Pastor or Preacher? Yes.

28 Jun

I remember once in a church where I was a member, we got a new pastor. The former pastor had been a good preacher but was not as gifted relationally. The new pastor was a much warmer personality. I remember one member said, after the new pastor came, “We used to have a preacher, but now we have a pastor.”

I used to think this was an appropriate distinction, but the more I read the Bible, the more I realize it isn’t a good statement. Effective pastoring brings together relationships and the ministry of the Word. It can’t really be any other way and be real servant leadership in the church. A pastor who is not concerned with the ministry of the Word has nothing of ultimate value to offer those under his care. He may be jovial or warm or a real conversationalist. He may even express love through many acts of caring and concern, but if he doesn’t bring the truth of the Word to bear on the hearts of those he has been entrusted with, he is not a pastor. He may be a chaplain or church CEO, but he is not a pastor. True pastoring can not be separated from the ministry of the Word.

At the same time, a pastor who is only concerned with the ministry of the Word and not with relationships with the people has misunderstood the ministry of the Word. The ministry of the Word flourishes in the context of relationships. Applications of the text spring up everywhere when a pastor knows those he has been given. True exhortation and encouragement comes in within relationships forged by acts of caring and by time and by concern. A man concerned with preaching but not with people may be a good professor or a good orator, but he is not a pastor. True pastoring can not be separated from ministry to people.

I think it would be good to retire the phrase, “He’s a preacher, but not a pastor.” I also think we should do away with the phrase, “He’s a pastor, but not a preacher.” While it is true that no pastor is a perfect balance of relational ability and strength in preaching, we need to realize that these things go together in the ministry to which pastors are called. Pastors are first and foremost ministers of the Word in the context of relationships. So if someone were to ask me if I’m a pastor or a preacher, I would answer, “Yes.” I pastor by preaching and all my preaching and teaching and personal bringing of the Word to others is informed by the relationships I have formed with people in the body.  Pastors need to remember the vital way the Word is to shape their ministries and pastors need to remember that they are ministering to people and are not merely living in the world of ideas. Church members need to be gracious toward their pastors while also calling them to be faithful in the ministry of the Word in the body. Your former pastor may have been a little less warm personally than your current pastor, but God can use them both mightily in your life, if they will be faithful to God’s purposes and you will receive them even if they are not like someone else you have admired in ministry.

One Response to “Pastor or Preacher? Yes.”

  1. creatorworship July 1, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    Grace and truth are not contradictory ideas but two sides of the same coin. God’s grace works according to His truth and His truth is tempered by grace especially toward His beloved. So conveying God’s word through preaching and relating are not mutually exclusive as you have so well conveyed.

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