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A pastor’s job is not to preach

Let me share a controversial conviction I have: A pastor’s job is not to preach. Preaching is a tool in his tool bag in service to his main job. A pastor’s job is not to visit and counsel with people, though he may find himself doing that a lot.  A pastor’s job is to disc…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Let me share a controversial conviction I have: A pastor’s job is not to preach. Preaching is a tool in his tool bag in service to his main job. A pastor’s job is not to visit and counsel with people, though he may find himself doing that a lot. 

A pastor’s job is to disciple. The gifts he’s been given are not themselves a job description. His job description is to help people to grow spiritually. A sermon is sometimes a good tool to disciple people. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount outlined his philosophy of ministry. Stephen’s sermon was a transition point for the early church. Many people come to faith because of the convicting power of the Holy Spirit through the sermon.

But an every-Sunday sermon time is often a counterproductive tool bloating congregations with more information for which they are not held accountable, effectively making them more and more hypocritical, the inverse of a discipleship process.

Instead, pastors should be working with individual congregation members (focusing on those who want to grow, beginning with the elders), becoming aware of what they need to grow and helping them overcome the obstacles inhibiting their growth process (and yes, very often that may include preaching).
(picture compliments of http://www.flickr.com/photos/hisprincess/page11/ )

Comments (26)

  • The job of the Pastor is to obey God to preach the word of God and to disciple people teaching them to obey obey God.

  • Seth,

    I’ve discerned an unhealthy co-dependent relationship between the preacher and his sheep.

    The sheep are unhealthy because the Sunday sermon is the primary (or only?) source of spiritual nourishment they receive all week.(sad, but true). This contributes to a dependence on the pastor that should only apply to spiritual infants.

    I think what happens next is just as damaging. The pastor begins to draw his sense of significance from a Sunday morning message because he knows the sheep need to be fed:

    (HUNGRY SHEEP) + (GOOD SERMON) = (EVERYBODY WINS)?

    The equation appears plausible, doesn’t it. The only problem is that in this consumer driven church culture I’m afraid we’ve lost our call to disciple others. We’ve detoured from the ancient paths and accepted an anemic substitute.

    I’m feeling a responsibility to do something about it(I think I just heard some sacred cows putting there cups on.) As you mentioned at the beginning of your post, however, I’ll be treading on dangerous waters.

  • Hello Seth,
    Paul’s message to Timothy was: In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: PREACH THE WORD; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and CAREFUL INSTRUCTION. For the time will come when men will not put up with SOUND DOCTRINE. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears WANT to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But YOU, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
    There you have it. God’s word will either change people… or offend them. The trouble with the church today is that anything and everything BUT the Word is expounded. It is offensive, it is a double edged sword, and it divides. But because unity is paramount at the expense of truth, God’s word becomes the enemy and all people hear from the pulpit is feel good messages with a little Scripture thrown in to make it seem spiritual. The mantra in most churches is “Whatever you do.. DON’T OFFEND anyone!” The preaching of Sound Doctrine is the method God uses to convict hearts and GROW Disciples and it isn’t just up to the Pastor. He is simply the one with the gift of teaching and if he is a Disciple of Christ will live what he preaches. We are ALL called to Disciple others and be examples as followers of Christ as we grow in Spirit by the preaching of THE WORD.
    Thank you very much for the space to allow me to defend sound preaching. May your ministry be blessed by His Grace.

  • That comment misses the point. Of course a pastor has the tool of preaching in his tool bag. Of course preaching is biblical! Re-read the blog. The point I’m making is that too many pastors confuse the process with the goal. The goal isn’t to preach. The goal is to make disciples, to (as Eph. 4:12 says when describing the point of the pastoral role) “prepare God’s people for works of service.” How many churches do you know where the pastor is preaching, but no one is being prepared for works of service?

    I had a lot of teachers when I was in school, but the really good ones understood that their job wasn’t to teach me, their job was to make sure that I learned.

    I’m not making the point, “stop preaching,” I’m making the point “pastors need to focus on their real goal, which is making disciples, and use every tool in their tool bag to achieve it, including preaching.” Confuse the tool with the goal, and you may fail to achieve the goal.

    BTW, it’s “ex cathedra” not “ex cathedral.”

