What Is a Preacher?
By Wayne Greeson

What is a "preacher"? What are the preacher's duties? What exactly is a preacher supposed to do? Everyone has an opinion and will readily give it, but what does God say?

Servant, Herald, and Messenger

The New Testament contains three terms that describe God's worker whom we know as a preacher. These words not only describe the worker, but also the work God expects of him. The three terms are: minister, preacher, and evangelist.


The word Diakonos, means: one who serves, a servant. A preacher is a minister or servant of Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 4:6). His work is to serve (present) the Lord's word, the gospel, to all men (Acts 6:4; Romans 15:16). A "good minister of Jesus Christ" must also "put the brethren in remembrance of these things..." (1 Timothy 4:6). A preacher is to "take heed to the ministry which (he) has received in the Lord, that (he) fulfill(s) it." (Colossians 4:17)


The word Kerux means: a herald, a public proclaimer from the king, who authoritatively declares the king's law to the people, who must obey it. The Lord authorized (1 Timothy 2:7) and sent out His preachers, or heralds, into all the world (Romans 10:14-18). Their sole work is to proclaim His message, the gospel (2 Timothy 2:1-7; 4:1-5).


The word evangelist is from the Greek word euangelistes and simply means: a messenger of good. Christ gave evangelists (Ephesians 4:11-12) to bear His good message, the gospel, which means "good news." Paul warned Timothy the evangelist, "Do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry" (1 Timothy 4:5). Paul's charge was, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." (2 Timothy 4:2)

Diverting the Lord's Heralds

The preacher's work has a short and simple description, but a large and vital scope. Men who are dissatisfied with God's simple plan have devised many other roles and works for their preachers. By way of these devices, Satan delays, distracts, and diverts the important work of the King's royal heralds into a thousand channels. As churches have expanded their work and mission beyond what the Lord gave, they have also expanded the preacher's job description. We are told that preachers are to be pastors, or shepherds, and counselors who are busy visiting, overseeing, and guiding the flock. We are also told that preachers are to serve as deacons, caretakers, and superintendents who manage and supervise the church building and facilities.

A gospel preacher is not a pastor, shepherd, elder, or counselor. A pastor is a shepherd, i.e., an elder, bishop, or overseer. This is a different worker for the Lord, and he has a different work. A pastor's work is to shepherd and oversee the flock, watching for their souls (Acts 20:17, 28; Hebrews 13:17). A preacher appoints men who are qualified to do the work of a shepherd, but the preacher does not do the shepherd's work. He has sufficient work of his own (Acts 14:23, 21-25; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-7).

A gospel preacher is not a deacon, servant, or caretaker of the church property. The church selects, and the preacher appoints, deacons to take care of this business. A preacher is not to leave the word to serve tables, but to give himself continually to prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:1-4).

Preachers and the Local Church

Much of the error concerning preachers and their work stems from an incorrect view of the relationship between the preacher and the local church. Many think of the preacher as the church's employee or servant. As such, the church is an employer who determines the scope and duties of the employee's work. This view is expressed by the statement: "We pay the preacher and we tell him what to do."

The command to pay preachers for preaching (1 Corinthians 9:14) does not indicate that they are church employees. Paul compared the preacher's support to that of God's priests under the old law (1 Corinthians 9:13-14). The peoples' offerings supported the priests, who were the Lord's servants, not the peoples' hirelings (Numbers 18:1-20; Deuteronomy 18:1-8).

A preacher is not an employee of any church; he is a servant of the Lord (1 Timothy 4:6). Preachers are accountable to the Lord and entrusted to do His work. A preacher must not "entangle himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier." (2 Timothy 2:3-4) As He did with the Old-Testament priests, the Lord uses His people's offerings to provide for His servants.

The Scriptural relationship between a preacher and the Christians who support him is that of a fellow worker in the Lord's church. The Lord commands the preacher to preach the gospel and those who hear the preacher to support him in his work. Together they have fellowship in the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 9:6-14; Philippians 1:5-7; 4:15-19).

I believe that brother Greeson has clearly shown that a preacher is not, as many denominational churches believe and teach, a pastor. However, we must remember that all Christians are servants of the Lord. While it is true that the church is to support the preacher so he can do the work of an evangelist, this does not free the local preacher from his responsibilities to the local elders and the church in which he labors. I believe that the local church that pays the preacher's salary has the right to know what the preacher is doing in his work. The preacher's responsibilities to God are different from his responsibilities to the local church. Every preacher will answer to God for the work he does in that capacity, but the local church does have some control over him. Who hires him, sets his salary, and determines the number of vacation days allotted to him? The local church's representative signs the preacher's paychecks. (KMG)