Clergy & Laity: Thoughts on the Last Post, Part 1 (The Preacher Pattern) I expected, the readers’ comments on the last post in this series have been insightful, helpful, and utterly inconsistent with each other. The inconsistency is entirely understandable, as I feel a bit conflicted myself. And I admit to a certain prejudice, being a practicing lawyer who has to keep up with his time. I hate it.

Hmm …

The pattern for preachers

Let’s start with the Biblical basis for the ministerial system. Well, the famous 1889 Sand Creek Address & Declaration by Daniel Sommer and supporters declared hiring a minister damnable. And thus began the a cappella Churches of Christ as a distinct denomination. Of course, he also declared instrumental music damnable, but the located preacher system was just as prominent in his thinking (in fact, the first published edition of the A&D omitted mention of instrumental music!).

There are several ways of looking at the job. Some see the preacher as a professional elder/pastor, but that’s not the Church of Christ view, and I think we’re right on that one. Some see the preacher as an “evangelist” in the nature of Timothy or Titus.

Paul wrote,

(1Ti 4:12-16 ESV)  12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.  13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.  14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.  15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.  16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

(2Ti 4:2-5 ESV)  2 [P]reach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  … 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Of course, Timothy had the power to ordain elders, which is a bit problematic if we call modern-day preachers “evangelists” in the identical sense! And some denominations actually allow the pulpit guy to ordain the elders. But then, presumably the elders ordained Timothy, as they laid hands on him, surely a sign of ordination. So I don’t know how that works.

But, you see, I’m not a patternist when it comes to church organization. I can’t imagine a congregation hiring a 22-year old straight out of preacher school and him ordaining elders — absent miraculous help from the Spirit. Not many men that young have that level of discernment. Just so, it’s astounding that Paul expected Titus and Timothy to ordain elders, absent a special gift from the Spirit.

“Evangelist” is built on “gospel” — a good news-ist. Does that mean the evangelist (or “gospelist”) should be solely engaged in preaching to the lost? Alexander Campbell thought so. He used the word as the equivalent of “missionary.” And in a missionary setting, it often makes sense for the missionary to ordain elders, as the members are often very immature in the faith in a missionary setting.

Anyway, as a non-patternist I’m free to leave that entire mode of thought. As I see it, the church, through its leadership, is free to create such paid positions as fulfills its scriptural purposes. My church has a pulpit minister, an involvement/worship minister, a campus minister, two youth ministers, a children’s minister, an associate campus minister (3 women, 4 men) — as well as 3 secretaries, a janitor, and an accountant (it’s a big church). We no more have to have specific scriptural authority for a preacher than for a secretary. I don’t know why we want to argue over the scriptural authority for a preacher but not for a janitor.

Well, the reason is that, the way we do church, the preacher often has much more power than even the elders. Not in terms of the organizational chart, but in terms of his relationship with the church. Weekly preaching, visiting the sick, performing weddings and funerals, and such make the preacher the church personified in the minds of most members. Therefore, we worry about the wisdom of giving such influence to someone on the payroll. Then again, we complain when the preacher’s vacation plans don’t line up with our daughters’ wedding plans or he doesn’t visit us in the hospital. Oh, well.

In a large church, the eldership may have men with M.Div.’s or extensive Bible knowledge from personal study, but in most churches, the preacher will be the most educated member in terms of scripture. That adds to his influence, tending to supplant the elders’ responsibility to be responsible for sound doctrine. Of course, if you fire the preacher, the elders will still be uninformed in the scriptures — so the solution isn’t less expertise in the pulpit but more expertise (and training) for elders. (Why on earth do we invest so few resources in elder training?)

So I figure the preacher’s job is pretty much a roll-your-own thing. The job is whatever the preacher and elders agree on — and, as a rule, the job description — if you have one — is out of date the second week on the job. The guy hired to preach and teach classes may well wind up preaching, leading small groups, and taking the teens to Six Flags. That’s not so much the nature of preaching as the nature of jobs. They change depending on the needs of the employer.

