So far we have looked at the qualifications, responsibilities and selection process for elders and deacons. In this chapter we will look at the role of the preacher, sometimes referred to as evangelist or minister.
In an article that appeared in the Christian Chronicle, Dr. Bill Jones described some of the different roles or models that preachers have taken on throughout the years.
The classic "pulpit" preacher, who "preached" whenever he taught a class, did counseling or whatever. Congregational life revolved around the pulpit and the pulpit preacher.
Congregations became aware of the great need for education and began developing educational programs. Preachers became teachers and when they preached, they also explained and taught.
The preacher becomes like the director of the YMCA, making sure everyone is involved and busy. Pulpits become a tool for promoting activities and involvement with some teaching.
The 1960's brought an awareness of the need for social change and improvements. The preacher becomes the focal point for addressing the ills of society and motivation for the solution of the "big" problems in society (i.e. African American preachers became activists).
Reaching the un-churched becomes a big thing in the eighties and nineties. Church growth seminars and experts abound, and preachers become "goal setters" and "program managers."
Ask the preacher! More battles between churches ensue because preachers shape doctrine and lead the fight to have their views imposed on others.
I could add to this list the preacher as a pastor or elder with responsibilities for counseling, shepherding and defending the faith.
There is an element of faith in each of these roles because preachers are involved, to a certain degree, in every one of these areas. But like elders and deacons, the Bible should determine who and what a preacher is and does rather than tradition or human invention.
There are several terms that refer to the preacher.
The Old Testament used this word, and it meant to serve in any capacity, but especially service in the area of worship.
The New Testament used this word in the same way but it became the term for someone who served in a particular capacity in the church.
But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you.
- Ephesians 6:21
Today it is used to refer to someone who usually serves the church in a paid role.
The Old Testament usage came from a word that originally meant to gather together as an assembly; then the word developed to refer to the one who actually called the groups together. Eventually this word referred to the one who spoke or the speech given at the assembly.
The New Testament word refers to one who proclaims the message of the gospel.
Today, the term preacher refers to the one who gives the sermon on Sunday.
This is a New Testament word not found in the Old Testament. It is made up of two words, "good" and "to announce." It means one who announces good news or who proclaims the gospel. It is also another word used to refer to the preacher.
Today, the term sometimes applies to one who does gospel meetings, and is not involved in local work.
Suffice to say that all these terms refer to the preacher:
- Minister - referring to him as one who serves the Lord and His people.
- Preacher - referring to the kind of ministry he performs as opposed to elders and deacons.
- Evangelist - referring to the tool of his ministry, and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news of salvation.
Unlike elders and deacons there are no neat passages that list the qualifications of preachers, and so we need to examine the preachers themselves in the New Testament to help us determine their role and qualifications.
In the beginning the Apostles fulfilled all the roles of elders, deacons and preachers. With time they developed men who would carry on these tasks as individuals.
Elders and deacons have lists of qualifications to guide us; preachers have models. In the New Testament we have many who did this work:
- The unknown brethren who scattered from Jerusalem and went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4).
- Philip who began as a deacon and then developed into preaching. He performed signs (Acts 8:12-17); preached in many places to many people (Acts 8:26); was married with children (Acts 21:9).
- Barnabas who travelled and preached with Paul on his first missionary journey (Acts 13:1).
- Timothy who Paul discipled and trained for the ministry (Acts 16:2).
- Titus who was trained by Paul as well (Titus 1:1).
- Apollos who was converted by Acquilla and Pricilla but did great work in developing the faith and strengthening the church (Acts 18:28; I Corinthians 3:6).
- Then there are the other preachers referred to or named in Paul's letters for whom we have no details.
