When you look at the list of qualifications for elders in the New Testament, it is pretty unremarkable. Not unimportant, and certainly not short, just unremarkable. I guess I mean that the same things expected of elders are pretty much commanded of all Christians somewhere in Scripture. And what’s more, they’re all about character, except for one: the man must be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2). This is the only nonnegotiable skill or talent listed in the eldership requirements. Paul unpacks it a little more for Titus:
He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. (Titus 1:9)
There are a lot of things a pastor should be able to do. But there is one thing that he must be able to: He must be able to preach.
Both of these passages find a crisp summary in the last epistle Paul wrote before his death:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Tim. 4:1-2)
I don’t know about you, but if Paul wanted to grab my attention for an important announcement, I don’t think he could improve upon, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead…and by his appearing…and his kingdom.” With that intro, you know something monumental is about to be relayed.
What is that thing of monumental importance? Preach the Word! That’s what should ultimately define ministry. There are many needs requiring a pastor’s attention and voices calling for his time. But a pastor’s priority priority is preaching. Pastors must preach relentlessly, courageously, and patiently executing their charge as those who steward the very words of God.
The Bible establishes an inseparable link between preaching (or teaching) and pastoring. To be an elder, you must be able to teach; and if you’re an elder, you must teach. While the New Testament cites no specific gift of “preaching”, the public proclamation of God’s word is unquestionable, clearly placing this noble duty to “preach the Word” at the heart of pastoral ministry.
God’s people are led in a primary way through public ministry. It’s that simple. Many men love God’s word, can lead effective discussions, can articulate clear doctrine, or are entertaining communicators. And these men have a significant role to play in God’s church. But the grace of God to pastor is expressed through the power of preaching that imparts truth, and stirs faith toward God for gospel promises.
If you’re called to pastor or plant a church, you’re called to preach. Whether you’re drawn to that or haven’t given it much thought may have some bearing on whether you’re hearing the summons.