Ask Your Preacher
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
I’m looking to become a pastor/minister/preacher, but how do I know for sure that this is what God is calling me to do? And how do I know where God is calling me to go?
Dear Seeking Direction,
A pastor is not the same thing as a minister/preacher. A pastor is an elder who shepherds a local congregation (1 Pet 5:1-2). You will know you are called to be a pastor when the congregation assesses you as a qualified man to serve in the eldership – after all, elders are always in groups. There is no example of a pastor leading a congregation by themselves. A congregation knows a man is qualified to serve as an elder when he meets the qualifications found in 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Tit 1:5-9. There is a lot of confusion in the religious world over this role, and the fact is that pastors aren’t the same thing as preachers!
If you want to know whether or not you are qualified to preach, read through 1st and 2nd Timothy which are letters Paul wrote to the young preacher, Timothy, and see if you are doing what a preacher should do. Preaching begins with studying to know what the Bible says and then actively doing it. If you are in a faithful congregation, you can ask them about how to get practice preaching and experience in the pulpit – that is what we do with our young men in our congregation. If you need a faithful congregation, (after all, lots of them aren’t following the Bible pattern) we would be happy to help you find one. Simply e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is clearly the will of God for local churches to be scripturally organized with elders (and deacons). Is a local church that is not scripturally organized with at least qualified elders still pleasing to God? Is such a church sinful? How can we know (scripturally)?
By The Book
Dear By The Book,
It is definitely God’s desire for congregations to appoint elders and deacons, but if a congregation doesn’t yet have elders, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are unfaithful. In Tit 1:5, Paul instructed Titus to appoint elders in the congregations in Crete, but it is also worth noting that there were already congregations in Crete! The congregations needed elders, but they were already faithful. When Paul and Barnabas preached together, they didn’t appoint elders in the churches of Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch until they were on the return trip (Acts 14:21-23). That means that each of those cities were originally without elders.
A congregation that refuses to put elders in place is fighting against God’s will, but many congregations are too young or too new to have qualified men who meet the requirements for elders found in 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Tit 1:5-9. The question is whether a congregation is working toward an eldership or whether they are disregarding the command.
Is the phrase "go to church" a biblical concept? Also, does a local church exist outside of an opening and a closing prayer? Thanks.
Dear Church Goer,
The phrase “go to church” isn’t wrong, but it is often misused. 1 Cor 11:18, 1 Cor 14:19, and other verses use the word ‘church’ to refer to when the church is assembled together. Therefore saying “go to church” simply means ‘going to the church assembly’. Having said that, many people have forgotten that the church is the people, not a building. Many people who say, “I’m going to church” are referring to the church’s building. As long as you understand that the church is the people, then you are fine in using the phrase.
As for your second question, since the local church is the people, they do exist outside of the worship services. The very fact that 1 Cor 14:23 refers to the church in Corinth “coming together” means that they are still the church when they aren’t together.
I am a minister that has been called to minister for about six years. Though I have been called, I have not always followed; I have recently accepted the position of youth pastor. I am expected to teach on purity and abstinence before marriage; how can I teach something that I myself did not preserve?
Dear Feeling Hypocritical,
If it is impossible to teach on something unless you have done it right yourself, nobody could say anything about morality because all have sinned (Rom 3:23). Paul preached on peace after killing Christians (Rom 12:18), and Peter preached on boldness after denying Christ (1 Pet 5:15-16). The truth is the truth regardless of how well we have personally followed it.
On a separate, but related note: a minister is different from a pastor – which one are you? If someone is going to be a pastor, he must meet the qualifications found in 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Tit 1:5-9. Another thing to consider is that the Bible never talks about ‘youth pastors’ and ‘senior pastors’. We would encourage you to read “Senior Citizen Pastor” because it sounds like you are caught up in a religious movement that doesn’t take God’s pattern for the church seriously, and if we don’t take God seriously, it doesn’t matter how much we clean up our lives.
I wanted to know if when you read I Timothy on the qualifications for a bishop, you read "...must be the husband of one wife" as excluding women from the office of a bishop. I always understood that particular verse to address having more than one wife since Israel had practiced that in their history. Also, the Scripture in I Corinthians as pertaining to women teaching was based on the Corinthian church at that time, etc. I would love to hear your expanded thoughts on this.
Dear Ladies’ Lib,
Pastors (Eph 4:11) – also known as elders or bishops (Tit 1:5-7) – are always men. The qualifications for pastors are given in 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Tit 1:5-9. As you said, one of those qualifications is that he must be “a husband of one wife” (1 Tim 3:2, Tit 1:6) – that clearly rules out females from becoming bishops. People have tried to say that these verses are just cultural or that they only pertained to those particular churches, but there is nothing in the Bible that says that. If we just take the Bible for what it says – elders must be men.
Everyone agrees that women can be servants in the church – the question isn’t whether women can serve; it is how they can serve. Phoebe was a servant of the church (Rom 16:1) and was praised for her service. Priscilla was also commended for her labor on behalf of the church (Rom 16:3). The Bible clearly shows women working in the church and in a very positive way. Women are seen serving in many capacities in the church, but they are never seen in positions of authority. Women are forbidden from having authority over men in the church… they are also forbidden from publicly teaching men (1 Tim 2:12). Women cannot be preachers or have positions within the church that allow them to have dominion (the word ‘dominion’ means ‘to have authority over’). Women are encouraged to teach other women (Tit 2:3-5) but to take a less authoritative role than men within the church and family. Paul explains the reason for this structure in 1 Tim 2:13. Adam was created first, and Eve was created as his helper. In both the family (Col 3:18-19) and the church (1 Cor 14:34), this principle is carried out. Eve was no less valuable than Adam, but she was designed for a different role.