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The Motive For Preaching Post by :PeggyR Category :Essays Author :Lemuel K. Washburn Date :November 2011 Read :1891

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The Motive For Preaching

Why does a man enter the Christian ministry? Why do men preach the Christian faith? There is some reason for doing so. What is it? We have been told that the men who adopt the profession of preaching for a living make a sacrifice of personal advantage by doing so; that these men, had they entered any other profession, could not only more readily achieve greatness, but could also make more money. We do not believe it. As a rule, we believe that the men who are getting a living to-day as ministers, earn more money and enjoy more fame, than they could get in any other business or calling. Ministers are not martyrs. That idea needs to be given up.

There is another idea that people have entertained too long, and that is, that all the young men who graduate from a divinity school are intellectual giants. Brains are not the capital of the pulpit. We gladly acknowledge the exception to what we have stated as a rule, and are not only willing, but anxious, to testify to the occasional brilliant preacher. We are speaking of the overwhelming majority and not of the conspicuous few.

Most men go into the ministry because they think they can get a living more easily by preaching than by doing anything else. The pulpit is founded not on spiritual sands, but on an earthly rock. It is the salary that makes it attractive.

Now, let us look at the facts in the case. The work of the minister is less than the work of the average laborer, and the pay of the preacher is more than the pay of the average mechanic or working-man. Here is the key to the pulpit for a lot of young men. A young man who has a taste for reading and loafing, and no genius for work, sees a chance to employ what talent he possesses by studying theology, and we venture to say that nine out of ten of the candidates for the ministry enter the profession from purely business, or, if you will, mercenary motives. The Lord does not pick out preachers. They pick themselves out.

There is just as much striving for the loaves and fishes among ministers as among other men; and the religious society that pays the largest salary is the vineyard that has the most applications for the job. We do not say that preachers are worse than other professional characters, but that they are human. They preach for money, and where the highest salary is there will the ministers be most anxious to go.

We do not wish to cut anybody’s wings, but when we read that certain new-fledged preachers are about to “work for the Lord,” and that they have “entered upon God’s chosen profession through their love of saving souls,” we want to correct the statements. They are going to work for themselves the best they know how, having entered upon their duties, not so much because they love their fellow-men, as because they love the good things of this world.

The truth is this, the motive for preaching to-day is the pay, and the religion of the pulpit is to say nothing that will cause a panic in the pews.


Man’s history is below his life, his destiny above it.


All that secularists ask is that their thoughts be met fairly and honestly, and that the world accept what will lead it in the highest and surest way.


If a person can join the salvation army corps and still be respected by his fellow-beings, he ought to be at liberty to enlist in the ranks of reason and common sense and not forfeit respect.


God has done nothing for men and women except to scare them out of their wits.

(The end)
Lemuel K. Washburn's essay: Motive For Preaching

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