How Can They Preach Except They Be Sent?

As the scripture says, “Everyone who calls out to the Lord for help will be saved.” But how can they call to him for help if they have not believed? And how can they hear if they have not heard the message? And how can they hear if the message is not proclaimed? And how can the message be proclaimed if the messengers are not sent out?

–Romans 10:13-15 (tev)

Where our Good News Bible says Messenger, the old King James Version, and a lot of other versions, uses the word Preacher. A Proclaimer, if you will. Kerooso is the word in Greek. And that’s just one aspect of ministry, or diaconos. But here, in a letter to church congregations in Rome, Paul is talking about an assigned Preacher. When he says they must be sent, he is not saying you should run the preachers out of town to spread the word.

It’s a good summary of the conversion process:

How can they call ON the Lord for help, he writes, unless they believe IN the Lord? And how can they believe IN him unless they hear OF him. In other words, you can’t believe in the Lord unless you have some information. And you might have to say everything, two or three times, before you trip the switch that turns a seeker into a believer.

OK, so we’re trackin, right? Can’t believe if you don’t know. Can’t know if no one tells you. Now, Paul says, you got to have SOMEONE doin the tellin! He calls that a Preacher, or a Proclaimer, or a Messenger.

And how shall they preach, except they be sent?

Do you ever feel like talkin back to your Bible? I do. I want to say, well, Paul, he or she can just up and start tellin! What’s the big deal? How shall he preach? On a soapbox, I guess.

Sent. Which came first, the Preacher or the Sender? Does that mean we have to send them out of town before they can call themselves Preachers? I don’t think so. We should look closely at this word “Sent”, because here it loses something in the translation, and that includes every translation I can find.

You might have heard that our New Testament Bible was originally written in Greek. The Greek language has more than one verb that we translate as “Send”. For instance, there’s the word PEM-po, which means to dispatch, as in dispatching an employee to run an errand. It carries the strong sense of moving from one place to another.

That’s the word Matthew and others use to say that Herod SENT the Wise Men to Bethlehem to find the Messiah. That word is PEM-po, which we translate as “SEND”.

But in the letter to the Romans, in today’s scripture, the verb is not PEM-po. Here, When Paul says, how shall they preach, except they be SENT?, he uses the word apostello.

It’s a verb form of the word Apostollo, or Apostle. The word comes from two words, one apo, which usually denotes separation or completion. Our word apart comes from the Greek Apo. The second half, stello, means to strengthen, or set fast. And how can they Proclaim the Good News if they aren’t Apostello, or set apart for strengthening?

So how can they preach unless they are set apart for strengthening?

If you want to see what “set apart” means, look at Paul’s letters to Timothy. Now Timothy was a young gentile who was raised by a godly mother and grandmother, and Paul had left him in charge of a church.

The letters tell Timothy how to select leaders, how to care for widows, how to work with his elders — lots of practical stuff. But woven through all that is an instruction of how Timothy is to see and live his very life as a Minister.

That first letter told Timothy to live as an example to others, quote: “In your speach, your conduct, your love, faith, and purity.”

This is where it says “The love of money is the root of all evil,” and Paul tells Timothy just forget about making much money as a minister.

Now, Paul was a full-time evangelist, but that isn’t how he made all his money. The book of Acts says he was a tentmaker, and he would settle in with the tentmakers of a region to earn money for the next journey to spread the Gospel. His letters to Timothy were written from prison. So even though Paul was a lay preacher, I think he was advising Timothy on a full-time position. He clearly wanted Timothy to study, pray, minister, teach, administer the church and study some more. Sounds like a full time job to me.

And in the second letter, he goes even further. Look in your pew bibles on page 288. Second Timothy 2. Start with verse 3. “Take your part in suffering, as a loyal soldier of Christ Jesus. A soldier on active duty wants to please his commanding officer, and so he does not get mixed up in the affairs of civilian life.” And the rest is like that, too. Work. Suffering. Striving. Focus.

These are letters to a preacher, and they are not like Paul’s letter to the congregations. Paul’s letter to the Romans was not to a preacher, but to a whole congregation, or maybe more than one.

“How shall they preach, except they be sent?” Or, set apart? Paul’s letter to Timothy tells him to set himself apart for the work of God. His letter to the congregations in Rome encourages them to set people apart for the task.

You have the power to set people apart for the ministry. It might be no news for you to hear that our church faces a Preacher shortage. Did someone say hallelula? Don’t say that. Let’s make that, a Minister shortage.

I have sermon notes that I wrote more than 10 years ago. I just knew that some day a church would call on me to give a sermon. That finally happened here, in February 2001.

So as soon as I knew that I could be a preacher, really about 10 years ago, I could have started preaching on the street corner. but this preaching stuff is ominous business. Few people dare to do it without a sign from God, and the most convincing sign from God is someone who actually wants to hear you. So this congregation and brother Jim sent me from the back pew to the pulpit. And how shall they preach, except they be sent?

Now some of you remember God’s timing in all this. There was a lot going on in the Church when I got started.

Thank God, I had time for fill-in services, a lot of hospital visits, and a couple of funerals. But I was able to help, and God is good.

When the rush ended, so did my free time. For a season, I’m spending a lot more time making tents than studying the scripture. I always thought the price of being a Minister was just too high, like a vow of poverty. But sometimes I wonder if the cost of another path hasn’t been even higher. How can they preach, except they be sent?

Looking forward, our denomination will shortly experience a shortage of ministers. The Christian Church ministry is not the most lucrative career choice you could make.

But I remember every Minister I ever had — Tucker, Coppette, Sharpe, Cosper, Smith, McGee, Turner, Frierking, Speakman, Sempsrott, Tobey, Burton . . . I remember every one of them. Some were full-time and some were part-time, but they were all on call 24 hours a day.

Our youth group is raising funds to try a mission trip. If we help them with that funding, we are sending them out. Maybe one or more of them hears the call of God to be a minister. If we help that one along, we are sending out a preacher. And if we do that, we may be saving souls.

How shall they believe when they have not heard? …

And, how shall they preach, except they be sent?

Tropical Sands Christian Church – October 14, 2001

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About Joel Tucker

Joel Tucker is senior pastor at Tropical Sands Christian Church. He served as associate pastor five years and became senior pastor in 2006. Currently, he also serves as moderator of the Southern District, Florida Region. He holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism from Auburn University. He enters ministry after 20 years in corporate communications and five years of computer programming. In worship, he plays sax, bass, uke, squeezebox and bass fiddle. He was ordained by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) on June 25, 2017.
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