After a recent message on the biblical basis for the church gathering (click here to hear it), a listener asked…
Q: Where is the role of a preacher defined in the Bible (as we understand the role in today’s church)?
A: In my opinion, the best and clearest text that defines and supports the role of a preacher is Ephesians 4:11-12, where it says that “God gave … the shepherds and teachers to equip the saints for the work of the ministry…” Essentially, these two words — pastor and teacher — sum up what today’s “preacher” should be.
Keep in mind there are a host of other Scriptures that address other areas about this role, providing a basis for some of our practices. For instance, Paul argued in 1 Corinthians 9 that it as completely right and perfectly acceptable that those “who proclaim the Gospel should get their living by the Gospel” (v. 14). This is the concept addressed by the “double honor” phrase as well in 1 Timothy 5:17, where we learn it is no doubt an honor to serve as an elder, but a “double honor” to be able to do well at preaching and teaching and thus be compensated financially (5:18).
Furthermore, the three books known as the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus) give credible weight to the idea of a specific “man of God” in a definite location whose job it is to preach sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:2). Other things are part of his ministry, too, and he’s to do those fully as well (2 Tim. 4:5). This is probably why one of our customs today is for the “man of God” to stand and teach/preach from the Bible. Some may debate if this form truly replicates the way it is was done in the New Testament era, but regardless of form, there was the specific function of teaching from a man gifted and empowered to do so.
Additionally, Acts records numerous churches where elders (synonymous with pastor) where overseeing and teaching local assemblies in an authoritative way together (see Acts 20 for one example at Ephesus), much like a team of pastors today. And Peter commanded that these men not use this authority in the wrong way or for the wrong reason (2 Peter 5), but instead to “shepherd the flock among you.” This is consistent with what we expect and see of preachers/pastors today.
Are there, however, manners and customs of preachers today that don’t have explicit biblical support? Of course! But not all these practices are unbiblical; some are simply extra-biblical, meaning they are areas where we are free to move and act in line with biblical principles because there isn’t explicit Scripture for or against it. Things like calling on guests and/or hospital visitation are two examples of practices that seem to be culturally expected, especially in smaller churches, but actually have no clear biblical mandate that those things are the “job” of the preacher.