Being the curious sort, I often read the classifieds in the Christian Chronicle, a wonderful news paper filled with news of interest to church of Christ people. Each issue will have ads where local churches are trying to hire preachers. It is not uncommon for the job requirements to include that the candidate be married, that he has graduated from a “brotherhood school”, or has earned a four-year degree.
One of the most interesting requirements is that he be “sound”. What does that mean? “Sound” is one of those words with many, many meanings but in the context of describing a preacher one or more of the word’s use as an adjective would apply. Which of these do you suppose churches intend when they advertise they want a “sound” man?
3. competent, sensible, or valid: sound judgment.
4. having no defect as to truth, justice, wisdom, or reason: sound advice.
5. of substantial or enduring character: sound moral values.
6. following in a systematic pattern without any apparent defect in logic: sound reasoning.
7. uninterrupted and untroubled; deep: sound sleep.
8. vigorous, thorough, or severe: a sound thrashing.
9. free from moral defect or weakness; upright, honest, or good; honorable; loyal.
10. having no legal defect: a sound title to property.
11. theologically correct or orthodox, as doctrines or a theologian.
Several of these could apply but number 11 likely comes closest to what is intended. Or does it?
I think that rather than using the word as an adjective, many of our folks use the word “sound”, when referring to a preacher, as a noun.
The primary criteria is not that he teaches “sound” doctrine. The wish is that he holds forth the traditions that the traditional churches of Christ hold dear.
An example of the subtle difference would be the subject of a capella singing. Does this church want a man who will open the Scriptures and teach what it says, and only what it says on the subject? Or, do they want a man who will perpetuate a myth?
I must ask myself the question, am I a “sound” man? Do I love truth? Do I pursue it? Do I settle for less than the truth? And, much more important than if I have the truth, does the truth have me?
Is my life controlled by the words of Scripture or do I use Scripture to my own ends? Do I pick and choose verses, sometimes out of context, to prop up my pet doctrine? I hope not. I pray that I don’t.
I hope that when we in the churches of Christ use the word “sound” in relation to a preacher or teacher we will sincerely want him to be devoted to the Lordship of Jesus and a sincere seeker of the truth of Scripture, even if it goes against what we hold dear.
I want that kind of “sound” man behind the sacred desk on Sunday.