that Jesus read on such occasions? He mostly prayed alone and in the quiet and advised others to do the same and denounced those who prayed much in public as hypocrites. We have surely turned upside down all the teachings of Christ and yet call ourselves the Servants of Christ. Jesus had no where to lay His head. We have comfortable homes and in our manner of life, we are more like Caiphas and Pilate than the lowly Nazarene. He condemned and sent His Disciples out without purses and script. We rather look for a great pulpit with large salaries. Christ and His Disciples were supported by free-will offerings but none of us would preach under these conditions. We receive no free-will offerings but our churches are compelled to pay the preacher by law and therefore we can not ask God to bless the bread we demand against the commandment of Jesus.

"We teach others to be God-fearing and content with wealth enough but in spite of all this we would desire something more sure and are not satisfied with the fear of God. We say to our congregation, 'What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, but lose his own soul?'  But, if we could get all our fellowmen's property, we would think not our soul to be hurt, Jesus said, 'If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed you shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place and it shall remove, and nothing shall be impossible unto you.' (Matthew 17:20) It looks like we have no faith at all, as there are many things impossible for us.

"Jesus said, 'He who believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; greater works than these shall he do' (John 14: 12-14), but we could not do as He did, live without a salary, much less do greater works. As a consequence, we must lack the faith He had and taught, and as we falsely boast of having. Possibly, (we call ourselves the Servants of Jesus. But it is not true, as He was neither a hypocrite nor a liar, and I think it a dangerous thing to say, that our Saviour is our pattern when rather Judas, the betrayer is more like our example.) we are not the followers of Jesus, either.

"When our Saviour at a certain time was in need of money, He fished it up from the sea, but our preachers get it from the Mission Funds and etc., when they are in need. For us, then, Jesus is no pattern, either in life or in teaching, and we would get badly off, if we should try to follow His example; nay, we ministers have bound ourselves with an oath to serve the 'god of this world' and must quieten the voice of our conscience."

After this speech, there was a long and solemn silence amongst the delegates in the meeting. At last, one of the honorable Fathers rose and said, "I don't know whether I shall look upon our fellow minister's words as a joke or as a mock or a scoff which, when it comes to these serious questions are altogether out of place and not fit for a minister to ask, in such words, in such a meeting where both the public and the press are, with eyes and ears open to know what is said and done. I suggest that the question be put away and no more of our precious time taken up, and that the discussion be put away as unanswered."

An interested layman then asked for a word and said: "I have in the speaker's words found nothing but truth, and if the present day religion is found contrasting with the life and teaching of Jesus, it should not be looked upon as a mock or a scoff. If someone put forth his opinions and a comparison and thereby proves that our religion is not what it claims to be and that the name of Christianity is just a fool's mark - for my own part, I am now convinced that what is said to be a mock and a scoff and scorn, is so much truth that it cannot be proved otherwise and hence we can understand the preacher's unwillingness and fear to meet others in a public discussion on this subject.

"A blasphemy that is worse than any others is to call Jesus 'Lord' and not to do what He commands, and it is humbug greater, far greater, than all others to call ourselves Christians, but not follow Christ. I thank you for the word."