But the elders and ministers can sort that out as the congregation’s desires change. The preacher may or may not be required to preach all the time or teach two classes a week or oversee the budget. There is no fixed, Bible-mandated job description. I even know of churches that have a paid evangelist (personal worker), but no paid preacher.

So … in terms of whether the preacher should be accountable for his time, the question isn’t answered by searching for a biblical pattern of time keeping or results measuring. It depends on … what I’m going to discuss in the next post of this series.


6 Responses

  1. Jay wrote, “Let’s start with the Biblical basis for the ministerial system. Well, the famous 1889 Sand Creek Address & Declaration by Daniel Sommer and supporters declared hiring a minister damnable. And thus began the a cappella Churches of Christ as a distinct denomination. Of course, he also declared instrumental music damnable, but the located preacher system was just as prominent in his thinking (in fact, the first published edition of the A&D omitted mention of instrumental music!).”

    But there is no Biblical basis for a clergyman in a Christian assembly. Nor for a building. Nor for a janitor or a secretary. But most churches I know of do hire a preacher, thinking they have to have one in order to be a Christian congregation. They’re wrong, just as Jay is wrong in assuming it’s all right to hire unqualified persons to do the work God expected to be done by qualified elders and deacons.

    As for “authority” of an evangelist. Jesus makes clear that none of us are to have authority since our call is to serve as ministers (servants). Timothy was to “appoint” elders who had been selected by the congregation, likely, just as the ones to serve in distributing food in Jerusalem were selected. The apostles HAD authority. Unquestioned. But they had the members select men qualified for the work that needed to be done. Surely it’s the Lord’s plan always to work in that way.

    Evangelists usuall are strangers only briefly living in the community. They have no authority to pick out the persons THEY prefer to lead a congregation. The members know one another usually, and can better select the best persons to teach and lead the group than can any outsider. Preachers who feel called to “boss” a congregation would best serve that group by moving away from it! Elders who feel called to “boss” a group would best serve that group by resigning. For the Lord’s call is for us each to SERVE rather than to BOSS anyone.

  2. I wish spell-check worked on e-notes for replies. My typewriter thought usuall was an allright word. I don’t think so. My finger hit a “y” to end the word, but the “y” didn’t make it to the note that went out. Ooops.

  3. Well, here we go again. So much preoccupation with “authority” and so little knowledge and understanding of how the scriptures use the terms it employs that can be translated “authority”.

    Who among us knows how many verses/passages in the Bible discuss authority of any kind?

    Who among us knows how many terms are used for authority and what they mean?

    Who among us has taken seriously the task of even studying authority out for ourselves and keeping and organizing notes on it?

    Please allow me to recommend something: get out your favorite exhaustive concordance and look up all the words translated “authority” in the scriptures. Make a list of the Greek and Hebrew words so translated and note how often each is used and where, so you can see the context in future studies.

    Check out words that relate to authority – like influence, submit, obey, persuade, compel, constraint, etc.. Do the same kind of word study and context study for each word and each passage where it can be found.

    Then, when you have done at least this much, you will have the beginnings (and just the beginnings) of a primer on what authority is and how it has been used and how it should be used and how it should not be used. You will also have some idea of who is ever mentioned as having authority and how much they had or did not have.

    And just so you know, the first time I followed these steps and completed the tasks described, I was 25 years old and very wet behind the ears and was suffering from high fever and wretched nausea … and it only took about 12 hours to finish the work. So this is nothing a healthy person cannot tackle and finish over a weekend of intense effort and study.

    After you do these things, I am quite certain we will have a very different discussion.

    So … what are you waiting for?

  4. Per usual, I am going thru my e-mail, “OneIn” 1st, and
    just have to say that the “Griz” is aptly named/naming
    himself. Wish I could get to this at a reasonable hour.

    Trying to learn in Central Va.,

  5. Grizz,

    … and I was so much in agreement with you up to this point.

    If you do a serious word study on “elder” and “overseer,” you find that they are words of authority. That authority is softened and made Christ-like by “shepherd.” But the sheep follow the shepherd. The shepherd leads. He doesn’t just bind wounds. But he leads for the benefit of the flock — helping them find green pasture and still water. It’s power but power exercised selflessly.

  6. Jay,

    And your point is????

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