When we do examine the models, we see a diversity of men: young (Timothy) and older (Barnabas), married and single, well educated (Apollos) and trained through discipleship and tutoring (Titus). All were preachers and shared some common experiences
They felt called
In the Old Testament the calling of God was done in special ways through signs and wonders of God's appearance (Moses and Isaiah). In the times of Jesus and the Apostles a call to ministry was still done with a sign (like Paul being blinded and the Lord speaking to him) or through the reception of special gifts, but there were still ordinary ways men were "called" into the ministry:
- Philip was chosen by the church as a deacon and developed into a preacher.
- Barnabas, moved to generosity by the need of the church, was then selected to help the church in Antioch, and this eventually led to his choice to go on a mission journey.
- Timothy and Titus both chosen and trained in the ministry by Paul.
- Apollos encouraged by Paul to strengthen the church at Corinth.
Each had obeyed the gospel and was serving in some way when they were called to serve through the ministry of the word.
There is very little that these men shared in common other than the fact that they felt "called" to go into preaching and were encouraged in their desire by someone in the church. From what I see in the New Testament, as well as my own experience and that of others, there comes a need to do this that will not be satisfied by something else. This desire is then followed by the encouragement of a teacher, parent, preacher, elder, etc.
The way they were trained
In each case there was a period of formal and informal training.
- Philip served as a deacon.
- Barnabas worked with Paul and different churches before going out on a missionary journey.
- Timothy and Titus were trained by Paul.
- Apollos had formal training in Alexandria, and was taught more fully by Aquila and Pricilla.
Each spent time in some way developing their faith and their skills.
Today we have Bible schools and Christian universities but we should be aware that the local congregation is still the best place to train preachers.
They were commended
The preachers in the New Testament were commended by Apostles or elders:
- Philip by the Apostles (Acts 6).
- Barnabas by the prophets and teachers (Acts 13).
- Timothy by Paul and the elders (I Timothy 4:14).
- Titus by Paul (Titus).
- Apollos by Paul (I Corinthians 3:5).
The call to preach is followed by training in the Word. The trainee's work should then be confirmed by church leadership. (The fact that this man has a call and is competent in the Word). This needs to be done in order to legitimize the call and the training.
Some think that just wanting to preach is enough, or going to college is enough, or somebody giving you a job is enough, but being a preacher involves a process that includes the three elements mentioned: calling, training and confirming in the ministry. I might add that a preacher remains qualified so long as his life and doctrine remain pure.
The Work of a Preacher
The work of the preacher falls into these broad categories:
Preach the gospel
preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
- II Timothy 4:2
This is the responsibility for proclaiming the word of God to the world. The methods and audience changes from culture and time but the objective remains the same: bringing human beings face to face with the message of the gospel.
Filmstrips, personal work, TV evangelism, pulpit preaching, missions, books, videos, radio, internet; each preacher has a variety of ways and abilities to reach out to as many as possible with God's word. This is his primary work, and we do the church harm when we do not provide the time and resources to do this.
Set the church in order
For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you,
- Titus 1:5
The reason Titus had to appoint elders is because in New Testament times the elders were the main teachers, leaders and ministers, and it was necessary to select and appoint them because this is what the church needed to grow.
In many churches elders serve as a kind of supervisory board overseeing the work of the evangelist. This system is out of balance and not according to the New Testament. (One reason why churches do not grow.) The preacher's job is to establish and organize the church according to the New Testament pattern so that elders can elder, deacons can deacon and preachers can preach.
Minister the word
But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.
- Titus 2:1
Paul's instructions to both Timothy and Titus include information that help these preachers minister to the spiritual needs of the brethren. Whether it be in the form of teaching, encouragement, rebuke, correction, the work of the preacher is to help the congregation accurately apply God's word to every situation in their lives. The key to the success of the preacher's work is the response of the congregation:
The church needs to respond to the call to share the gospel and support its preaching through financial giving and involvement.
The church needs to agree that it will submit to the word, not the preacher, insofar as the way it should function is concerned.
A submissive church responds to the message of the preacher when called upon to repent, give, grow, share, rise up, etc.
The establishment or restoration of a New Testament church begins with the proper calling, training, ordination and work of a New Testament preacher. No preacher, no growth.