Preaching, Teaching, Pastors, and Evangelists

I read a terrific article from Charisma magazine on our need for men of God like Wesley, Spurgeon, Moody, and others.

The article's confusion about the role of preaching, however, highlights a terrible misunderstanding evangelicals have about the definition of preaching, the role of preaching and pastors, and the role and importance of the church.

Modern Misunderstanding: Preaching, the Pulpit, and Pastors

Our modern misunderstanding of the biblical role of preaching and pastors is highlighted in one quote from the otherwise wonderful article. I need to give you a second quote to provide background, however:

A few years back, I listened in astonishment as some prominent emergent church leaders such as Rob Bell, Tony Jones and Brian McLaren talked about replacing "preaching" with "having a conversation."

So the author, Shane Idleman, is concerned about the loss of "preaching" in our evangelical churches. His overall concern, that these prominent emergent church leaders are walking away from the authority of God, is both valid and important. His understanding of biblical "preaching," however, is false, though that just makes him a typical evangelical.

At first, I thought that they might be confusing individual conversations with how we should speak to the masses, but I was wrong. They felt that we should stop "preaching" from the pulpit and start being more passive and less confrontational. Never mind the fact that Jesus said, "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent" (Luke 4:43). But according to many, it's time to replace the pulpit with a couch and preaching with conversing.

"Preaching" Is for the Lost

Mr. Eidelman feels it is important to preach from the pulpit and be confrontational. The quote he gives to justify this is Jesus saying that the purpose he came is to preach the kingdom of God.

What neither Mr. Eidelman, nor most evangelicals, know or understand is that biblically there is no "preaching" in the church. Paul was a preacher, but he was also a teacher (2 Tim. 1:11). Preaching, biblically, is done to the lost, and teaching to the church.

Further, "preaching the kingdom of God" is a clear reference to preaching the Gospel. Jesus did "talk about the things concerning the kingdom of God" to the apostles before he was taken up (Acts 1:3). When, however, the kingdom of God is preached, Scripture defines this as preaching the Gospel, not teaching the church (Mk. 1:14-15) because the kingdom of God is the Gospel.

Here are some of the evidences for "preaching" being the equivalent of "evangelism" in the Scriptures:

In Romans 10:14 we read that those who do not believe require a preacher to believe.

The Greek word for preach, kerusso, is used interchangeably with euangelizo (evangalize) repeatedly. For example, Mark 1:38 quotes Jesus as saying that he needs to go to other towns so that he may preach (kerusso) in them as well. The parallel passage, Luke 4:43, quotes Jesus as saying that he must preach (euangelizo) to other cities.

We all know that "evangelism" is for the lost, but what we do not realize is that "preaching" and "evangelism" (euangelizo and kerusso) are used interchangeably throughout the New Testament. They are synonyms. Thus, if evangelism is for the lost, so is preaching.

If you follow kerusso through its 61 New Testament uses, you will find that most of them clearly reference evangelizing the lost. There are ambiguous uses of kerusso, but not one of the uses of kerusso clearly suggests teaching the churches.

Some examples include:

How shall they preach (kerusso) unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of them that evangelize (euangelizo) about peace and evangelize (euongelizo) about good things. (Rom. 10:15)
Whether me or them, so we preach (kerusso) and so you believed. (1 Cor. 15:11)
I went by revelation and communicated to [the apostles] the Gospel I preach (kerusso) among the Gentiles ... lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. (Gal. 2:2)
... if you continue in the faith, grounded and settled, not moved away from the Gospel you have heard, which was preached (kerusso) to every creature under heaven. (Col. 1:23)

Does the Definition of Preaching Matter?

Does any of this matter? If pastors are evangelizing from the pulpit, isn't that a good thing?

No. It's not. Misunderstanding the teachings of Jesus and the apostles is never a good thing, and it always has consequences beyond the immediate problem.

It is not alarming to evangelicals to hear that their pastors are evangelizing rather than teaching because they don't understand what a church is, the purpose of a church, the difference between a pastor and an evangelist, the purpose of pastors, nor even what a pastor is.

1 Timothy 5:17

One person who read a small portion of this teaching on Facebook mentioned 1 Timothy 5:17. In the NASB, it reads like this:

The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.

There is a note in the NASB pointing out that "preaching" is literally, "in word."

The point I am making on this page is that the Greek New Testament, and thus the apostles, distinguish between evangelizing the lost (euangelizo and kerusso) and teaching Christians (didasko and catechizo). "Preaching" is often substituted for "evangelizing" throughout the New Testament is most translations.

In 1 Timothy 5:17, elders are said to labor in word (en logos) and teaching. There is no good reason to translate en logos as preaching, and to do so only causes confusion. Once again, due to inconsistent translating, we confuse people's interpretation of the Scripture, leading to continuation of traditions that make void the teachings of God.

The tradition that needs to be corrected in this case is the idea that it is the job of a shepherd, a role filled by elders in New Covenant teaching, to evangelize or proclaim the Gospel to the lost. The reason that Jesus gives the church evangelists (Eph. 4:11) is so that they can preach to (evangelize) the lost. Elders, however, shepherd and teach the church.

Of course, all of us who follow Jesus should be evangelists at least in deed, and we should be prepared to explain our faith to the lost (1 Tim. 3:15-16). Shepherds should be examples in this as in all aspects of Christian character.

On this page, however, I am addressing a misunderstanding about the role of shepherds in the New Testament. We picture interchange shepherd, pastor, and preacher, but there is nothing scriptural about this.

Apostles

Apostles are the only ones, scripturally, who preach and teach both. The reason for this is simple if we think about it. As church planters, apostles must both win the lost and instruct them when they are converted. Because of their special role, apostles must have a wide range of gifts that will wind up being carried out by others once the church is established.

The apostles are said to both preach and teach many times in the New Testament (Acts 5:42; 15:35; 28:31; Col. 1:28; 1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11).

The use of "preach" and "teach" in the New Testament is remarkably consistent, except where translators somehow opted to translate "in word" as "preaching."

In addition ...

Timothy and Titus

Timothy and Titus are unfortunately known as the "pastoral epistles." This, too, is a product of reading our traditions back into the Bible.

Timothy and Titus are both temporarily left behind by Paul to appoint elders (shepherds/pastors), not to be pastors (1 Tim. 3:2-7; Tit. 1:5-9). Timothy and Titus are apostolic epistles, not pastoral epistles.

We have further evidence of this in 1 Thessalonians, which is written from "Paul, Silas, and Timothy" (1:1). Paul says that "we" could have been burdensome "as apostles of the King" (2:6).

This is the reason that Timothy is told to "do the work of an evangelist" (2 Tim. 4:5) as well as to teach (1 Tim. 4:11; 6:2).

Where To Go Next

This post is tied to What Is a Church?, a post I am not finished with yet, though the only thing missing is the section on historical verification and some final editing. It is there I recommend you go above all.

I also linked an article on my Christian history site that defines bishops, elders, and pastors from the Scripture. That article is an important foundation to this one.