What Makes One a Preacher?

Preaching

Occasionally when people find out that I preach, they will ask questions about it. They might wonder what motivated me to preach: Why are you a preacher? They may be curious, particularly if they come from a denominational background, about whatever process I went through to enter into the work of preaching: What did you do to become a preacher?

Questions like the ones above are legitimate questions. Preachers need to have answers for them. Answers to these questions are also helpful for all Christians to consider as they may be in a position to support or encourage those who preach. To answer these questions, we should look to the Bible and not to the religious world.

In this article, I want to consider some of the right and wrong reasons for preaching and for being recognized as a preacher.

So let us consider the question: What makes one a preacher?

One is a Preacher, Not Because…

He was “called” to preach – Many in the religious world believe that one begins preaching because God “called” him to preach. While it is true that the New Testament records God calling some to preach (cf. Matthew 4:18-22; Acts 26:15-20), we no longer have that type of direct, miraculous involvement today. Instead of waiting to see who God would “call” to preach, Paul told Timothy to “entrust” the message of the gospel “to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). There is no passage in the New Testament that teaches that men today receive a “calling” from God to preach the gospel.

He received an education to preach – Notice what Luke recorded about Peter and John’s first appearance before the Council: “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Though Peter and John were educated and trained by the Master Teacher (Jesus), this group of elites thought of them as uneducated because they did not have a formal education. John recorded the crowds being astonished at Jesus: “How has this man become learned, having never been educated?” (John 7:15). The idea that one needs a formal education to proclaim the gospel is a human qualification. It is not biblical. Too often, if one is not careful, such an education can even be detrimental.

He has been “ordained” to preach – This is another denominational concept. The Bible does not teach that the church – or any human organization – “ordains” men to preach. When Paul and Barnabas came to Jerusalem, they were given “the right hand of fellowship” by “James and Cephas and John” (Galatians 2:9), but they were not “ordained” by the Jerusalem church to preach. When Timothy would “entrust” the message “to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2), he was not “ordaining” them to preach, but simply equipping them through his teaching.

He is paid to preach – Preachers are certainly authorized to receive financial support for their work (1 Corinthians 9:14). However, financial support may not always be there, and a desire to preach does not entitle one to such support. Often, preachers must support themselves with secular work. Paul did this on several occasions (Acts 18:1-4; 2 Thessalonians 3:8). When he met with the Ephesian elders, he reminded them of his work among them: “Night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears” (Acts 20:31). Yet, while doing all of that preaching and teaching, he also worked and “ministered to [his] own needs and to the men who were with [him]” (Acts 20:34). One is not a preacher on the basis of his support, but on the basis of his work in preaching the gospel.

He wants the praise of men – Paul said plainly, “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). Preaching is not a work one should enter if he desires the praise of men. Charismatic types who are willing to compromise the truth may be able to achieve the praise of men through preaching, but those who are faithful typically will not enjoy such praise. Paul told Timothy he would need to “endure hardship” because many would “not endure sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3, 5). He was not to compromise or alter his message in order to be received (2 Timothy 4:2, 5). We must not either.

One is a Preacher Because…

He has chosen to preach – Paul wrote, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Preachers today may share Paul’s desire to preach, but Paul was specifically called to preach (Acts 26:15-18). If he did not preach, he would have been “disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19), thus committing sin. We do not have a divine calling today as Paul did; therefore, we commit no sin if we choose not to preach. So if one preaches, it is because he has the desire to preach. This desire is to be based upon one’s love for the Lord, His word, and the souls of men.

He has made preparations to preach – Peter and John were prepared to preach because they had “been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). We do not have the type of close, personal contact with Jesus that they did (1 John 1:1-3). But remember that Jesus is the Word (John 1:1). In the Scriptures that have been revealed by the Holy Spirit, “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). This is why Paul told Timothy to “give attention to the…reading of Scripture” (1 Timothy 4:13) and to study it diligently (2 Timothy 2:15). Those who speak on spiritual matters have a divine obligation to “speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11, KJV). One prepares to preach, not by going to some college and receiving a formal education, but by learning the Scriptures and how to proclaim the truth to others.

He has opportunities to preach – One could have a desire to preach and make preparations to do so, but until he has opportunities to preach, he is not yet a preacher. Sometimes we can make our own opportunities. When Paul was in Athens, he taught “in the synagogue…and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present” (Acts 17:17). One who desires and is prepared to preach can create some opportunities for himself to proclaim the truth (and he should do this, regardless of what other opportunities arise). Other opportunities may come by invitation as others request one to teach the truth to them (Acts 10:33; 24:25). By this principle, a congregation may have a preacher to work with them by mutual agreement (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:12; 2 Timothy 4:3). Furthermore, opportunities increase as one is financially supported to preach. One who desires to preach ought to be willing to work to support himself as Paul did (Acts 20:34; 2 Thessalonians 3:8). When Paul was in Corinth, he worked as a tent-maker and preached every Sabbath in the synagogue (Acts 18:3-4). However, when he received support from Macedonia, he “began devoting himself completely to the word” (Acts 18:5). Supporting a preacher allows him to devote more time to that work.

Conclusion

There are right and wrong reasons to desire the work of preaching. There are right and wrong ways to enter into that work. Those who preach must examine themselves and be sure their motives are right and they are faithful in their work. Those who desire to preach must learn how to accurately handle the word and look for opportunities to teach the word to others, with or without support. Christians and local churches must be careful not to place unbiblical qualifications upon preachers, but should instead strive to support and encourage those whom they judge to be faithful and capable proclaimers of the gospel.


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Comments

  1. Very good article.

  2. Bobby McPherson says

    Keep writing good articles like this on any subject and all who read can be better equipped to discuss with others topics that do not hear covered very often.

  3. Thank you very much, excellent article.

  4. Larry DeVore says

    I saw a recent post by a young man who said it’s been two years since he had preaching as a career, now he has another, more successful career. That’s part of the problem, thinking preaching is a career like banking, medicine, or law. Good article, Andy.

  5. Thanks, everyone.

    Larry, you’re absolutely right. Preaching is not a “career” in the sense we think of other occupations.

  6. David Clark says

    Andy, I thought the article was very good again! It is so important to teach the truth in spite of how popular it is. Hard hearts reject truth so truly, narrow is the gate that leads to life.

  7. Nelson pereira says

    Dear brother.
    Thank you for writing this wonderful message.I preach once a month in our local church and was praying for the lord to tell me if this was his will for me.The lord has answered my pray with this message.God bless.