A Study on Preachers

By John Telgren

Word Study on Preachers

Like elders in the church, there is not a specific "title" for preachers in the church, but rather descriptions. The common words in use today such as "pastor" or "minister" are not descriptions used in the New Testament for preachers. Although a preacher's job is often pastoral in nature, the term "pastor" (which is an English word for "shepherd") is used specifically for elders. The word "minister" is a generic word for all Christians. "Minister" means "servant", and all Christians fit that role.

Words for Preacher

1. Euaggelistes

One of the more well known words for a preacher in the New Testament is euaggelistes. Like the word for immersion, baptisma, this is an un-translated word. Many translations simply render it "evangelist." A translation of this word would be something like, "messenger of good tidings" or, "gospel preacher." The word "gospel" (which means "glad tidings", or "good news") is "euaggelion" and is from the same word group. So the word for "gospel preacher" is suggestive of the positive nature of the preaching ministry. It is one full of hope and comfort. It is used three times in the New Testament (Acts 21:8; Eph 4:11; 2 Tim 4:5). The passage from Ephesians is the most comprehensive in describing the goal of a Gospel Preacher:

"And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love (Eph 4:11-16)."
So these passages reveal that the scope of the preacher's ministry involves all who will listen, and especially those who are in the church. Notice that the end goal of the preachers and pastors are alike. As such, their ministries will overlap. The preacher fulfills his ministry primarily through preaching, while the pastors do it primarily through pastoring.

2. Kerux

Another word is for preacher is Kerux. This word means "preacher" or "herald." This word was used of men whom kings appointed to make a proclamation. This word suggests the public nature of the ministry of preaching. It is used in 2 Pet.2:5; 1 Tim 2:7, and 2 Tim 1:11. The verb form of the word is used even more often. Some examples of the verb form are in Matt 3:1; Acts 8:5; Rom 2:21; and 2 Tim 4:2.

Metaphors Used for Preachers

Some interesting terms and metaphors occur in 2 Timothy, which was written to a young evangelist.

1. Soldier
In 2 Tim 2:3, a preacher is called a "soldier." The word itself implies the struggle inherent with ministry. This is probably why Paul said, "fight the good fight of faith" in 1 Tim 6:12. The reason Paul uses this term is to highlight the focus on his mission to his God that a preacher needs to have in order to be effective.

2. Athlete
A preacher is also called an "athlete" in 2 Tim 2:5. This too, implies the struggle inherent with ministry. However, the emphasis here is on competing "according to the rules." A preacher must be familiar with those rules.

3. Farmer
A preacher is called a "farmer" in 2 Tim 2:6. This is an appropriate analogy because preachers sow the seed of God's word. However, the seed may not show immediate results. Preachers need to be patient

4. Workman
In 2 Tim 2:15, a preacher is called a "workman" who is diligent in his ministry so that he does not have to be ashamed. In other words, a preacher should have a good work ethic.

5. Sanctified Vessel / Vessel for Honor
In 2 Tim 2:20, a preacher is called a "sanctified vessel," and a "vessel for honor." A preacher has been "set apart," "dedicated," "ordained," or "appointed" to his ministry much as Paul and Barnabas were ordained to their ministry in Acts 13:2. A vessel is used to hold or transport what is inside. If a vessel contains something precious, you take care of that vessel. A preacher is to take care of himself spiritually and holistically, because he carries God's word.

6. The Lord's Bond Servant
In 2 Tim 2:24, the preach is called "the Lord's bond-servant." A preacher belongs to the Lord and is ultimately God's employee.

Erroneous Terms

Some popular terms for preachers today are not found in scripture. One very common term is "pastor." This word is an older English word that means, "shepherd." In the New Testament, the word is used specifically of elders as shepherds of the flock and never used of preachers.

Another popular but incorrect term is "priest." This could be a correct term if you understand that all Christians are priests (2 Pet 2:9). There is no ordained priesthood in Christianity. The earthly priesthood has been done away with and replaced by Christ as the one and only High Priest (Heb 7-9).

Minister is a common designation for preachers. This term is also correct if you understand that all Christians are ministers. Minister means "servant."

Another term for preachers is "reverend." The only one called this in scripture is God himself in Psalm 111:9 - "Holy and reverend is his name." Preachers are never called this.

Some call the person in the pulpit, "father." While the apostle Paul called himself a "father (1 Cor 4:25)," it was clearly metaphorical and not intended as a title. Jesus specifically taught against using "father" as a title (Mt 23:98).

So a preacher is simply called a Gospel Preacher, or simply Preacher/Herald. A preacher is figuratively called a soldier, athlete, farmer, sanctified vessel, and the Lord's bond servant. These words and descriptions reveal that his function is first and foremost to preach and teach the word. The end goal of the preaching and teaching of the word is to bring the body to maturity. Everything else is subordinate to that task.

The Role of a Preacher in the Lord's Kingdom

The ultimate goal of preaching, as seen above, is to bring others to maturity in Christ. A systematic study of the "Pastoral Epistles" reveals that this goal is fulfilled in a preacher with a three-fold role.

