Vol.XX No.VII Pg.3
September 1983

Pastorizing Preachers

Dan S. Shipley

The denominational concept of the preacher and his responsibility as set forth in a popular creed-book reads: "A pastor is a preacher who...is in charge of a station or circuit." (i.e., a church or group of churches, dss). Such a concept is not only unscrip- tural; it betrays a serious misunderstanding of the work of both pastor and preacher. The NT pictures the pastor (shepherd) as an overseer, elder or bishop (Acts 20: 17, 28) who, by virtue of meeting certain God-given qualifications (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1), and, along with other such men, "tend the flock" which is among them, "exercising the oversight" thereof (1 Pet. 5:2), taking care of the church of God (1 Tim. 3:5). The pastor may also be a preacher, as was Peter (1 Pet. 5:1), but the terms are not synonymous — and neither is their work.

The preacher, on the other hand, is a herald, a proclaimer of the word of God (1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 4:2) and is instructed to "do the work of an evangelist, fulfill thy ministry" (2 Tim. 4:5). The preacher has no spiritual oversight and is not a pastor by virtue of his preaching work. Most brethren understand this.

However, while the idea of evangelistic authority and oversight would be opposed by most brethren, it is not always so in practice. We, even if unwittingly, often encourage the pastorizing of preachers by putting them "in charge" of the local church. This problem is compounded, of course, when the preacher covets such a role — especially among brethren who are unwilling to assume responsibility. Many are content to let the preacher handle whatever needs handling — except, of course, his meeting schedule, vacation time, and his raises. Good elders can be an effective deterrent to the pastor system, but rubber-stamp elders who do little more than OK the preacher's decisions only promote the pastorizing process and demonstrate themselves as unqualified to serve as true pastors in the Lord's church.

Even among brethren who know the local preacher is not "in charge" of anything and is not to be called "our pastor," there persist certain subtle indications that the clergy concept remains. One is in our language. For instance, reference is often made to a preacher as "Brother" so-and-so (with a capital B:), or "our Minister" (with a capital M!), or even "THE Minister." We note that equally faithful but non-preaching brethren and ministers (servants) are not referred to thusly. In addition, some brethren feel that they have not been adequately prayed over unless the preacher does the praying. Others feel unvisited until the preacher comes calling. And, there are indications that some even feel less obligated to attend Bible classes and worship services when the preacher is out of town.

In pointing up the equality among believers, someone has said, "All men stand on level ground under the cross of Christ." That certainly includes the preacher. Even though he is engaged in one of the most important works on earth, he deserves no preferential treatment. To be treated as a brother is enough.