By Jeffery Kingry
Often in trying to find out what something is, we find out what it is not. “The Ark was not cedar, oak, or pine” as the line usually goes, because God specified gopher wood. “`The preacher, in the very same way, has qualifications and duties that are specified. Have you ever heard the child’s joke, “When is a door not a door?” The answer is “When it is ajar.” Trite though this is, it helps to illustrate our title question. “When is a preacher not a preacher?” The answer is “When he is something else.”
A preacher is not a preacher when he is “something else”. He may be a denominational caricature clergyman, a carnal power broker, or an indolent leech making an easy living by merchandising the church, but he is not a preacher.
As any work within the church, preaching is a function, and not a title. The preacher is an evangelist: a transliteration of euangelos, a messenger of good. One who teaches, preaches, or proclaims glad news, the gospel (evangelion). He is a minister : a servant, a waiter, an attendant who serves the church by serving God, and who serves God by serving the church (2 Cor. 6:3-10). He actively seeks to be greatest in the kingdom of God by humbly submitting himself as least (Matt. 20:25-28). He is a preacher: a herald, a proclaimer (1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11). He is a slave: One totally submissive to the will of God, having put to death his own desires as a personality (Rom. 1:1; Jas. 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:1). He is a brother: enjoying parallel relationship with all in the church as joint heirs in the family of God. He has equal responsibility according to ability before the Father (Rev. 22:9; Matt. 28:10; Matt. 23:8; Acts 1:15; 1 Pet. 3:8).
None of the terms are used as a title apart from function. The preacher is a brother, a member of the local church on an equality with his brethren. He serves God and man by teaching and living the word of God as his sole and overriding occupation. He receives both honor and monetary support from his spiritual family for the worx that he does (Gal. 6:6; 1 Cor. 7-11). This support is a wage, a misthos in Greek. It is what was given to the seventy in Luke 10. “In the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the laborer is worthy of his hire.” This same wage is what is to be given to elders who rule well and labor in teaching the church (1 Tim. 5:18). In none of these passages is there any “employer – employee” relationship enjoined – fair support for service given is the concept. The church is not the preacher’s “boss” any more than we become our doctor’s or dentist’s boss by paying our medical bills. Furthermore, “A man cannot serve two masters.” The preacher who is an employee of the church “to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey” (Matt. 6:24; Rom. 6:16). The church has no right, authority, or place to set limitations, requirements, or standards upon a servant of God that it does not place scripturally on any Christian. Preachers are not employees of the church. Churches are not employers of preachers – unless they are the kind of church that “heaps unto itself” employees that soothe and scratch the itches of the employer. Practically, the church cannot fire a preacher any more than it can hire him. They may exhort him, discipline him, or withdraw his support, but the word “fire” as we use it is an unscriptural term.
The positive qualifications of a preacher are few but definite. Faithful: (2 Tim. 3:14; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Pet. 4:10,11; 1 Cor. 4:2). Faithful to the truth, to his work as a Christian, and as an example. Gentle : (2 Tim. 2:24; Jas. 3:1,13,17). As one who is equitable, fair, moderate, as a loving parent with unruly children. Able : (2 Tim. 2:24-26; Heb. 5:12-14; 2 Tim. 2:14-16). As one who has the ability through experience to express truth well, and accurately, avoiding sidetracking issues of no consequence. Forbearing: (2 Tim. 2:24; 2 Cor. 6:4). Called “patience” in the KJV as one who overlooks personal wrong, unaffected by personal mistreatment (2 Tim. 2:3; 4:5). God knew that the teacher of truth would suffer at the hands of his brethren and the world, so the qualities of life He looked for in the preacher were to be of the same quality as the great teachers of all time and the Master Teacher, “If they have persecuted me, they shall persecute you . . . fear not, neither be thou afraid . . .” Good Example : (1 Tim. 6:11; Tit. 2:1, 7, 8, 15 ). One cannot teach a life that is not first lived.
The preacher’s. negative requirements are equally important. Not for gain : (1 Cor. 9:16ff; 1 Thes. 2:9-12; 1 Cor. 4:10-13 ). Those who use the work of preaching primarily as a means to make a living are not fit to be servants of God. This attitude presumes that if the money is cut off, the preaching is cut off. There is always the very real danger that the message will be adapted to keep the income coming in — not so often in preaching error, as in not preaching what is needed. Not for glory (1 Thess. 2:3-8; Matt. 6:2ff). Those who serve God for the reward they may receive from men in glory and approval have “already received their reward.” Preaching is service given to others, not service given for self-service. Not as men pleasers: (Gal. 1:10; Acts 5:29). The preacher can serve the church and man in particular only by serving God, and following him. Not seeking to exercise dominion or authority: (Matt. 20:25-28; 23:8-11). The world exercises power in this way, but the real servant recognizes that “all authority” resides in the Master. Without fear of the consequences of right teaching: (2 Tim. 1:7,8; 2:3,4; Heb. 13:6). Not a quibbler (2 Tim. 2:23-26). Able to right wrong, rather than be overcome by circumstance (Tit. 1:5; 2:8; 3:8,9; Jas. 3:1318).
A preacher may receive money from churches and individuals to free himself from work (“to forbear working” 1 Cor. 9:6) to devote full energies~and time to the work of evangelism (1 Cor. 9:3-12; 2 Cor. 11:7,8; Gal. 6:6; Phil. 4:10-18). Or, he may devote his full energies to the work of evangelism, and spend some of his time working with his hands to support himself (Acts 20:33; 1 Cor. 9:12,15; 1 Thess. 2:5,6,9; 2 Thess. 3:7-9; 3 Jn. 7). Either way, a man’s financial income does not determine whether he is an evangelist or not; his work does. “Do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry” (2 Tim. 4:5 ).
More To Preaching Than Preaching?
“When is a preacher not a preacher?” “When he is something else.” Preachers can also incidentally be school teachers, businessmen, writers, scholars, carpenters, plumbers, editors, or staff writers, But, school teaching is not preaching — neither is editing, publishing, plumbing, or selling. There is no such thing as a “hyphenated-preacher” i.e. a meeting –preacher, a debate-preacher, a personal work-preacher, an editor-preacher, a writing-preacher. The minister of God is a spiritual Jack-of-all-trades, a Universale Hominem. The preacher, like a resourceful and dedicated soldier (Eph. 6:11-17; 2 Tim. 2:3) uses every lawful means to “present every man perfect in Christ. And to this end I exert all my strength, striving according to his working” (Col. 1:25-29). He develops new skills, and hones and refines his old ones. The “specialty-preacher” may offer his own particular excellency, but to be God’s man he has to develop all the skills of a servant in God’s army.
Finally, there is no responsibility that God gives his servants that conflicts with his responsibility in any other area given to him by God. If we use our responsibilities in one area to neglect another, we do it without God’s approval. The preacher who serves God must realize that he is to “endure hardness” and will refuse to entangle himself in the affairs of life; that he may please him who has chosen him to be a soldier (2 Tim. 2:3,4). But, if a man strives for excellence as a preacher, he does not receive God’s approval or reward unless he works for it lawfully (2:5). “Enduring hardness” at the expense of our duty as parent, husband, son, or brother will but bring God’s condemnation (Mk. 7:11 ). There is no reason why a man cannot be a “good minister of God” and also be a good father, husband, son, and brother.
Truth Magazine XXI: 23, pp. 358-359
June 9, 1977