Are Located Preachers Authorized?
by Mark J. Ward
There are some religious people who oppose a preacher "locating" with a congregation. There are various objections raised to congregations having a man labor with them, forbear secular work, receive wages to live of the gospel and preach at one congregation. Some assert that this is a "one man pastor" system. Some might oppose the money (pay). Others might oppose locating (stay). Others oppose what are clearly abuses of having a located preacher at a congregation. What does the BIBLE SAY? Can located preachers exist "by faith"? Romans 10:17 and Colossians 3:17 would demand that we have Bible authority for anything that we "do" today. Please read and study.
I affirm that "The Scriptures teach that a faithful, capable male Christian may choose to preach full-time [e.g. live of the gospel, forbear (secular) working, receive wages, locate, work, and worship with a congregation (with, or without elders)].
The Scriptures indicate that a man may receive "wages" to live of the gospel and has the liberty to forbear secular work while doing so (See I Cor. 9:1-14; 2 Cor. 11:8). This should be a faithful, capable male saint (See I Cor. 14:34,35; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; 2 John 9-11; Rom. 16:17; I Tim. 3:15; I Tim. 1:3-20; I John 1:7-9; I Tim. 2:1-15). The Bible gives generic authority for a man to stay at a congregation for an unspecified length of time in doing this work of teaching full-time while laboring in the vineyard. Having a located preacher is a "liberty", and not a "mandate" for congregations. New Testament examples of preachers preaching at various congregations in the New Testament are not uniform with regard to length of stay. Thus, God has not restricted the time of stay for the preacher living of the gospel. Obviously, as noted in some instances, when one believes that he has done as much good as he can, he would need to move on.
I would, however, be opposed to LIMITING the teaching of a congregation to ONE MAN (provided there was more than one man of ability to teach in a particular congregation under consideration) as it is the responsibility of all saints to teach God's Word (See Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 8:4; 2 Tim. 4:1-5; 2 Tim. 2:2; Acts 20:28). ALL CAPABLE, FAITHFUL SAINTS ARE TO TEACH! As mentioned earlier, I do NOT believe churches may EXCLUDE her capable-faithful (male) members from teaching mixed adult Bible classes, from preaching in the pulpit (typically in the assembly of the church) and from teaching in other scriptural, church-arranged teaching endeavors. Women saints are also to teach, but are restricted. Abuses are always wrong and must be guarded against and not engaged in (no matter what practice we speak of).
Do you see the point here? A man could preach full-time, for example, and work with a congregation. He would be able to devote more time in the kingdom than other saints who work secular jobs during the week. The full-time, located preacher CANNOT do the teaching FOR the other members of the congregation, nor can he do the benevolence FOR the other members of the congregation, nor can he to do ALL of the edifying of the local congregation (all of these are abuses). We must all use our talents in God's vineyard for we will give account of how we work in it!
5 Objections Considered and Examined
Please read and study 5 objections found below to Located Preachers. These are NOT all the objections, but serve as a good basis for study. We will be happy to entertain more, if necessary. Once any practice is AUTHORIZED, then we only have to guard against ABUSES. As mentioned before, ABUSES of a practice are always wrong, but abuses do not negate the practice itself (per se).
FALSE OBJECTION #1 - The example of a single man doing all of the preaching is not found in the pages of the NT.
This objection assumes a few things, incorrectly. First, the Bible does not teach ONLY by example. So, if there were a precept, or an unavoidable conclusion that could be drawn from looking at precepts and/or examples in the New Testament that authorize a located preacher, an "example" would not be mandated in order to authorize the located preacher!
But look at the objection a little closer. The objection is to a "single man" doing "all" of the preaching at a local congregation. This may or may not be wrong. Let's look at two examples.
A congregation is starting with 4 women saints, one of whom has just converted her husband. A single man is willing to labor full-time in the kingdom and live of the gospel, receiving wages from churches to do them service. The preacher is very capable in teaching and preaching. The new saint (the only other male in the church) is a babe, not skilled in the word. He reads James 3:1 and is hesitant to teach and preach in the church assemblies, but has the preacher over each Thursday nite to his home for a training class to learn how to be an effective teacher of God's Word. He studies every day of the week, but is not yet ready to preach.
Since this congregation has "one man" doing "all" of the preaching in the church is the practice unscriptural? Certainly not. But the answer is: Not in this case. The babe is required to grow and there will be a "time" when he "ought" to be teaching. But the scriptures teach that there is growth that must occur prior to being ready to teach/preach (Hebrews 5:10ff).
This congregation has seventeen men who have studied the Bible from their youth and are capable to teach Bible classes and preach. The full-time preacher teaches the one Bible class (whole church in one place in this case) and is the only one who preaches from the pulpit in the services. The other men are happy to take turn about leading the singing and let the full-time preacher do all of the preaching.
I oppose Example Two! Those male saints who are capable are not working in the Lord's vineyard! See the difference?
Since the congregation with one capable, faithful male saint needs to engage in the apostles' doctrine, it is certainly scriptural for him to be (for a while) the "only man" doing "all" of the preaching. Granted, this is not to take place for long, but it could be a little while, given the teaching found in Hebrews 5:10-14 and James 3:1ff before the "babe" could grow enough to be a teacher. But "one man" in a congregation of several capable men doing "all" of the teaching would be restricting the other men from using their abilities in teaching and discharging their responsibilities to serve in the kingdom of God. But the "abuse" does not nullify the scriptural instances of the practice.
Since, I contend for located preachers working in congregations wherein all the faithful-capable saints teach in the local church, I have no abuse to defend. In churches where there is only ONE capable, faithful saint to teach/preach, such is the case. In other churches where there are several capable, faithful saints to teach/preach, I contend they better discharge their personal responsibilties to teach or are wrong! But this does not NEGATE a man living of the gospel and laboring with a local church with several men in the flock who teach.
