Is the Position of Modern Preacher/Pastor Biblical?

Description of the modern preacher/pastor:
Normally, the preacher is a professionally trained seminary graduate. As in a secular job hunt, he sends in his resume and perhaps even a sample of his preaching to prospective churches in his search for employment. Usually, he is a stranger to the churches where he sends his resume (which is why he goes through this process). When a church takes interest in him, he is eventually invited to preach, teach, and become acquainted with the congregation. If the congregation and church leadership approve of the preacher, a contractual agreement is made concerning salary, vacation time, benefits, job duties, etc. After that, the preacher is hired by the church leadership.

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The preacher usually gives the sermons, teaches Sunday school, does most of the pastoring, and is involved with different aspects of administration of the church, among other duties. The preacher can leave the congregation for another congregation for any reason and the church leadership can fire the preacher for any reason- whether it be immorality found in the preacher, doctrinal disagreements, personality clashes, or boring preaching.

Why Does this Matter?
Why ask the question, “Is the position of the modern preacher/pastor biblical?” What is the purpose of such a question? Why should you care? There are two reasons.

1. The state of the Church in the world today is tenuous and worth seriously examining. Christians today are not known, it seems, for their love but for their hypocrisy. More and more people are leaving the Church. Much of the Church is quickly becoming biblically and doctrinally illiterate. Also, many of the Church’s members are nominal and lukewarm. Why is this? Much of the time, things become corrupt and fall apart because of the leadership. We see this truth demonstrated in the history of Israel over and over.

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2. If we say the Bible is our rule of faith and practice, we should then examine ourselves to see if our faith and practice matches up with the Bible. We so often assume wrongly and imagine that the way we do things today is the biblical method or how they have always been done. We also often read into the scriptures our own beliefs and practices when they are not present in the text. So I ask again, is the position of today’s preacher/pastor biblical?

Where Should We Start?
We should start with the Bible, of course. Specifically, we will want to look at what the New Testament can shed light on because the Church is under the New Covenant. What are the pertinent passages that we should look at in the New Testament? The main texts I will look at here are:

Who are these People?
Apostles – There are two kinds of apostles. The first kind are the big “A” Apostles. They are the individuals who saw (and, for the most part, walked with) Jesus in the flesh and were personally appointed by Him to be Apostles. They received the gospel from Christ Himself and the Holy Spirit led them into all truth and inspired their writing to the churches. They planted and organized churches, appointed elders and deacons, and preached and defended the Gospel. (Acts 1:21-26, Gal. 1:11-12)
The second kind are little “a” apostles. They are sent out sometimes by both the church and the Holy Spirit and many times just by a church or churches to be ambassadors of the Gospel and plant churches. (Acts 13:1-3, 14:14)

Prophets – Someone becomes a prophet by the gift of the Holy Spirit. There are two functions of the prophet. The primary function is to preach the message of God. They reveal the Gospel (which was a mystery in times past) by the power of the Spirit. The secondary function is to prophesy future events. (1 Cor. 12:28)

Teachers – Someone becomes a teacher by the gift of the Holy Spirit too. A teacher is someone who is gifted in effectively communicating the gospel. The Didache, an early Christian document written around 50-120 A.D. and now in the public domain, sheds some considerable light on the function of the apostles, prophets, and teachers.

Whosoever, therefore, comes and teaches you all these things that have been said before, receive him. But if the teacher himself turns and teaches another doctrine to the destruction of this, hear him not. But if he teaches so as to increase righteousness and the knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord. But concerning the apostles and prophets, act according to the decree of the Gospel. Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain more than one day; or two days, if there’s a need. But if he remains three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet. (Didache, Chapter 11)

We see that most of these apostles, prophets and teachers were itinerant ministers who functioned as proclaimers and instructors of the Gospel and provided leadership for the then-infant churches. Since these ministers were unknown to the congregations, they were to be tested and the congregation was to discern if they were true ministers of the Gospel or heretical teachers. The Didache also goes on to say that if the apostle, prophet, or teacher was found authentic and desired to stay with the congregation, they could be supported by the congregation especially if they did not have a trade. This is why Apostles like Paul and John warn congregations of teachers that come to them preaching a false gospel as in 2 John 1:7-10.

Evangelists – Timothy and Titus were evangelists. They functioned as little “a” apostles. They were trained by the Apostles and later evangelists were trained by elders and the congregation. They were often supported as Paul was but, like Paul, they also would work if the situation called for it (1 Cor. 9:1-18). They did not get a salary but were supplied for according to their need. They planted and helped fledgling churches be put into order and grow, both spiritually and numerically. They were a part of the selection and appointing of elders and deacons (Titus 1:5-9). Once the church was healthy enough, they left to help other churches.

