Jealous Preachers

Paul Levy

Whilst reading Rick Phillips' 'Masculine Mandate' (which  by the way has the greatest study question I've ever seen on page 158 'Why can't dogs really be man's best friend?') I found a very helpful illustration from the life of the Baptist FB Meyer:


''God called him to serve in London at the same time as Charles Haddon Spurgeon, arguably the greatest preacher who ever lived. So, despite his ability and hard work, Meyer would stand outside his church and watch the carriages flow by to Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle. Later in his life, it happened again, as G. Campbell Morgan eclipsed Meyer's success. When they spoke together at conferences, vast crowds listened to Morgan, then left when Meyer was to preach. Convicted over his bitter spirit, Meyer committed himself to pray for Morgan, reasoning that the Holy Spirit would not allow him to envy a man for whom he prayed. He was right. God enabled Meyer to rejoice in Morgan's preaching. People heard him saying: ''Have you heard Campbell Morgan preach? Did you hear that message this morning? My, God is upon that man!''


I tried to check the source of this and it seems to have come from one of Meyer's obituaries. WY Fullerton in his Hagiographical biography mentions it in passing, how the writers of those obituaries should have 'brushed this incident aside as the foible of a heart delicately poised'. However, I disagree and think it's an insight into the preacher's heart.


In our honest moments I expect nearly all of us would be willing to admit we struggle with jealousy. It is a huge issue particularly amongst us preachers and yet it's rarely talked about. So much of the decrying of others ministries and us splitting into camps has jealousy at its root.  It is very difficult to handle others' great success while we are plodding along and not seeing much visible fruit for our labours.


There are false teaching monsters out there, and they, like Hymenaeus and Philetus should be publicly named and shamed. There are those that preach a 'this worldly' gospel and we need to warn folk about them. There are those who are slightly off beam that need an arm around the shoulder and a kick in the shins.  Correcting, rebuking and admonishing is part of ministry life but the difficulty comes with our hearts being so deceptive that we think we are standing for the truth, when in reality we just don't like the other person and are slightly peeved they've been more ''successful'' than we have.


It can happen in a local congregation too. Mark Ashton wrote about employing and appointing  people more gifted than we are, allowing the gifts of others to flourish. This demands humility and generosity of spirit and I think the only way we can get there is by praying for these brothers. I am more and more convinced that the writers of the Westminster Catechism were right in saying that prayer is a means of grace - we receive grace and mercy as we come to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:14-16)


If we're struggling with jealousy, and I suspect most of us in ministry are in some form, whether it's in our own congregation or the church that is thriving down the road, first of all we need to admit it and then pray for the people we're jealous of.