Some may think that all a preacher does (who is full-time) is preach lessons at the church building when the church meets. This is not "all" that a full-time preacher does in living of the gospel. A man who lives of the gospel should give a great amount of time to study of God's Word and preparation for teaching. All too often, many young men lack the "study time" and deliver half-baked meals that are missing some key elements of truth on subjects under consideration. No one, including this writer, is claiming you have to be perfect to preach the gospel, but James 3:1 should make teachers and preachers aware of the grave responsibilities and consequences for teaching incorrectly. Personal work is another form of teaching. A man who lives of the gospel is not limited to preaching at the church's building! The lost are usually to be found OUTSIDE the church house! There are various scriptural methods of teaching God's Word (to saint and sinner) and given the amount of time a full-time preacher has to work in God's vineyard, there is much sowing to do! See Matthew 13 and the parable of the Sower.
FALSE OBJECTION #2 - A congregation cannot follow the commands of "edify one another","exhort one another", and "admonish one another" if only one man is allowed to do the edification, exhortation, and admonition.
This objection seems to assume that edification is ONLY "one way" (e.g. FROM the teacher TO the congregation) and that the "hearers" are not edified when one man preaches a lesson. When we read the New Testament, we see that edification is "both ways" and in an assembly of the local church, for example, "all" are to be edified (See I Cor. 12, 13, 14). We KNOW that the Scriptures forbid women from speaking when the whole church is come together into one place (See I Corinthians 14:34, 35) and yet Paul teaches that "all" are to be edified! Yes, dear Reader, the "hearers" with understanding are able to be "edified" (meaning "built up") by the teaching of the capable, faithful preacher who is delivering the message in that particular assembly. Really, since women are not to speak in the church (assembly, when the whole church is come together into one place) and yet they ARE EDIFIED, we should be able to see that the objection under consideration must be invalid.
Also, take the example of singing in the assembly of the local church. We teach and admonish "one another" yet only one man (at times) leads us per service in the "song selection/leading". Who is "edified" or "built up" in this spiritual worship activity? The song leader ONLY? Or, the entire assembly? (Now, on the other hand, if some saints are going to try to "coast" in their spiritual servitude and take the attitude that "Oh, we will let our preacher do that for us.", then we are back into an abuse situation).
FALSE OBJECTION #3 - It inevitably creates an office foreign to those offices found in the New Testament.
This is simply not so! Now, if digression occurs there is the possibility of an new office being created in the local church! But this is an "abuse objection" and really is limited to a study of abuses of the located preacher, which we readily agree would be wrong. This does not address the issue of whether the located preacher is authorized or not, since it attacks the result of an abuse of the practice.
I deny that a man who lives of the gospel, receives wages to forbear (secular) work, and works full-time in personal work, study of the Scriptures, teaching, and preaching of God's Word involves the creation of a new office in the kingdom of God! Since some men in the New Testament did what we might call a ~located preacher~ did, namely, live of the gospel, receive wages to forbear (secular) work and work with a local congregation, no "foreign office" has been created. The practice is approved by God.
The New Testament authorizes that men may live of the gospel (teach full-time), abide at a particular location (stay), and receive wages (pay), in order to forbear (secular) work. All else being equal in a local work (no abuses), such is scriptural!
FALSE OBJECTION #4 - It diminishes the authority and rule of the eldership of a congregation because the recognized "spiritual" authority becomes the one most often heard from.
We cannot deny that this could happen. But this is another abuse issue. One might as easily state, for example, "If we SING 5 songs at a church service, we might sing an unscriptural one. We shouldn't sing 5!!!" Do we therefore stop singing 5 songs? No!~We just should be careful with each song that we sing, no matter how many we sing at our services. The number of songs at a service is not specified, but we must sing scripturally each time we sing. The located preacher is not mandated, but is authorized, and if we have one at a congregation we need to continue to do all things scripturally.
This objection assumes an eldership. It also assumes that the located preacher will diminish the authority and rule of an eldership. Do you think that when Timothy was told to "abide" at Ephesus (I Timothy 1:3; Acts 20, a church with elders) and that Paul might "tarry long" (Timothy might have to wait a while there according to I Timothy 3:15) that the authority and rule of those elders would somehow be diminished by Timothy's preaching the gospel to them? Again, we fear that the objection is looking at abuse of power by some located preachers in some instances and is not realizing that a located preacher CAN EXIST in a local work wherein elders rule well, the flock is active in the teaching program of the church and no abuses abide.
OBJECTION #5 - It inhibits the spiritual growth of individual members of the church.
Another abuse. I affirm that Timothy was authorized to abide at a local work (with or without elders), preach the gospel to the church, receive wages to forbear (secular) work, and the growth of the church members would NOT be inhibited! Could it ever happen at a local work? SURE. But abuses are not what we are after here. Since God authorizes "pay" and "stay" and all the members doing their parts in the kingdom, located preachers are not sinful!
Note: The Scriptures teach a pattern of a plurality of elders in a local work and a limitation of the scope of elders' rule to the local flock which is among them. There is no authority in the New Testament for "one man pastors" over one church, or a group of churches. This would deem the one man Pastor of denominations (one Pastor per local church) and one man Bishops in the Catholic church (one man over several local churches) to be unscriptural. Look at the passages on this subject throughout the New Testament and you will see that "elders" (plural) were to tend the "flock" (singular) which was among them. A (non-elder) male saint who lives of the gospel full-time, has no "ruling authority" over a congregation. There are some who believe that an evangelist has the same authority as "elders" would have, until "elders" can be appointed at each local church. We do not find such authority in the New Testament.
Thanks for reading. - mjw
Email the Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org
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