The Located Preacher and his Work
There is a dire and urgent need that people understand what the work of a preacher is and is not. In many cases, the preacher has been relegated to a public relations man or an entertainer and babysitter for different age groups. He often fills the job description of a social worker rather than the herald of the gospel. Bible Truths is rapidly becoming a reference work for a growing number of preachers who frequently visit the site. Hence, this material shall serve to educate both those who have dedicated their lives to preaching and for those to whom they preach and serve.
In the denominational world, we encounter the common view of the preacher being "the pastor" of a local church. While a preacher may serve as a pastor or elder when he meets the qualifications and is appointed, does not offer any credence to the pastoral system that is characteristic of much of the religious world (Peter was a preacher and shepherd, I Pet. 5: 1-4. Elders (plural) served, ruled, and led the local churches, Acts 14: 23. These were mature men who met the qualifications found in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1). There is the view in some churches of Christ that the scriptural preacher must be on the move and only preach (teach) to non-Christians. Therefore, a preacher who is located, supported, and preaches to a local church is unscriptural, in their thinking. I shall break down our study into two primary sections: "the located preacher" and "his work."
The located preacher. Not all are meant to be public preachers, addressing mixed audiences of adults with the message of the cross (Jas. 3: 1). For instance, women are forbidden such a role (I Tim. 2: 12 ff.).
Located versus detached from local church view. There can admittedly be different types of preachers, having different goals. Paul expressed the desire to "not build on another man's foundation" (Rom. 15: 20). However, even Paul recognized, condoned, and assisted others in building on his foundation (I Cor. 3: 6 ff.). Paul also worked for years in given areas and was associated with local churches in these endeavors (Acts 18; 19). He even preached to these brethren (Acts 20: 20-27). It was Paul who reprimanded the church at Corinth for their failure to financially support preachers as they should have (I Cor. 9: 6-14). Paul received support from other churches in order to preach to the church at Corinth (2 Cor. 11: 8). These biblical facts should suffice to prove that a preacher can be located, preach to the church, and be financially supported. However, there continue to be those who advocate the "mutual edification" doctrine (the members must teach one another without the presence of a preacher). One well-known advocate of mutual edification was Leroy Garrett. Garrett taught:
" The term evangelist is applied to those missionaries who like Philip the evangelist and Timothy traveled from place to place to bear glad tidings of Christ to unbelieving nations and individuals" (Dehoff-Garrett Debate, pg. 19, 20. Garrett quotes from Conybeare and Howson, Life and Epistles of St. Paul, Vol. 1, pg. 436).
There have also been modified views relative to the no located preacher position. One modified view is that a local church can have a located preacher providing there are no elders. Consider the teaching of Tolbert Fanning as stated by historian Earl West:
"The logical teachers, and overseers of the church were the elders. The elders were but the elderly men in the church. They 'kept house for the Lord,' and edified the saints. All the teaching was done by this group ." (The Search for the Ancient Order, Vol. 1, pg. 342).
Involved in the no located position are a number of key words and terms. The proponents of this movement have given these words a special and almost esoteric meaning. "Preach" means to address non-Christians; therefore, one cannot "preach to the church," we are told (Bible Talk, January, 1953, pg. 51, Leroy Garrett). Notwithstanding, Paul charged Timothy to preach to the brethren at Ephesus (2 Tim. 4: 2-5). It is also evident that the church at Ephesus continued to have elders while Timothy worked with this church (see I Tim. 1: 3; 5: 17-20). We are told that one cannot teach the lost. Notwithstanding, we read of teaching (they were "taught") the lost (Acts 5: 20, 21, vs. 42). According to mutual edification proponents, the term "evangelist" only applies to one who travels and preaches to the lost (Dehoff-Garrett Debate, pg. 19). However, the scriptures apply "evangelist" to a located preacher who preaches to the church (2 Tim. 4: 5, see vs. 1-4, I am not affirming that "evangelist" cannot also apply to one who teaches the lost, Acts 8: 5, 21: 8). There is also a misunderstanding of the word "feed," as used in I Peter 5: 2 (KJV). They contend that to feed means to teach and that elders are told to teach the local church. However, the Greek word for "feed" in I Peter 5: 2 is poimaino, to tend. The term "doctrine" must be rendered "teaching," according to the no located preacher people. "Doctrine" (didache) can and often does involve both the act of teaching and that which is taught (cp. Acts 5: 28, 13: 12).
The mutual edification concept as set forth by some. Make no mistake, the scriptures clearly teach mutual edification (Eph. 4: 16). Those who bind their view of mutual edification, though, inject their own thinking. We must remember that Paul sanctioned Apollos watering (edifying) the church at Corinth after Paul left (I Cor. 3: 6 ff.). If the located preacher arrangement had been a perversion, certainly Paul would have rebuked the Corinthian church and Apollos, but he did not! In the text to which allusion has been made relative to scriptural mutual edification, it will be observed that the "evangelist" is part of the edification arrangement (see Ephesians 4: 11-16). False mutual edification is not only foreign to the scriptures, it weakens local churches by having men function that are not qualified.
