Truth Between Extremes of Error

Church and Preacher Relationship

Ralph D. Gentry
Dayton, Ohio

The Problem

Perhaps the best way to state the problem is to ask the following questions: In what relationship and with what duties shall a preacher or evangelist labor with a congregation? Under whose oversight must he labor and what control, if any, does he exercise? How long may he remain with a congregation and yet be engaged in the work of an evangelist? May the church employ or hire the services of an evangelist for a specified time at a stipulated wage?

One Extreme

The denominations have inaugurated the "Pastor System". That is, the preacher is the pastor of one or more churches with which he labors and over which he has been delegated the oversight. Hence, he "takes charge of a church" as the one responsible for feeding and shepherding the flock. The following quotation verifies this affirmation: "A pastor is a preacher, who by appointment of the bishop or the district superintendent, is in charge of a station or circuit" (1948 Discipline of The Methodist Church, Sec. III, Art. 351). According to sectarian usage, the term "pastor" is a synonym for a settled preacher.

In some instances these "pastors" are unmarried and as such could not possibly fulfill scriptural qualifications for the office. According to scriptural terminology, "pastor" or "shepherd" and "bishop" refer to the same office or work. The term "pastor" is Latin for "shepherd" and refers to the work of feeding or tending the flock. But this work is accorded by God to the elders or bishops of each congregation (Acts 20:28; I Pet. 5:1-5). A bishop must be a married man (I Tim. 3:1 5)

Other Extreme

In opposition to the pastor system some well meaning brethren have swung to the opposite extreme in contending it wrong for a preacher to live and labor or be located with a congregation in the work of an evangelist under an eldership. The anti-located preacher faction erroneously identifies all located preachers as "pastors", in fact or effect. It is argued that a church with elders has no scriptural authority to employ a gospel preacher to come in and preach the gospel to them, since he is said to be doing something that they themselves ought to be doing. However, this group will employ the services of an evangelist for a protracted meeting. Further, these brethren are unashamed to employ (hire) the services of a preacher for a debate in which he does that which an elder is charged to do, "Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers" (Tit. 1:9). It is further insisted, that when one does the work of a "located minister" (fixed residence with a congregation) he ceases to be an evangelist (one who goes from place to place preaching the gospel). Yet, it is admitted: "A preacher may work in a city for a life-time and never be a one man pastor" (Bible Talk, January, 1953, pg. 50). Inconsistent? Yes. But this is expected when extreme positions of error are taken.

Note: Some with an apprehensive view of trends among gospel preachers toward becoming "one-man pastors" have spoken against the abuses and have pointed out the dangers. These preachers have observed other preachers taking over the oversight of congregations without elders or with elders who are too negligent to attend to their duties. Hence, the ever increasing demand for a young minister with promoting and organizing ability. Such "watchmen in Zion" have been misunderstood and misrepresented as being of the "anti-located preacher" persuasion.

Truth Between

As such, he is subject to the oversight and direction of the eldership of that congregation (Heb. 13: 17; I Pet. 5:2). The fact that he is a member necessitates this subserviency.

Preachers, or any others who labor in word and doctrine, may receive stipulated wages (1 Cor. 9:13, 14; 1 Tim. 5:17,18; 2 Cor. 11:8). The term "wages" is from a Greek word meaning, "a soldier's provision, the money with which a soldier is paid, the pay of any workman." Certainly a preacher should not be a "hireling," but the fact one is receiving a salary does not alone constitute mercenary motives or ends.

The apostle Paul stayed with the Ephesian church for a period of about three years. But was he a modern one-man pastor? So the length of time one stays does not in itself determine whether one becomes a pastor.

Timothy was told to abide in Ephesus (I Tim. 1:3), doing the "work of an evangelist" (2 Tim. 4:5) under an eldership (I Tim. 1:3; 5:17,19). Timothy was not a "one-man pastor". Neither did he belong to the anti-located preacher element. May not a preacher do the same today? If not, why not?

The truth is in between two extremes of error.

Truth Magazine VII: 6, pp. 10, 24
March 1963