Is the Preacher the Pastor?

By Guthrie Dean

Definition of Terms

1. Preacher. A preacher is a herald; one who gives a proclamation or message. Noah is referred to as a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5). Solomon calls himself a preacher (Ecc. 1:1). Jonah was a preacher (Jonah 3:2). Peter, James, John, Timothy, Paul and others were preachers. Paul said that he was ordained a preacher and an apostle, and a teacher (1 Tim. 2:7). Comparing that verse with 1 Cor. 12:29 and Eph. 4:11, we learn that Paul served in three different “offices” or capacities. He served as preacher, apostle, and teacher. A preacher is also called an evangelist. This word appears in Acts 21:8; Eph. 4:11 and in 2 Tim. 4:5. It means a messenger of good, and indicates a public proclaimer. A preacher is also a minister of the gospel (Acts 6:4; 21:8). In 2 Tim. 4:1-5 Paul tells Timothy to “preach the word,” to “do the work of an evangelist,” and to “make full proof of thy ministry.” It is true that all Christians are to be ministers of Christ, or servants of Christ. But all Christians are not ministers of the word in the sense that preachers are.

2. Pastor. A pastor (Eph. 4:11) is the same as an elder or bishop and, in this verse, is distinguished from the evangelist or preacher. A pastor is a shepherd, one who tends a flock. Israel had its spiritual leaders who were called pastors (Jer. 2:8; 3:15; 10:21; 23:1, etc.). In the New Testament every church, when fully organized, had a plurality of pastors to oversee the local flock. The Greek word for pastor is poimen. W. E. Vine comments on this as follows: “Poimen, a shepherd, one who tends herds or flocks (not merely one who feeds them), is used metaphorically of Christian `pastors,’ Eph. 4:11. Pastors guide as well as feed the flock; cp. Acts 20:’28, which, with ver. 17, indicates that this was the service committed to elders (overseers or bishops); so also in 1 Pet. 5:1, 2 `tend the flock . . . exercising the oversight,’ R. V.; this involves tender care and vigilant superintendence.” These flock-tenders are also called elders and “the presbytery.” The word elder is from the Greek term presbuteros, and indicates maturity and experience. The word presbytery is from the term presbuterion, and simply refers to a group of elders. See 1 Tim. 4:14 and Acts 20:17-28. These flock-tenders, or elders, are referred to as bishops or overseers in Acts 20:28 and Phil. 1:1. The word bishop (episkopos in the Greek) means an overseer; from epi, over, skopeo, to look or watch. This emphasizes the fact that they are responsible for the status and conduct of the local church. They are pastors (shepherds) because of their care for the flock, in tending, guiding, feeding and watching.

When A Preacher Is A Pastor

If a preacher of a given church is also selected by that church as one of the elders, then the said preacher is also a pastor. But he is never “the” pastor in the sense of being a one-man overseer. He may serve with others, along side other men, as a pastor or as an elder in a church. Obviously Simon Peter was both a preacher and an elder (1 Pet. 5:1-4). He was also an apostle (Matt. 10:2). But all preachers are not pastors any more than all preachers are apostles. It so happens that Peter was a preacher, an apostle, and a pastor, all three. But according to the “qualifications” for elders laid down in 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1, Peter could have been selected as an elder while the apostle Paul could not. Paul had no wife, no family, etc.

When A Preacher Is Not A Pastor

A preacher is not a pastor or elder unless he meets the Bible specifications and unless he is appointed as such by the local congregation. We have the record of Timothy preaching at Ephesus (1 and 2 Timothy), but there is no record of him ever being an elder. Paul preached three years at Ephesus (Acts 20:31) and was never called a pastor. The denominational concept of making “the preacher” of a church “the pastor” of that church (or “the elder” of that church) is foreign to the teachings of the Scriptures. A preacher (evangelist) and the elders (pastors) are distinctly different appointments and should not be confused as being one and the same. See again Eph. 4:11-12. They are different “offices” in name and different “offices” in function. The pastors oversee the work of the local church, all of it. A preacher (under the oversight of the pastors) does his own work of preaching and teaching publicly and from house to house (Acts 20:20).

Not only do the denominations confuse the preacher-pastor position with reference to name, but also with reference to function. Some of our brethren are very particular to use the names correctly but are confused as to their work or function. I have run into situations where the local churches expect the preacher to do the work of the pastors (with regards to discipline problems, visiting the sick, taking care of new converts, ad infinitum) while the elders drop down to the next notch and perform the work the deacons ought to be doing (benevolence, counting money, keeping books, caring for the property, etc.). This results in the preacher doing the work of the pastors, the pastors doing the work of the deacons, and the frustrated deacons doing nothing but twiddling their fingers. This is a most solemn matter, and each congregation should seriously reevaluate its practices regarding pastors, preachers, and deacons.

Truth Magazine XXI: 12, p. 178
March 24, 1977