Elders – Elders, also called overseers (bishops) or shepherds, were appointed by apostles, evangelists, and the congregation. As the name suggests, the elders were mature both in age and in their spirituality. They were to be permanent replacements of the apostles, prophets and teachers.

The Didache says,

Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, and truthful and proved; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. (Didache: Ch. 15)

The elders were not imported into the congregation from a Bible school or seminary but were already a part of the church and trained by apostles, evangelists, or existing elders. The elders were to, in the words of a handout written by my CCCB professor Dr. Stevens,
Lead – The Elders are to lead the local congregation. In Ephesians 4:11-12 it says that they are to equip the people of the congregation for works of service. This suggests that Elders play an important role in deciding how the congregation will carry on the work of God and also in involving the members of the congregation in that work. The Elder knows the members of the congregation and meets their needs.
Feed – The Elders are to be teachers of the Word of God. This is a requirement. This means that they know God’s Word, that they apply it successfully to their lives, that they can communicate the truths of God’s Word to others.
Guard – The Elders have a responsibility to protect the congregation from false teachers. They must know God’s Word well enough to identify false teaching and they should know people well enough to identify false motives. They should not allow a false teacher to address the congregation.”

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The elders were typically supported monetarily for their shepherding. Again, they did not have a salary like a secular job provides but they were supported just as the church supported the apostles, prophets, teachers, widows and orphans. If they worked hard in teaching and preaching they were entitled to double support. Also, there was never just one elder to a congregation but a multiplicity.

Deacons – The word deacon simply means “servant”. They were under the authority of the elders and focused on the physical aspects of ministry. For example, they would help in the feeding of widows and orphans.

Which Group of People Does the Modern Preacher/Pastor Fall Under?
As they function now, the modern position does not exactly fit any of them. They are not appointed personally by Jesus nor were they specially gifted by the Holy Spirit at the time of their baptism with the gifts of prophecy or teaching (there is a whole discussion to be had about whether or not there are still Apostles and others who have miraculous gifts from the Holy Spirit but I will refrain it in this particular blog post). In general, modern preachers do not work to train up and appoint elders and deacons or have as their goal to build up the congregation to where they are healthy enough to be independent. Most congregations do not consider the preacher to be an elder and, many times, they could not even qualify as one. They are certainly not merely deacons.

If they do not exactly fit under any of the groups, are they at least similar to any of them? I would say yes. Today’s position of preacher most closely fits under the group called evangelists. Mr. Reese, a prolific author, professor at and co-founder of Central Christian College of the Bible, and leader in the Restoration Movement, agrees with me. Read his Special Study #4 and #5 from pages 192-216 in his commentary entitled New Testament Epistles Timothy and Titus: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary, for a more thorough look at the office of evangelist.  In the same work he comments, “Evangelist is similar to today’s preacher, and is not the same as the office of elder.”

What Should We Do Now?
Can we redeem the position of today’s preacher? Yes. Since many churches are rather unhealthy, I would argue that we still need the position of evangelist. There do need to be some changes in how it functions in a modern day context.

First, the preacher especially needs to not think of the ministry as he would a secular job. The preacher should perhaps not even call what he does a “job” but a lifelong ministry career he has a burden in his heart for. He should not be looking for the church that will pay him the biggest salary and give him the most benefits but he should be looking for churches that need the most help and thinking about how he can best serve the congregation. If we can’t break away from the use of salary for various reasons, at least the preacher should try and take from the congregation only what what he truly needs.

Second, the preacher needs to have an end goal in mind. The preacher needs to make it his priority to make the church healthy. If there are no elders and deacons, he needs to train up some. If there are elders and deacons, he needs to make sure they are strong in the knowledge of the Word and devotion to Christ. They need to make sure all the congregation’s members know the Gospel and are on a path of spiritual maturity. When the church is well established and able to be independent, he should begin to prepare to move onto the next congregation in need.

Third, the congregations themselves need not presume to be able to “fire” the preacher for any reason. If they are so unhealthy or immature that they need a preacher to come and help them, they should submit to the preacher’s guidance and teaching unless the preacher falls into immorality.

If we- the preachers and congregations- make these adjustments, then I believe the Church as a whole will start to become more and more healthy, mature and wise. As a result of that, the Church will be more known for not its hypocrisy and ignorance, but its love.

