Recently, I was walking from my apartment parking lot toward our apartment when I saw that my neighbor was doing the opposite. We stopped for a brief, “how-do-you-do?” chat. “Where are you headed?” I asked. “I’m going to visit my preacher and his family,” he replied.
I think it’s significant that my neighbor, and many of us who belong to a local church, would refer to the person he was referring to as his preacher. It is especially fascinating when, to my knowledge, no where in the New Testament does it refer to that person my neighbor was going to visit as “preacher”. He is called pastor (Eph 4:11), overseer (1 Tim 3:1), elder (1 Pet 5:1), bishop (Phil 1:1), and leader (Heb 13:7), but never is he labelled “preacher”.
So was my neighbor, and the rest of us, wrong to call our pastor our preacher? Are we out of line with the New Testament pattern for understanding who are leaders are in the church?
Though our nomenclature may not be totally precise, I’m convinced we are revealing some helpful and biblical insight about the nature of pastoral ministry when we call our pastors “preachers”. It is because at the heart of pastoral ministry is preaching the word of God to the people of God.
There are many texts one could study to prove this claim. One that has been much on my mind lately is Hebrews 13:7. The writer commands his Christian readers, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God.” The writer is exhorting these Christians to not neglect their leaders but to remember them, to care for them. And the way he gets their attention is by reminding them why they should remember their leaders: because they “spoke to you the word of God.” That is what was crucial for these leaders. That is what made the difference for these Christians. That is why they should remember their leaders, because to them they spoke the word of God.
One cannot long consider what the Bible says about pastoral ministry without coming to these words: “I 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.” (2 Tim 4:1) I get shivers when I read that verse. Paul’s charge is legitimately awesome.
As preaching is the vital aspect of pastoral ministry, I plan to share much of what I am learning about preaching and experiencing in my preaching on this blog. Writing about what I learn and experience will help me learn and hopefully be helpful to you in whatever way.
There is so much more to say about preaching and so many other biblical passages to consider. And as well there is much more to say about pastoral ministry. As convinced as I am that preaching is at the heart of pastoral ministry, I am equally convinced that it is not the whole kit and caboodle. Preachers of the gospel must be men of prayer and lovers of people. Those two facets of pastoral ministry are what I’ll consider next.