It's hard do try to do the right thing.  There's always an easier way that calls to us like a siren's song causing us to want to justify a different course of action than the one that we know to be the right one.  This is true in all instances where people are given the choice to do the "right" thing or the "easy" thing - no matter what kind of situation or career a person finds himself in - but it is especially true of preachers. Preachers get a weird reputation.  In some places, they are highly respected for their office, serving as a sort of de-facto leader for the community (although not really anyone's friend).  In some places they are treated almost like medicine men from some jungle tribe; as soon as someone finds out she's talking to a preacher, she starts telling him all of her ailments, what kinds of medications she's on, what x-rays have shown - all as if the poor minister went to med school instead of seminary.  But in nearly every place, preachers are thought of as those guys who don't do very much work.  Most people think that their job is a social one, made up of house-calls, hospital visits, and golf with the rich folks in the church.  And, for the most part, there are a lot of preachers who fit that description pretty well.

In fact, that's a pretty successful way to grow a church in today's culture.  If a preacher just spends his time coddling the people in his church who would gripe and complain if he didn't, he can avoid a lot of stress.  If he takes a lot of time out to hobnob with the elites in his church, he can make sure they're always on his side and that they will continue giving to the church's budget.  If he spends all his time with his social calls, he won't have very much time left to prepare a deep and thoughtful message from God's Word, and his people will like him better for it.  "Our preacher isn't very good, but he's short" reads one church sign in our county this week.  "Sermons are like biscuits, they are better with shortening" read another one near my old house in Louisville, Kentucky.  Folks who don't care much for the Bible don't want to hear about it for very long, and therefore, the preacher who takes the easy way out can actually be encouraged by a positive response from his work.

The problem is that this wasn't what Christ's ministers were commanded to do.  When you look at what God expects out of those who are His spokesmen, you see that He commands them to "Feed my sheep" (John 21:17).  He tells them to "Preach the Word" (2 Timothy 4:2).  In Acts 6, the apostles couldn't even bother serving tables for a few minutes each day because they were so busy in "prayer and the ministry of the Word" (Acts 6:4).  This is far different from what many preachers are spending their time on today.  And for good reason: preaching the Word gets a preacher in trouble.

A pastor will never hear as many complaints from his congregation as when he really tries to feed them from the Word.  "I don't want to be taught!" says one.  "We want to hear salvation sermons!" say some others.  "This is too far over our heads!  You're not preaching with enough passion!"  This whole attitude, which is just a part of the fallen human nature, has been further agitated by sometimes years of preaching from those who have taken the easy (read: disobedient) way out.  And so, the preacher who tries to do as he has been commanded will often experience a lack of success.  He gets complaints from every side.  He sees the attendence numbers drop as some run off to seek entertainment elsewhere.  It can be quite depressing.

But the Bible is on the side of the faithful preacher.  Everywhere you turn in Scripture you find the same song sung about the woes of the faithful spokesman of God.  Nowhere do you find the tales of the glittering social butterfly who is welcomed by all his hearers except in the stories about false prophets.  So for those who might sometimes feel like the negative pressure is a sign that they are doing something wrong, I will leave us with the words of God, spoken to the prophet Jeremiah:

If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth.  They shall turn to you, but you shall not turn to them.  And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you to save and deliver you, declares Yahweh. (Jeremiah 15:19-20)