  1. Preach and Teach the Word. - The following passage reveal that a preachers role involves first and foremost, the preaching and teaching of God's word.
    1. I Tim 1:3 -Instruct (charge, command) certain men not to teach strange doctrines
    2. I Tim 4:11 - "Prescribe" (instruct, command) and teach these things
    3. I Tim 2:16; Tit 2:1,8; 2 Tim 4:3-4 - Be sound in speech
    4. 1 Tim 4:13 - Give attention to public reading of scripture, exhortation and teaching
    5. 2 Tim 4:2 - Preach the word in season and out of season
    6. Tit 2:15 - These things speak and exhort with all authority, let no one disregard you
    7. Tit 2:2-6 - Urge everyone to be loving, godly, and sensible, sound in the faith
    8. Tit 3:8 - Speak confidently so that believers may be careful to engage in good deeds
  2. Equip others for ministry
    1. 2 Tim 2:2 - Entrust what you have learned to faithful men who will be able to teach others also
    2. 1 Tim 4:12 - Show yourself and example of those who believe
    3. 1 Tim 5:22 - Do not lay hands on anyone to hastily and thus share the responsibility for the sins of others - So in the overseeing of the congregation selecting elders, be careful!
  3. Assist in the leadership and administration of various ministries.
    "...I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God...(1 Tim 3:15)" In connection with this, the preacher is instructed on the administration and leadership of various ministries in the church.
    1. 1 Tim 2:8 - Men are to pray lifting up holy hands without wrath or dissension
    2. 1 Tim 2:9-15 - Women are to be discreet
    3. I Tim 3:1-13 - Elders & Deacons are to be suitable, able men of character
    4. I Tim 5:1-2 - Members are to treat each other as family
    5. I Tim 5:3-16 - Destitute widows of character are to be supported by the church
    6. I Tim 5:17-18 - Elders who work hard at preaching and teaching are to be compensated
    7. I Tim 5:19 - No charge taken entertained against an elder unless 2 to 3 witnesses
    8. I Tim 5:20 - Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all so that others will be fearful of sinning
    9. I Tim 5:21-22 - Be impartial, especially in the appointment of elders
    10. 1 Tim 6:1; Tit 2:9-10 - Instruct slaves to honor their masters
    11. 1 Tim 6:17 - Teach the rich not to be conceited, or to fix their hope on riches, but to be rich in good works
    12. 2 Tim 2:16, 23 - Avoid worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called knowledge, along with foolish and ignorant speculations. they lead to quarrels and further ungodliness.
    13. Tit 1:5 - Set in order what is lacking in the church and appointing elders
    14. Tit 3:1 - Remind them to be subject and obedient to rulers
    15. Tit 3:2 - Teach them to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle showing consideration for all men
    16. Titus 1:1-3 - Reprove them (rebellious empty talkers and deceivers who upset whole families) severely that they may be sound in the faith
    17. Tit 3:10 - Reject a factious man after a first and second warning
A preacher's three fold-role in building up the body involves:
1. Preaching and teaching the word
2. Equipping others for ministry
3. Assisting in the leadership and administration of various ministries in the church

Of course, the end goal is maturity. Eph 4, quoted above, spells out the goal of any leadership ministry, which is maturity.

Qualifications of a Preacher

Most people are familiar with the fact that the Pastorals list qualities and qualifications for elders. What many people do not know is that there is a similar list for preachers in 2 Timothy 2:24-25.

"The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,..."
So the qualifications for preachers are as follows:
  1. Not be quarrelsome - He needs to be someone with listening skills
  2. Kind to all - He needs to exhibit a spirit of grace
  3. Able to teach - The preacher must be skilled at teaching
  4. Patient when wronged - Preachers deal with many difficult people in the church and outside the church. That is why he needs to...
  5. Correct with gentleness those who are in opposition, so that perhaps they repent - Repentance is the goal
Notice that these qualifications overlap the elder qualifications, but is not as extensive of the qualifications for elders. If more churches took these qualifications more seriously, churches might be able to do better in growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.

A Preacher's Spirituality

In order for a preacher to be effective, he is to grow in spiritual discipline and Christian Character. Obviously, this is not something you can measure for another person because it is rather personal. Some passages that demonstrate the need for the preacher to grow are:
  1. 1 Tim 4:16; 2Tim 1:16 - Do not neglect the Spiritual Gift within you. Kindle it afresh
  2. 1 Tim 4:16 - Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching & persevere
  3. 2 Tim 3:14-17 - In order to be "adequate," a preacher is to continue to study the word
So the preacher needs to have time to study, reflect, and grow. He cannot fill anyones cup if his own well is dry. The purpose of preacher training programs are not to indoctrinate the preacher, but to teach him to become a life-long student of God's word. Preachers don't go to school so they can learn pre-fab sermons to preach on Sunday, but go to school to acquire and learn the tools and skills of his trade. Preachers never get up and preach an excellent sermon on the spur of the moment.

Therefore, a preacher needs his time for spiritual reflection. He needs time for retreat, just as Jesus did. He needs time for continuing studies for his own personal growth and not just for preparation of lessons.

Responsibilities TO a preacher

This section of the study, though not specific to the role of the preacher, is related. What is the responsibility of a congregation to a preacher? The first of the three passages that follow are applicable to leaders in general and are not unique to preachers. The final passage is an instruction unique to preachers.

1. The first passage.
"Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. (Heb 13:17)"

The first word is an unfortunate translation. It is a passive verb and should therefore be translated, "be persuaded by your leaders." In the original text, the entire verse is one sentence. The whole verse is quite literally this:

"Be persuaded by the ones leading you and submit, for they keep watch on behalf of the souls of you as a word rendering in order that with joy this they may do and no groaning for unprofitable for you this would be."

So the church ought to listen to their leaders so that their work would be a joy and not a burden. To make their work miserable would not be profitable.

2. The second passage
" But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another (1 Thess 5:12-13)."

Have a generous attitude toward your leaders. Love and honor them for the work they do on behalf of the church.

3. Passage number three
"Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock? ... For it is written in the Law of Moses, "You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing." God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. ... So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel (1 Cor 9:7-14)."

Like elders who work hard at preaching and teaching, the church should compensate preachers financially for their work as well.

Concluding Reflections