Many people are pretty proud of the fact that they know the difference between a “pastor” and a “preacher.” However, just because you don’t call your preacher, “pastor,” doesn’t mean you really understand the biblical role of the preacher. Here are a few things we need to understand about the biblical role of the preacher.
1. He is a Spiritual Leader
Sometimes, when we understand the distinction between elders and preachers, we act as if one is a spiritual leader in the church and the other is not. We act as if our elders are leaders, but the preacher is simply a “hired hand.”
Consider the leadership instructions Paul gave to young Timothy and Titus. Obviously, Timothy and Titus were not dictators of congregations, or even “pastors” of congregations, but they were spiritual leaders.
Of course, we must understand that leadership in the church is much different than leadership in the world. In the church, we follow Jesus’ example of leading through serving (John 13). Preachers should not exalt themselves to a position of greater importance in the church (Matthew 23:6-12). In fact, if they want to lead as Jesus did, they must humble themselves and assume a servant’s role. They must NEVER take the attitude, “I can’t do that lowly job. I’m the preacher. Let someone less important do that.”
And we must understand that a title, or a position, does not make anyone a leader. Preachers do not become spiritual leaders simply because they are “preachers.” Leadership is about character and spiritual maturity. Paul sent Timothy and Titus to do the work of evangelists because he knew these men had the necessary qualities to lead people toward godliness.
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
Your preacher is not any more important than you. The work he does is not any more important than the work you do. But understand that he is a leader. Most likely, he is doing his best to help lead you to heaven.
2. He is Not “the Minister”
Often we call our preacher, “the minister.” The word minister means “servant,” so obviously a preacher should be a servant in the congregation, but not “the” servant. Often, we treat preachers as if they are “hired” to do the work no one else in the church has time to do, or the work no one else in the church wants to do.
We need to understand that a preacher does not work “for” a congregation. He works “for” God and he works “with” a congregation. A congregation should not think of the money they pay their preacher like an employer thinks of the money he pays his employees. When an employer hires someone, he does so because his time is worth more to him than the money he pays his employee. “I will give this man $8 an hour to sweep the floors,” the employer says, “because I would rather spend $8 than spend my time sweeping the floors.”
Sometimes we treat preachers like this. We act as if we hire them to do the preaching, evangelism, visitation, etc. that we would rather not do. “I’d rather put money in the collection plate,” we think, “than have to make hospital visits myself.” This is not the way we should think about the financial support we give the preacher.
Biblically, the preacher’s job is not to do the work “for” the congregation, but to equip the congregation to do the work. Instead of being “the” minister, he is supposed to help make everyone into ministers. Consider what Paul said in Ephesians 4:11-12:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
Do you see? Paul said that the role of both evangelists and shepherds is to “equip the saints” (that’s all Christians) “for the work of ministry.”
Your preacher’s job is to equip you, through his teaching and example, to do “the work of ministry.” Obviously, if he is to equip you through his example, he needs to be working. If he is not working hard, he cannot equip others to work hard. But you also need to understand that if you find yourself saying, “Well, that’s not my job. That’s the preacher’s job. That’s why we pay him,” you probably don’t understand the biblical role of the preacher.
3. He is Not the “Pastor”
This may be the hardest of the three points to communicate. You see, many of us do not call our preachers, “pastors.” We understand that the elders of a congregation are actually the shepherds (Acts 20:28). And this is the way it should be. But as much as we understand the distinction in titles, I’m not sure we always understand the distinction in roles.
Who do we call when we’re sick? Do we call the elders, as Scripture instructs (James 5:14), or do we call the preacher? Do we expect him to be the one to do most of the counseling, visiting, restoring, etc. in the congregation? Isn’t it funny that we don’t call our preacher, “pastor,” but we often treat him like that’s his job.
This is not to say, of course, that a preacher shouldn’t visit the sick, counsel, etc. Of course he should. He’s a Christian (all Christians should do these things) and he is a minister in the congregation. But the primary men doing these things should be the elders. Treat your shepherds like shepherds and your preacher like a preacher.
Part of restoring New Testament Christianity is restoring the role of the evangelist. We cannot be content to restore only the name, we must restore the position. As the word “evangelist” implies, his primary duty is to proclaim the Good News. He is a communicator. He communicates the Good News to the lost, so they can be saved; and he communicates the Good News to the saved, so they remember to Whom they belong.
In 2 Timothy 4:2, we see that an evangelist…
- …communicates, not from his own mind, but from the word of God.
- …communicates in season and out of season.
- …communicates reproof, rebuke, and exhortation.
- …communicates with patience and teaching.
Please don’t think you’ve “hired a preacher” so you don’t have to work. After all, part of his job is to equip YOU to be a minister!
I love you and God loves you,