The Role of the Preacher
Few tasks on earth are as important as preaching the word of God. The New Testament uses a number of descriptions for the preacher. It describes him variously as a soldier (2 Tim. 2:3), an athlete (2 Tim. 2:5), a farmer (2 Tim 2:6), a workman (2 Tim. 2:15), and a bondservant (2 Tim 2:24). An idea common to all of these terms i. While all of these are instructive, there are three primary roles in which the preacher is called for service: preacher, evangelist, and minister to others.
The primary role of the preacher is to proclaim the gospel. It is a marvelous and wonderful privilege to tell others about Christ, His kingdom, and His love for mankind. Few tasks on earth are as important as preaching the word of God. It connects others—both saved and lost—to the life-giving and life-sustaining message of the gospel (cf. Rom. 1:16). However, preaching the gospel is not always a pleasant task (cf. Titus 1:13). It can involve identifying and correcting error, as well as informing others of the dire consequences of rejecting God and refusing to do His will. Preaching does not necessarily involve telling people what they to hear (cf. Gal. 1:9), but rather what they hear.
The sober truth is something the preacher must preach even though the message will not always be well-received. We may see sound preachers mocked while legions of devotees flock to false teachers preaching a saccharine pseudo-gospel of unbiblical tolerance. Of course, this is nothing new—often God’s messengers have had to contend with those who prefer error over truth (cf. Jer. 5:31). When rightly preached, the gospel message both comforts and confronts us.
Our English word “evangelist” derives from the Greek term euaggelistes, meaning someone who delivers a message of good news. The work of evangelism is often a thankless task, and it is far more involved that some might assume. The faithful preacher will encounter many obstacles in his work. It may take the form of hostile opponents who subscribe to another worldview. It could arise because of cultural differences between the preacher and his hearers. The problem might be something within the preacher himself, such as the failure to articulate the message properly, or show a lack of passion, courage, or confidence.
In giving his advice to Timothy, Paul states that he should preach, be ready, reprove, rebuke, and exhort “with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). Here the apostle combines two different terms that highlight the importance of proper attitude as well as sound doctrine. The manner in which the gospel is presented is a vital component of the message, especially in an age in which the gospel may be dismissed altogether for no other reason than the attitude of the preacher.
Part of the work of serving as a minister is encouraging others. The world is filled with people who have been hurt and who have experienced challenges and loss. Paul serves as an encourager when he writes to his younger protégé Timothy in order to encourage him. Although the details are not entirely clear, there are subtle clues in Second Timothy that the younger preacher’s confidence has wavered. Perhaps it is because he is tired; it is likely because of his having to contend with rampant false teaching in Ephesus. Regardless of the cause, Paul encourages Timothy to keep the faith and redouble his efforts for the kingdom.
The example of Barnabas is a model of encouragement for everyone, preachers included. He vouched for Paul after his conversion not long after he had cut a swath of persecution and destruction through the church (Acts 9:26-27). He worked with John Mark when Paul refused to do so (Acts 15:37). Many people may not realize that Barnabas was a nickname given him based on his character (explained as “son of encouragement” in Acts 4:36-37). How is it that Barnabas was so encouraging? The Bible tells not only that he was a good man, but that he was also full of the Holy Spirit and faith (Acts 11:24).
The preacher cannot take his work seriously enough. He stands in the long line of God’s messengers whose task was to preach what God has revealed. In biblical times, prophets in the Old Testament and apostles in the New Testament spoke the word of God precisely as it had been given them. God’s men were not free to improvise, add, subtract, or otherwise modify that message, either then or now. As Paul might ask the preachers of today, how can anyone call upon the name of a Lord of whom they have never heard, and how can they hear about this marvelous Lord unless they are informed properly? Beautiful indeed are the feet of those who bring good news (cf. Rom. 10:14-15), whether as preacher, evangelist or minister!
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