A hireling if located preacher accepts support view. Leroy Garrett is the recognized champion of the Mutual Edification Movement within churches of Christ during the latter part of the twentieth century. Garrett wrote, "Our preachers receive stipulated salaries which classes them as hirelings. They take gifts from the churches which is a direct violation of a Biblical principle, this pounding puts the preacher under obligation to the church and the salary seals his lips and perverts his words" (Bible Talk, February, 1953). The Bible does refer to "hirelings." However, the hireling is not simply a preacher who accepts support. The hireling is one who "seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep and fleeth ," Jesus said (Jn. 10: 12). Churches are expressly taught and are, therefore, under obligation to financially support those who faithfully teach the gospel (I Cor. 9: 14). Churches are thus obligated both in regards to a man preaching to the lost and instructing the local church (Phili. 4: 15, 16; 2 Cor. 11: 8, see addendum).
The work of an evangelist. Man has arbitrarily required many things of the preacher. These requirements are indicative of their misunderstanding of the work of the preacher. Man-made requisites involve a dynamic personality, social finesse, certain secular education stipulations, ad infinitum. As earlier suggested, the scriptures abound with requirements for the minister of the gospel. He must be gentle, skilled in teaching, forbearing, meek, sober, faithful, knowledgeable, and lead an exemplary life (2 Tim. 2: 24; 2 Tim. 2: 25; 2 Tim. 4: 5; 2 Tim. 2: 2; 2 Tim. 2: 15; I Tim. 4: 12). These requirements are reflective of the work God has assigned to preacher.
The work of the preacher is not that of pastoring the local church. He is not a backslapping social butterfly and a pacifier of different age groups within the local church. His God assigned work is to guard the faith, command and teach the truth, and to take heed to his teaching and to himself (I Tim. 6: 20; I Tim. 4: 11; I Tim. 4: 16). He is to point out the responsibilities of Christians and the church, teach and take part in the development of elders and deacons, and endure hardships (I Tim. 5: 3, 4; I Tim. 3: 1-7, 8-13, 15; 2 Tim. 2: 3). He is charged with preaching the word to the brethren and putting them in mind of the truth (2 Tim. 4: 1-5; I Tim. 4: 6). Consider the sober charge that is in general given to every preacher of the word, especially those who work with the local church:
"1: I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2: Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4: And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5: But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry" (2 Tim. 4).
It must be admitted that while the scriptures recognize and teach the function of preaching to churches for their edification, the foregoing passage also sets forth the reality of undeserving men who parade as preachers. These men, said Paul, will scratch the itch of weak and sinful brethren by teaching what they want to hear. Paul warned the young evangelist Timothy that these men would not be few in number. The expression "they heap to themselves" is from the Greek episoreuousin and means that they pile up. Such men pleasers are many. Timothy was to avoid all such men (2 Tim. 2: 15-21).
The direction of churches can largely be determined by the kind of preachers they use. Soft preaching will result in apostasy. The church desperately needs men who will courageously stand in the pulpit and, without compromise, tell people what they need to hear. Men out to win a popularity contest are a liability to the cause of Christ. In contrast, dedicated men who both teach and live the truth are always in high demand. Elders and churches should support such men both financially and in their encouragement and confirmation. Such men will on occasion "stir things up." They will be labeled as troublemakers and divisive by the complacent and hirelings. However, the strength of local churches largely depends on such loyal men. These are men who will without hesitation address the issues confronting the Lord's people. They are not indecisive in their preaching but plainly take a stand. They are not afraid to call names and identify the proponents of different false doctrines, when they believe the circumstances call for such (cp. 2 Tim. 2: 16-18).
The work of the evangelist is one of the noblest undertakings a man can perform. The minister of the gospel can do immeasurable good in this life and can help prepare men and women for the life to come (I Tim. 4: 8-11). As a man matures, his goal can be to work with the local church both as the evangelist and one of the overseers or elders (I Pet. 5: 1; I Tim. 5: 17). If there are greater "punitive consequences" attendant in the misuse of the function of being a public teacher, would it also not follow that there are greater "benefits" in the faithful discharge of the responsibility? (See James 3: 1.) (To study more about the no located preacher doctrine, click on "An Exchange on the No Located Preacher Teaching.")
Addendum: For the sake of clarity, I have no where affirmed that a local church must have a local preacher, as such, in order to be a scriptural church. The function of the local preacher does not appear to have been a requisite in order for the local church to have been fully organized (Phili. 1: 1). There can be conceivable cases where one or all of the elders do the public teaching. Perhaps it is a situation where the men carry out the work of public instruction. However, in most cases, the local church will need a faithful man to serve as the local preacher, such is an expedient and aid to the soundness of the local church.