  • I agree with your title. I myself was deaf pastor…I find myself when i preached…..the deaf congretations didnt received in other word they forgot what I preached. when I taught they remembered. So the word pastor in greek in more like to feed and also more closer word like pasture too….pastor can be shepherd too so what is shepherd’s job shepherd’s job is to feed, guided and also seek to bring sheep back even discipling too.

  • I listened to Jones’ sermon. Thanks for the resource. Of course he was quite the preacher in his day. And certainly his point that teaching is important needs to be underscored.

    Jones says that good teaching, especially apostolic teaching is important for a new believer’s growth. I agree.

    Nowhere does Jones take issue with my point: A pastor’s first job is to disciple. Preaching is one tool among others. It is a means to an end, not the end. Furthermore, he does not make the point that pastors are necessarily teachers. We often confuse the gifts.

    Many pastors have grown up in the paradigm of preaching as job one. But nowhere does the Bible say that it needs to be that way.

    Chris, I see that you are a pastor in WI. God bless you as you seek to make disciples there.

  • Hello Seth,

    I entirely agree with you on this matter, but I hasten to add that preaching plays such a central role in influencing lives, just like the work of God in Isaiah 55:11 says, “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit…” And so may be you need to rephrase your thesis. Thank you all the same for this thought provoking stuff. Blessing

  • Michael,

    Maybe Isaiah was talking about the Word, about God sending out Jesus, rather than a sermon. Jesus always produced fruit. Sermons, no matter how interesting their power point show is, don’t always produce fruit. Maybe we need to become people whose lifestyles are living sermons.

  • Understand this is an year old topic, but felt to say something. Jesus did say to preach the Gospel to all the world. Think there is a huge difference in what Jesus said to what most preachers are doing now. What were they to preach then….that the messiah has come, died , buried and resurrection to new life, has taken away the sins of the world. Most preachers are orators than preachers. Sundays are mostly to entertain…to fill the time. Now sermons consist of series on sex, fulfillment, money, happiness and on and on.

    Mike

  • That is interesting, and I think I get the jist of the argument. But I must disagree. The job of discipleship belongs to every believer. You and I are to disciple others, that’s why we exist on this earth post/salvation. The Pastor’s job, according to Eph 4 is to equip us to do so. This is done through sound exhortation and encouragement from the Word. So I can both agree and at the same time disagree (a paradox, no? 🙂 )

  • Seth, I agree with your thesis. I believe Ephesians lays the foundation for such a position. Beginning with verse 11, we see where Christ gave the Body of Christ several gifts in order to equip believers to continue the ministry He began with His disciples. Although Pastor is one of several gifts, the role of Pastor has eclipsed the others and somehow the Pastor’s preaching has become the dominate focus of the Great Commission.Shouldn’t Evangelists and even Deacons preach? The crux of the argument in my mind is not that Pastors shouldn’t preach, but that Pastors should preach the GOSPEL along with their other duties. God’s Word is Spirit and Life (John 6:63). If God’s Word is preached, it will accomplished what God’s intends (Isaiah 55:11). If God,s Word is preached, we should see the fruit. If we don’t see the fruit, is it not reasonable to expect that God’s Word did not go forth? Have we not confused oratory with preaching the Word of God?

  • this is just cra cra and sounds cra cra and I think it makes no sense. I have a question to ask what are four advantages and disadvantages of a pastor having another job anybody plz respond I need an answer asap like right now let me know give me a shout out asap

  • ok its me again I um need a response like asap like right now this econd plz please anybody plz respond now. I read the thing and it makes complete sense I din’t read it the first time and I’m sorry someone plz plz plz plz respond now now now asap asap asap

  • Looks like I’m super late to the party, lol. I have been doing some studying and my question is where is the rest of the 5 fold ministry. God called us all to speak the word, making disciples. I agree with you Mr.Seth and thank you for the insight.
    Pastors role in the church have been greatly increased mainly due to him/herself or the congregation relying solely on the pastor. The bible never put a single person in charge of the church as the focal point.
    Imagine a church full of disciples ready to push forth the word of God. Can’t do that by just preaching to me. I also must be taught and grounded in the word. It takes more than just the pastor to make that happen that’s why the 5 fold ministry was established. Today’s church is one fold.

