Is there a difference between a pastor and a preacher? Many churches have great preachers, but pastoring is more than just preaching. There may be many similar characteristics between the two, but the Pastor’s heart is very different.
All pastors should “study to show themselves approved” (2 Timothy 2:15), striving to be the best preacher they can be. However, the weekly service is only a small part of our ministry as pastors – there is much more to pastoring than preaching weekly church services.
Within the ministry gifts or offices, there are what many call the “fivefold” ministry. Paul listed them, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11 NASB). They are as follows:
Apostle. An Apostle is a foundation layer or pioneer (1 Corinthians 3:10). They will usually flow in and out of all five offices or gifts.
Prophet. The Prophet speaks for God to the church, and are usually called to speak to the Church as a whole. This office is very different from the spirituals or manifestations spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. Many within the body may be used by God to give a prophetic utterance and not hold the office of a Prophet.
Evangelist. Again, this is an office/gift given to the church. Evangelists are soul winners, but there may be many in the body of Christ who have a burden to win souls who do not hold this office. The Evangelist is called to stir up the Church – motivate and move it’s people into action.
Pastor. The Pastor is married to the church. He is committed to and his heart has been given to her.
Teacher. The Teacher’s heart is for truth. Their desire is to dissect the Word to make sure the church and it’s people thoroughly understand the truth of scripture.
The Role of a Preacher
To preach literally means, “to proclaim after the manner of a herald” (Strong’s concordance). This always implies exhortation and “always with the suggestion of formality, gravity and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed” (Strong’s concordance). The Preacher has a passion for the Word of God and presenting the message God has given him for His people – the Church. All of the first four ministry or office gifts often function as a preacher, particularly the Prophet and Evangelist.
Characteristics of a Pastor
The pastor will function as preacher when feeling a sense of urgency for his church and people, and when exhorting them to apply the truth he has taught. There are specific characteristics in the heart of a pastor that may not be prevalent in the other ministry or office gifts.
- Pastors must be able to teach. The pastor is always a teacher. His heart is to teach and instruct his people. It has often been pointed out that in Ephesians 4:11, “He gave some … as pastors and teachers”, is one gift. There may be teachers given to the church that are not pastors, but a pastor is always a teacher.
- Pastors must feed the flock. Peter said, “Feed the flock of God which is among you” (1 Peter 5:2 KJV). One of the Pastor’s primary jobs is to feed his people the word. Where a teacher may have a specific thrust in his teaching, a pastor seeks to feed his people a balanced diet of the Word. Paul as an Apostle, functioning often as a Pastor, said, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27 KJV). This is why a pastor will usually be an expositor of the Word and frequently teach through entire books of the Bible.
- Pastors must shepherd the flock. The pastor is a shepherd. “Feed” in both Acts 20:27 and 1 Peter 5:2 can be translated as shepherd. Peter goes on to say, “exercising oversight” (1 Peter 5:2 NASB). The pastor or shepherd is to be the primary overseer of the church and the elders under shepherds, with Jesus being the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4 and 2:25). The pastor is to exercise oversight over the body and all the ministries of the church, much of which may be delegated.
- Pastors must protect the flock from false teachers and doctrines. Paul warned the Ephesian elders upon his departure, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:28-30 NASB).
Pastors are to protect his people from wolves (false teachers). This is why one of the pastor’s primary jobs is to teach. His is to teach and equip his people with sound doctrine so they are ready when someone attempts to bring in false doctrine, “speaking perverse things.”
Notice, “from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:30 NASB). There are often those from among the body that will arise to attempt to steal disciples out from under the pastor. It will often come in the form of, “what do you think about this?” “I’m not sure I agree with what the Pastor said here.” “What do you think about the decision the leadership made?” It most generally begins with casting doubt in the people’s heart concerning the pastor and/or leadership. This is where division usually begins in the body – the tongue (James 3:5-6).
This is where the pastor (shepherd) is to fight off the wolves. I believe this is what Paul was dealing with, at least in part, when he said, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:2-3 KJV).
Division can often be dealt with on the congregational level before it ever gets to the pastor. When God’s people are well equipped by a pastor’s teaching and shepherding they can stop this type of divisiveness before any major damage is done. I believe this was what Paul was dealing with when he said, “mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).
When divisiveness begins, abruptly stop it. This is not the time to be gentle but swift – rebuke is needed to arrest it. We should say, “Stop it now. I don’t want to hear any of that negative junk. That is my pastor, leader, elder. I love you, but I don’t want to hear this type of divisiveness. Please, shut up!” This may seem harsh, but if this kind of action is taken right away many church splits can be avoided.
- Pastors must go after stray sheep. A pastor/shepherd goes after lost or stray sheep. Jesus dealt strongly with this in Luke 15. He illustrated it with three examples: lost sheep, coin and son. The pastor is to go after missing sheep. He is to search for, go after, and bring back into the fold those who have strayed from the fold. If a person has missed two to three weeks of church, something is apparently wrong. I realise the pastor may not be able to always do this himself, especially when a church has grown beyond a certain point, but he can make sure it is getting done. This is where delegation is needed.
This can also apply to following up on visitors. Get contact information for anyone who visits your church and make sure someone reaches out to them. A letter or e-mail should be sent out to them the following day after they visit the church. Before the following Sunday, they should also be contacted by phone and/or receive a personal visit. Many visitors (who could have been a wonderful addition to the church) are lost because they are not followed up on.
- Pastors must spend time in prayer. It was Samuel who said, “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way” (1 Samuel 12:23 KJV). A Pastor has a constant burden to pray for his people, even when they are in rebellion.
- Pastors must have vision. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18 KJV). A pastor is constantly seeking vision for the church as to what God wants, and plans accordingly. Some translations have “progressive vision”. The vision the pastor receives is continually unfolding.
- Pastors must provide order and structure. Paul instructed a young pastor named Titus, “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5 NASB). “Set in order what remains” or what is lacking. A pastor is constantly planning and seeking the Lord regarding how to organise and structure the church. Structure is imperative for the success, prosperity, and growth of the church. This is progressive. As a church grows, it will need restructuring at every new stage of growth. God can bring us new people, but if we do not structure for growth, we will not be able to maintain it. A pastor must be an organiser.
Are you a pastor or a preacher?
Individual pastors may not always have expertise in every area I have mentioned, but they will at least see the need and have a burden for each of these aspects of pastoring. Where a pastor may be lacking in a particular area, God will bring in someone who makes up where he lacks, “ye are complete in him” (Colossians 2:10 KJV). It’s important to lay ego aside and let them help when God brings them to you!
Prayer: I pray the Holy Spirit will complete you as you pursue your calling. May God grant you the grace to run with all diligence the race and calling you have received from Him. “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10 NASB).