Why was this Blog Post Made?
I am a student of Central Christian College of the Bible (or CCCB) and the creation of this blog entry was a direct result of the encouragement of my professor Dr. Stevens while I took the class Pastoral Epistles from him. Because of his push to do this blog, I got to think about and study in more depth the original pattern of Biblical leadership. I have grown in my knowledge of the scripture and in my faith as a result of my time here at CCCB. If you would like to learn from quality professors about the Pastoral Epistles or the Bible in general, become a student yourself. Apply right now!

Embracing the Wilderness [and why we don’t]

Taking the Hard(er) Way

Why do we prefer slavery in Egypt over following God in the wilderness?  

In more practical terms, why do we tend to gravitate back to former sins or unhealthy situations rather than draw near to God through the hard times of life?  

Why do we try to take control of life by digging our own cisterns (broken ones) instead of submitting to God and letting Him lead us through life?

Why do we resist God’s way of purifying us through pain and hardship and turmoil?  Instead, we choose to do our own thing which actually delays our maturity and STILL leaves us feeling empty, lonely and beaten down.  

Why we Avoid the Wilderness

I cannot speak for the Christians abroad but God has given me an insider’s  perspective of the American church.  I grew up as the son of a preacher and elder.  I preached my first sermon around the age of five.  I attended five years of Bible College and, later, another five in Seminary.  I’ve preached in several churches.  I’ve attended several more.  I’ve been blessed to counsel hundreds and thousands of Christian people.  And I am left to wonder, as I ponder the Church and ESPECIALLY my life, why don’t we just embrace the spiritual and emotional deserts that are part of the Christian journey?  

For many, the answer is simple.  The wilderness is barren and difficult and leaves us feeling emotionally and spiritually dry and thirsty.  The wilderness forces us to leave our comfort zones and, for most of us, we gravitate stubbornly towards retaining those places of respite.  Many of us hate the wilderness simply because it is tough, and we don’t like that.

For others, there are more complex answers to this question.  It may be that the wilderness forces us to be patient and to wait, which is excruciating for those who are geared to be active, the “Type As” in our population.  The idea of simply “waiting” on the Lord is a foreign concept in its application to life, if not in theory.  Many people speak of “waiting on the Lord” while never living out this mandate.  Truly, we seem to be more comfortable “doing” than “being”. 

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Perhaps the wilderness forces some to face issues that they have spent years avoiding- trauma of some kind or sources of insecurity in themselves.  Maybe we don’t like the wilderness because it often reveals the worst parts of who we are, the parts that we have spent years trying to hide from view.  The trials of the wilderness certainly uncovered the worst parts of the Israelites.  In the years we see them wandering we see the wilderness reveal their lack of faith, their tendencies towards idolatry, and how easily they could wander from the Lord, even as His presence guided them.  Maybe the wilderness reveals the same sinful core in most of us and we hate that.

God Shapes us in the Wilderness

I know most of these answers already.  In fact, I don’t just KNOW them, I have thought about them.  I have LIVED them.  The desert is no fun.  Let’s just be frank and admit this truth.  The deserts of life are difficult.  Wilderness times steal our laughter, break down our confidence, and expose our anxieties about making it through life.  The wilderness leaves us worrying about our bills, our future, and our families.  Most of all, it is in the wilderness that we often wonder the most about God…and maybe that is the main point.

Doesn’t God use the wilderness to test our limits?  Doesn’t He test us to find out if we’ll trust Him even when things look hopeless?  Moses outlined some of God’s reasons for “wilderness-walking” in Deuteronomy chapter 8, right before the Israelites entered the Promised Land:

“Remember every road that God led you on for those forty years in the wilderness, pushing you to your limits, testing you so that He would know what you were made of, whether you would keep His commandments or not.  He put you through hard times.  He made you go hungry.  Then He fed you manna, something neither you nor your parents knew anything about, so you would learn that men and women don’t live by bread only; we live by every word that comes from God’s mouth.  Your clothes didn’t wear out and your feet didn’t blister those forty years.  You learned deep in your heart that God disciplines you in the same way a father disciplines his child.”

Wow. Why can’t we get it?  Why can’t I get it?  God’s purposes in the wilderness are, really, very clear if we will just open our eyes.  First of all, God wants to test us in the wilderness.  He desires to push us to our limits in order to reveal what we are made of, not for His knowledge (since He is omniscient) but exposing it for us to see and for the world to know.  He proclaims, through wilderness testing, our inner strength and true mettle and purifies us as through fire.  In the crucible of the wilderness, He hones our spiritual muscle in order to prepare us for the future adventures He has in store as we serve Him.  In the wilderness, He tests our resolve and enhances our strength.  

