Thoughts on the Preacher’s Work


By Wayne S. Walker 

     Every once in a while an article will appear ridiculing the preacher who spends twenty or maybe even thirty hours a week studying for sermons, classes, articles, etc., most of which will be of benefit primarily to brethren.  Such preachers are sometimes slurringly referred to as “sheep-feeders,” and the problem, we are told, is the rise of the “pastor” system, “professionalism,” and the “clergy-laity” distinction among New Testament churches.  It is further admonished that elders should take the sole responsibility of feeding the sheep, and the preacher should use most of his time in seeking and teaching those who are lost.

     No, no one decries the “pastor system,” “professionalism,” or the “clergy-laity” system more than I.  And if a preacher is involved is involved in such a situation, or is heading in that direction, he should be reprimanded.  However, an examination of the “pastor” system as it actually exists in denominational churches will yield the conclusion that it is probably not as much a danger among us as some might think, although we all admit that we must be careful of any abuses that could occur as a result of the practice of using located preachers.

     Because of the need to work and provide for their families, most elders are not able to give their full time to feeding the flock.  Certainly, all elders ought to be able to teach in a public capacity and need to be doing so as opportunity allows, but not all their feeding can or should be done in this personal manner.  And nowhere does the Bible teach that they must give up their regular jobs to do such work, although they are to be commended if they can and do (1 Tim. 5:17).  So, let me ask, what is wrong with an eldership which, exercising its oversight, employs a gospel preacher to assist them in feeding the flock and lets his main duty be the edification and exhortation of Christians in the local congregation?

     “Well,” someone may ask, and rightly so, “where is the authority for it?”  All right, read the books of First and Second Timothy and Titus.  And as you read, write down the passages which deal which deal with the supposed “primary work” of the preacher to convert the lost.  How many are there?  Most of the sections which mention the preacher’s teaching responsibilities (1 Tim. 1:3-4, 4:6-7 and 11-16, 5:19-22, 6:17-21; 2 Tim. 2:2, 15-18, 23-25, 4:1-5; Tit. 1:5 and 10-14, 2:1-6, 3:1-2 and 9-11) refer to his relationship with the members of the church (if I may use that term without being called on the carpet).

     For example, Timothy, who was to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:6), was also specifically told, “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed” (1 Tim. 4:6, emphasis mine, WSW).  To fulfill such obligations, an evangelist will have to utilize a great deal of his time in studying God’s word and learning how to apply it to the various situations which arise among the members in the local congregation.

     No one will deny that a preacher, because he is a redeemed child of God, and especially because of his knowledge of the Bible and his ability, should be active as an individual Christian in seeking to share the gospel with lost sinners, just as every other Christian (including those who are not preachers) should do.  And most preachers worth their salt will give a good portion of their time to doing it.  But I resent being told that if I spend more than three or four hours a week in studying, I am not doing “my job” (often meaning “the brethren’s job” too).  In fact, that seems more like the “pastor” system to me than the other.

     —taken from Torch; Sept., 1977; Vol. XII, No. 9; pp. 8-9 (slightly revised)


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