What is a Preacher?
Before reading this article, ponder these questions for a second.
- What comes to mind when you hear the word “preach” or “preacher”?
- Who, in the church, are those called to preach?
- What is the difference (if any) between preaching and teaching?
Traditionally I always thought preachers were just charismatic Christian speakers. A preacher, in my understanding, was one who could pull the full range of emotional strings in an audience. They’d make you laugh, cry, and shout “AMEN!” all in one sermon. I thought that teachers, by contrast, were speakers who were a bit more dry and intellectual. Teachers in the church cared more about fleshing out the finer points of doctrine and took a more academic approach to reading the scriptures. If a sermon was particularly moving or convicting I would think “that man can preach!” If I felt more intellectually stimulated I would say “he’s more of a teacher than a preacher”. In my journey through the Bible, though, I would find these understandings of preaching and teaching to be false.
God’s Power to Save Rests in News
The word “Gospel” simply means “Good News”. In the biblical context The Gospel refers to the good news of Jesus defeating sin and death at the Cross and being raised from the dead to forgive all those who turn to Him in faith. Romans 1:16 tells us that The Gospel is “God’s power for salvation”. Not our good works, or a ritual, or a particular prayer, or baptism, or anything else – it’s the Gospel alone that has the power to save.
It’s interesting to think that our salvation rests in news; and this news must be told. The question, then, is who will tell people this news?
“But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher?”
The Gospel is a Message to Be Proclaimed
The word “preacher” can literally be translated as herald, public crier, announcer or proclaimer. The word is used 61 times in the New Testament, and always refers to the verbal proclamation of the Gospel of Christ. Some argue that we are to “preach the gospel always, and when necessary, use words”. Though that’s a nice sentiment, it’s impossible (and unbiblical) to assume that we can preach the gospel any other way than using our words. The Gospel is not simply a philosophy to appreciate and live by – The Gospel is a message to be proclaimed.
So, Who Are the Proclaimers?
So we’ve established that the Gospel is a message to be proclaimed (or news to be announced); and the preacher is the one who proclaims the news. Who, then, are these proclaimers of good news? Who are the preachers?
“Then He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.””
The Great Commission has been recognized as the marching orders of the church for over 2000 years. As followers of Jesus we are all called to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), and as we saw in Romans 1:16 and 10:14 the only way a disciple is made is through the proclamation of the Gospel. Therefore, the call to believe is also a call to preach.
“And since we have the same spirit of faith in keeping with what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke, we also believe, and therefore speak.”
2 Corinthians 4:13
All to Preach, Some to Teach
“Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment…”
In explaining spiritual gifts to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul explains that “there are different gifts, but the same Spirit…” He then explains how each Christian is like a different body part, functioning in its own individual way to benefit the rest of the body. He asks the rhetorical question, “are all teachers?” with the assumed answer being no (see 1 Corinthians 12). In his letter to Timothy, Paul gives qualifications for leaders in the church, specifically elders and deacons. The primary difference between elders and deacons is that elders should be able to teach – a requirement not imposed on deacons (see 1 Timothy 3).
Biblically speaking, my previous idea of preachers being charismatic and teachers being academic was false. If someone is speaking to the church, reading from the scriptures and explaining what the text means and how it applies, they are teaching. There are many different flavors of teachers and teaching styles because there are many different flavors of people. Some teaching styles may be more charismatic, others more scholastic. Some styles are better than others, and some are just different. But it’s important to know the difference between preaching and teaching so that we avoid the mistake of thinking the role of a preacher is reserved for a select few.
Most Christians are not called to teach in the church because teaching is a high calling that requires a stricter judgement. Though the bible is clear that not all are called to teach in the church, it is equally clear that all Christians are called to preach the gospel to the world.
To preach is to proclaim, and the teach is to explain. The teaching ministry is reserved for a select few in the church, but the preaching ministry is given to all. The Gospel is the central message of Christianity and every recipient of it has been commissioned by Christ to proclaim it; consequently the call to believe is also a call to preach. Therefore, GO!