He also tests our faithfulness to Him in the wilderness.  How many times did the Israelites turn to false gods because of their discomfort in the desert?  He uses the wilderness to test whether, under pressure, we will continue to draw near to Him or succumb to our natural desire to “grab the bull by the horns” and go our own way.  

God also uses the wilderness as a tool to humble us.  Sometimes the desert is a form of God’s discipline, designed to humble us as we realize that we have strayed far from Him.  Hebrews affirms that God disciplines those He loves, just as an earthly father tenderly and firmly disciplines his own children.  It is in the wilderness that God can get our attention and teach us lessons about obedience, purity, and the consequences of sinful living.

hebrews126  Wilderness-times are also effective in instructing us about submission.  If there were no other reason for the wilderness, this would be enough.  It is submission that God desires.  It is through submission that we gain freedom from sin and the pressure that comes with living life our own way.  And yet, it is a life of submission that seems so difficult for many of us to attain.  Yet, without it, there is no freedom in Christ.  Without submission, God cannot fully use us as warriors in His kingdom.  Without submission there is no spiritual power.

Finally, God uses the wilderness as a chance to show us how much He wants to come through for us.  It’s true.  God loves to come through in the nick of time.  He relishes the idea of being the cavalry that emerges over the horizon, just as time is running out.  It is in the wilderness, when we exhaust all our own efforts, that God gets to save the day.  It is a role He loves and a part that He plays most powerfully in the heat of the desert.  It is in the wilderness when God’s power is most on display because it is in the wilderness where our power ebbs.  When we are on the precipice of disaster and all our efforts have gone for naught, THAT is when we can see His power with the most clarity.  It is in the wilderness that we are most able to see the Lord.

The Wilderness is about More than Enduring

And so, as I reflect on the wilderness, my spirit cries out, “I embrace it, God!  I WANT to grow in You, mature in You and be the man You want me to be” while my flesh screams, “God, why have you forsaken me???  Why are things here so hard?  Why can’t life be easier?  Why are finances so tight?  Why is marriage so difficult?  Why is parenting so painful?  Why can’t I just WORK my way out of this wilderness?”

And God answers, “Because you’re my son and I love you.  I love you too much to leave you to your own passions and ways.  I love you too much NOT to pursue you and hone you and humble you.  Because, my child, I don’t want you to settle for the pleasures in Egypt (sin and self-reliance) where slavery also abounds.  I want you to be READY for the Promised Land,  for what I have in store for you is infinitely better than you could imagine.  But you must wait, and endure, and learn to trust in Me.  Not in your own strength.”  

So, my goal is to EMBRACE the wilderness.  It is a goal that I fail in more often than I succeed.  And yet that is my goal.  See, I know that the pleasures and luxuries of this world offer nothing in the long run.  They are a dead-end street.  So what I really want is to see the Promised Land, whether that is here on earth or in the world to come or both.  I want to learn to trust, even when my bank account is overdrawn, when I fight with my wife, or when my kids push me to the point of insanity- even when life is hard.  I want to learn what it means to lay it all at God’s feet, not just in word but in action, so that I can see the ways in which God shows up.   I’m eager to let God’s hand mold and shape me into the person He designed me to be, so I am ready for whatever journey lies ahead.

Learn and Grow

That is my challenge to you as well.  Instead of fighting against the deserts that God puts us in, instead of complaining to Him about how hard everything is, instead of taking matters into your own hands before the Lord gives you the go-ahead, EMBRACE the wilderness.  Set your face like a flint and move forward, turning your eyes to God instead of your own ideas.  Embrace the lessons God wants you to learn:

  • Trust Him instead of you
  • Be humble instead of proud
  • Be alert to how HE shows up and provides

Most of all I implore you to be malleable to the blows of His hammer. Bend to the shape He wants to make of you.  Rest on the anvil of His work, trusting that He is preparing you for the joys that lie ahead.  I promise you His land of milk and honey is way better than the pleasures and slavery of Egypt.  It is a land of freedom and joy, a land of peace and prosperity, a land where God’s presence is always near…but a land that is rarely reached except through the wilderness.  


awblogAaron Welch has several years of experience
in counseling, teaching, and ministry.
He is currently the head of CCCB’s
Counseling Ministry department.