The Preacher’s Work. Bible Question.
“Would you please set forth the guidelines in the Bible for the responsibilities of the preacher? Our preacher here says he is to preach and that visiting people in the hospital or their homes is the work of the elders and deacons.”
Recently I have received four questions related to the leadership of the local church. I will answer them this week and next. Related posts on this subject can be found under “Church Leaders” and “Preaching” in the subject index (in the right column).
In regards to this question, the primary work of the preacher is to preach the word:
“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction“ – 2 Timothy 4:1, 2 (New American Standard Bible)
There are other passages that show what is involved in being a preacher. The apostle Paul wrote letters to two preachers, Timothy (two letters) and Titus. One of his purposes was to instruct and exhort them in their work as ministers of the word. For instance, in 1 Timothy 4:12 . . .
“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.“
There are many duties of Christians which Timothy and Titus are told to preach/teach. And with regards to all of them, this principle applies: be an example. In other words, when a minister preaches that members are to visit and encourage others, he must lead the way by first doing what he is preaching.
The apostle Peter tells us,
“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps . . .” – 2 Peter 2:21
Let us look at how Jesus lived while on this earth. He came “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). “To seek” involves some visiting. The Lord also ministered to the needs of those with whom He came in contact: the sick, the hungry, the discouraged, the weak, the vulnerable, sinners, etc. Notice how He describes what it means to minister in Matthew 25:35, 36 . . .
For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’
One who is striving to follow in His steps will do as Jesus did.
Some preachers contend that their “job” is to preach, and that they only do other types of service as any Christian would. And, in a sense this is true. But, looking in the Scriptures for a “job description” of a preacher, I am forced to conclude that he is to be, first, a Christian. And that whatever he preaches to others, he must first obey
If he teaches that members are to give liberally, he must first do so. If he teaches that members are to visit the sick, he must first visit the sick. If he teaches that people are to seek the lost by reaching out to those in sin, he must first do so. It is hypocrisy for one to preach that others are to do these works while he refuses to do them.
The first duty of a preacher is to preach. That work demands time, effort, education and prayer to prepare lessons and effectively deliver them. I know some members would insist that the preacher spend forty hours or more a week doing “Christian service” work: visiting, encouraging, comforting, etc. But it should be obvious that to do so would mean that his primary work (preaching) would suffer. We can’t expect the preacher to do everything!
A preacher must set some priorities for his time. Wise and godly elders will insist that he will take the necessary time to prepare and do an effective job in his primary work – preaching the word. His “job” involves more than just standing before the church on Sundays and Wednesdays and bringing a lesson from the Bible.
He also must set an example for the other members. As I alluded to a moment ago, the fact that preachers are to do many kinds of work as a Christian does not absolve elders and deacons and other members from doing these works (their responsibilities) as well. In some congregations, the members hire a preacher to come and do their Christian work for them. This is wrong.
In other congregations, the preacher declares his job is to “preach only” and he refuses to do the Christian service that he demands of others. This is also wrong. Those preachers that are worthy to be called ministers of Christ will set the example in all areas of Christian service – as will the elders, deacons and all the other faithful Christians in that congregation.