  • I appreciated the idea behind the blog. I think another issue is that we have too narrow a view on what preaching is. Surely God has decided on the foolishness of preaching, but don’t we preach to people in everyday life? I agree that a pastors Job is not just the Sunday morning sermon, or the visitations, or any of the other stuff. His task is to create reproducing disciples, and to teach those in his church how to do likewise. I guess the scary part for many of us is that we don’t really know how to do it other than by preaching both on Sunday morning and during our everyday lives.

  • that is true sundays are mostly to entertain ………to push time and nowadays sermorns consist of many series like sexual harrassment etc

  • I believe Gary L Bush made an important observation when he said that “…the scary part for many of us is that we don’t know how to do it other than by preaching…”. If this is true, that argues more pointedly for the need of the five-fold ministry. Christ gave gifts to the church to produce a body of Christ-like people. Should we expect that to come from one part of the Church mission and by one person?

  • Your entire model of Christianity seems to be based on the removal of a comma from Eph. 4:12 (not in the KJV). This is a harvest field avoidance device (using a new age bible) the paid Christian uses to escape laboring in the harvest field. Paul told Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist” and to read the scriptures in public (open air preaching). That means every pastor is supposed to be out preaching in the streets and going door to door and house to house. Any pastor who does not do this has stolen the money that is in the offering plate. “Equipping the saints for works of service” is not in the Bible.

  • I read in the bible, speaking of the people in the pews, “My sheep will begat thousands and tens of thousands.” At least I equate that with those that are the members of the flock, not the man with his name on the sign and behind the pulpit. His job is to “begat” shepherds, if he is not, then he is not doing his job. If he is protracting the infancy of the people in the congregation, he is certainly not doing his job at all. It seems to me, from my experience in churches, and it is considerable experience, that I have sat and listened to more motivational speakers than I have pastors. I have heard them say everything you can think of, and the people just sit and clap and amen everything he says, when I know he might as well be reading a comic book to them, they must not read the bible themselves. That sounds pretty harsh, but hear me out. I heard several pastors say “Luke was the physician that traveled with Jesus.” Look, Luke was not a disciple of Jesus, yet for one the Bishop Clarence McClendon ( of PREACHERS OF LA fame) said that Jesus was one of the disciples with the hint that those were high paid professionals that were with Jesus, and of course, Jesus would have only the best since He had several BIG houses and lots of money, that’s why He had to have a treasurer, to handle the big money going through His hands. It goes on and on, We are in some perilous times now, we are being faced with Jihad and communism in the United States and I go to church and all I hear is about how if you tithe you will be healthy and wealthy but if you don’t you are under a curse. it is sad.

  • Interesting that no one had the guts to address my extremely salient point that “Equipping the saints for works of service” is just very simply NOT IN THE BIBLE. Only the KJV and Geneva Bibles render it accurately. The pastor’s job is to PERFECT THE SAINTS, DO THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY, and EDIFY THE BODY OF CHRIST. To prove this, read St. John Chrysostom’s homilies (available online). In his comments on Eph. 4:12, he interprets the meaning EXACTLY as it is rendered in the KJV. Chrysostom was a 4th century Archbishop of Constantinople and spoke the original Greek. It is impossible that someone who reads the scriptures written in his native tongue can be wrong in his sense of the meaning. Here we are over 1500 years later CHANGING THE BIBLE to make it say something it never said.

    PASTOR, your job is outlined in Paul’s letters to Timothy, in which “equipping” is never mentioned.

    I have calculated that if every paid Christian in this country were to suddenly go out knocking on doors, they could evangelize the ENTIRE NATION in one biblical work day.

    Two very good articles on the true meaning of Eph. 4:12 are written by authors T. David Gordon and Sydney H. T. Page. Also a recent article by Robert Mayes “Equipping the Saints”?: Why Ephesians 4:11-12 Opposes the Theology and Pratice of Lay Ministry” goes into great detail about the correct translation.

  • The pastor’s job is not to preach? What utter, ex-cathedral nonesense. Just because some people aren’t changing doesn’t mean the method is broken. The Bible says God decided to save the world by the foolishness of preaching.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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