|Volume 19 Number 7 July 2017||
Brian R. Kenyon
New Testament writers predicted that some would depart from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1-3). One needs only to look at the contemporary religious world to know that these predictions stand true. Thus, everyone must examine his or her life and beliefs to be sure that he or she is in harmony with God’s Word (2 Corinthians 13:5). As one considers the scriptural role of a preacher, it is easy to form non-biblical views based upon denominational errors, the portrayal of “preachers” in Hollywood or the expectations of an unlearned and selfish society. The Bible, however, gives distinct roles for Gospel preachers. (See First and Second Timothy and Titus.) Any concept of the role of a preacher that does not harmonize with the Bible is a misconception. Some of the more common misconceptions that this writer has observed are examined below.
The Preacher Is Not the “Pastor”
One common misconception about the preacher is that he is “the pastor.” This largely comes from the erroneous doctrines of many denominational churches. The term “pastor” (translated from the Greek word poimen) is in the Bible (Ephesians 4:11), but it is often misapplied. This Greek word occurs eighteen times in the Greek text from which the KJV is translated (Matthew 9:36; 25:32; 26:31; Mark 6:34; 14:27; Luke 2:8, 15, 18, 20; John 10:2, 11 [twice], 12, 14, 16; Ephesians 4:11; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25). The word is usually translated “shepherd,” and it never refers to the role of a preacher. In Ephesians 4:11 (the only place “pastors” is found), preachers are the “evangelists” and elders are the “pastors.”
The verb form poimaino occurs eleven times (Matthew 2:6; Luke 17:7; John 21:16; Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 9:7; 1 Peter 5:2; Jude 12; Revelation 2:27; 7:17; 12:5; 19:15). This word is always translated in the KJV by some form of the English verb “feed” or “rule.” This word is used twice to describe the work of elders (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2), but is nowhere used to describe the role of a preacher.
Some may think that because Peter was told by Christ to “feed [“tend,” NKJ; “shepherd,” NAS] my sheep” (John 21:16) that the preacher has authority to “shepherd” the flock. While it is true that a form of the verb poimaino is used in this command, it must be remembered that Peter held a position that was unlike any preacher today. Peter was also an apostle. He was given the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19), and along with the other apostles, he was told, “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19; 18:18). Peter was also an elder (1 Peter 5:1). The fact of the matter is that elders, not preachers, are the ones who are responsible for “shepherding” the flock. However, even in denominational circles, people do not know the scriptural role of elders. Contemplating the denominational idea of “the pastor” brings up a second common misconception about the role of a preacher among some members of the church.
The Preacher Is Not the
Some people commonly mistake the role of the preacher to be that of the “head-honcho-in-charge.” People consider the church to be “his church” and consider his word to be the final say. These “preachers” can be heard saying, “My members…” or “I have a brother who…” The true church of Christ, however, has no earthly head. Jesus is the one and only Head of the church (Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18). No preacher, no elder, no deacon, no member, no man and no woman has the right or the place to be head of the church. Although some people act as though they are the head of the church (cf., Diotrephes in 3 John 9), that position belongs only to Deity! The Bible reveals how the church is to function (cf., 1 Corinthians 14:37; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3).
One can read about the organization of the church within Christ’s divine doctrine. In His superior wisdom, Christ authorized a plurality of elders to oversee the proper functioning of a local body of Christ (Philippians 1:1; 1 Peter 5:2). These men are to meet God-given qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9), and they have no authority to change God’s revealed will. In His wisdom, Christ authorized special servants called “deacons” (Philippians 1:1). These men must also meet God-given qualifications (1 Timothy 3:8-13), and their task is to work in conjunction with the elders in whatever capacity is deemed expedient to help the church function better (cf., Acts 6:1-7). In His wisdom, Christ authorized the role of the preacher or evangelist. These men also must meet God-given qualifications (1 Timothy 4:12-13, 15-16; 5:22; 2 Timothy 2:15, 22; Titus 2:7-8), and their work focuses upon teaching, preaching and evangelizing (1 Timothy 4:6; 2 Timothy 2:2; 4:1-5; Titus 2:1-6). The preacher is not given the responsibility to “run” the church. No single man on earth is given that responsibility. In His wisdom, Christ made every member of His body important to the proper functioning of the whole (1 Corinthians 12:13-31). Every person added to the church is important, and every person has a role to fulfill! However, a misunderstanding of the responsibilities about every member of the church of Christ leads to other misconceptions about the role of a preacher.
The Preacher Is Not the
“Official Visitor” of the Church
Some people commonly mistake the role of a preacher to be the “official visitor” or “tab keeper” of every member of a congregation. While it is true that many local preachers usually have more of an opportunity to visit members than the average member of the local church, this does not mean that others have no responsibility in this area. The fact is that all Christians, whether preachers, elders, deacons, husbands, wives, singles, etc., are responsible for visiting the sick and other members in need (Matthew 25:34-46; James 1:27). While it is true that a preacher is his “brother’s keeper,” like every other Christian should be, it is extremely difficult (if not impossible) for one person to keep up with all of the needs and all of the concerns of every member of a congregation. That is the reason why every member is important and needs to be involved in the work of the church (Ephesians 4:15-16).
It is not wrong to look to the preacher for an example in visiting, because he should be a good example (Romans 2:21-23; 1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Timothy 4:12). However, it is wrong and detrimental to the growth of the local church to expect a preacher to do the work of the elders, the deacons and every member of the church. Remember, each member is important to the proper functioning of the body (1 Corinthians 12:13-31). Every person added to the church is important, and every person has a role to fulfill!
The Preacher Is Not (Necessarily)
a Lazy Man Who Cannot
Find a Job Anywhere Else
Some people think that preaching is a “piece of cake” job in which the preacher gets paid for only four hours of work (one hour each for Sunday morning Bible class, morning sermon, evening sermon and Wednesday night Bible study). Sadly, some preachers (in the States and overseas) are lazy. However, when a preacher is truly doing the “work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5), he cannot be lazy. If preaching is such a “cushy” job, then why are not our preaching schools overflowing with students? Instead, some of the few who do attend schools of preaching drop out because the demands are so high. Studying is hard work (2 Timothy 2:15). Preaching and teaching is easy compared to the time and the energy it takes to study. If the reader does not think this is so, then why is it so hard to find Bible class teachers? Why do not more members fill-in for the preacher when he is gone?
Not only must a preacher prepare for lessons, he is also on “twenty-four hour call.” At any moment he may be called upon to conduct a funeral. He may be involved in one-on-one Bible studies in the evening or counseling a couple who plan on marrying. When others talk about going home after work to relax, watch their favorite TV show, go to the ball game or go fishing, the conscientious preacher realizes he still has work to do. Often he has to sacrifice these times of leisure. Does this mean he is bitter and angry? Absolutely not! The conscientious preacher loves what he does no matter what the cost or the inconvenience because he serves the Master and knows that from Him his reward will be worth it all (2 Timothy 4:6-8; Matthew 6:19-21).
There are other misconceptions about the role of a preacher that could be mentioned, but which will not be addressed in this article. These have been given to help us realize the importance that God has placed upon each member in the local church to do his or her part. The human body functions at its best when every member is healthy and involved. The spiritual body of Christ’s church is no exception. When each member fulfills his or her God-given role, the church will grow (Acts 6:7). Until then, growth, at best, will be minimal. May the Lord help every one of us to recognize, appreciate and fulfill his or her role in the church of Christ!