Are you a Pastor or a Preacher?


Many churches have great preachers, but pastoring is more than just preaching. There are similar characteristics between the two, but a pastor’s heart is very different. 2 Timothy 2:15 says all pastors should “study to show themselves approved” while trying to be the best preacher they can be. However, the weekly service is only a small part of our ministry as pastors.

Within the ministry gifts or offices is the fivefold ministry. Ephesians 4:11 says, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.”

The Fivefold Ministry

1. Apostle. 1 Corinthians 3:10 tells us that apostles are foundation layers and pioneers. They typically flow in and out of all five offices or gifts.

2. Prophet. Prophets are typically called by God to speak to the church as a whole. This office is different from the manifestations spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. Individuals may be used by God to give a prophetic utterance who do not hold the office of a prophet.

3. Evangelist. Evangelists are soul winners, but many in the body of Christ have a burden to win souls who do not hold this office. Evangelists are called to motivate and move church members into action.

4. Pastor. Pastors are married to the church. They are committed to and their heart has been given to it.

5. Teacher. The teacher’s desire is to make sure the church thoroughly understands the truth of scripture.

The Role of a Preacher

To preach means, “to proclaim after the manner of a herald.” This implies exhortation with the suggestion of “formality, gravity and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed.” Preachers have a passion for the Word of God. All of the first four ministry gifts often function as a preacher, particularly prophets and evangelists.

Characteristics of a Pastor

The pastor functions as a preacher when he feels a sense of urgency for his church, and when exhorting them to apply the truth he has taught. Below are eight characteristics of a pastor that may not be prevalent in the other ministry or office gifts.

Pastors must be able to teach. The pastor’s heart is to teach and instruct his people. In Ephesians 4:11 where it mentions “pastors and teachers” refers to a single gift. There are teachers in the church who are not pastors, but a pastor is always a teacher.

Pastors must feed the flock. 1 Peter 5:2 says, “Feed the flock of God which is among you.” A teacher may have a specific thrust in their teaching, but a pastor is called to feed the church a balanced diet of the Word.

In Acts 20:27 Paul as an apostle, functioning often as a pastor said, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” Good pastors are expositors of the Word and will frequently teach through entire books of the Bible.

Pastors must shepherd the flock. The word “feed” in Acts 20:27 can be translated as “shepherd” and 1 Peter 5:2 also mentions “exercising oversight.”

Pastors are the primary overseer of the church and elders are under shepherds, but Jesus is the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4, 1 Peter 2:25). Pastors are called to exercise oversight over the body and all the ministries of the church, much of which may be delegated.

Pastors must protect the flock. James 3:5-6 says division starts with the “tongue” – gossip, criticism, complaining, divisiveness, slander, casting doubt as to the vision and direction of the church, erroneous teaching, etc. Pastors must equip their people with the Word of God so they are prepared when false doctrine creeps into the church. For example, people in and outside the church may try to steal disciples away from the pastor by casting doubt about leadership.

Fortunately, division can be dealt with on the congregational level before it gets to the pastor. When divisiveness begins in your church, abruptly stop it. Rebuke is needed to arrest it. It may seem harsh, but if action is taken right away a church split may be avoided.

Pastors must go after stray sheep. Jesus illustrated this point in Luke 15 with three examples: the lost sheep, coin and son. If a church member has not attended services for 2-3 weeks something is probably wrong. This also applies 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 after they visit the church. Before the following Sunday, they should also be contacted by phone and/or receive a personal visit.

Pastors must spend time in prayer. 1 Samuel 12:23 says, “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.” Pastors have a constant burden to pray for their people, even when they are in rebellion.

Pastors must have vision. Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no (progressive) vision, the people perish.” The vision the pastor receives from God is continually unfolding. Pastors should be asking God what He wants for the church, and planning accordingly.

Spell out your vision plainly. “Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie (It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail, NASB). Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:2-3).

Pastors must provide order and structure. In Titus 1:5, Paul instructed a young pastor, “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city.” Good pastors should be constantly planning and seeking the Lord regarding how to organise and structure the church.

Structure is imperative for its success, prosperity and growth. As a church grows, it will need restructuring at every new stage. God can bring us new people, but if we do not structure for growth, we will not be able to maintain it.

Pastors, God will make up where you lack. Individual pastors may not have expertise in every area needed to build and grow the church. They will, however, at least have a burden for each of these aspects of pastoring. They will at least have some instincts, knowledge and foresight for what is needed. The Holy Spirit will see to it.

God will bring in someone who makes up where the pastor lacks. Colossians 2:10 says, “You are complete in Him.” The Holy Spirit will bring those to you who can make up where you are lacking. It’s important to lay ego aside and allow gifted people God brings your way to help. They just may be exactly what is needed to cause your ministry to flourish and take you to the next level.

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 that is set before you (Hebrews 12:1). “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).


Starting a new church or ministry is one of the most rewarding things you can do to advance the kingdom, but it can also be very challenging. With over 40 years of church planting and ministry experience, Dr. Linton's passion is to encourage, support and equip pastors and church leaders.