OceanSide church of Christ
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ELDER – PREACHER RELATIONSHIPS
Victor M. Eskew
The Bible teaches that there is a clear distinction between the roles of elders and preachers within the body of Christ. In Ephesians 4:11, we read: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” Paul states that there are pastors and there are evangelists. A pastor is one of a group of men who has met specific Biblical qualifications (I Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9) and who oversees the local congregation (Acts 20:28; I Pet. 5:1-3). An evangelist is a preacher of the gospel of Christ (II Tim. 4:2, ). It is not his job to oversee the local church. He seeks the lost and also strengthens the church by teaching God’s Word. Note, the preacher is a member of the local congregation and under the oversight of the elders of that congregation.
Elders and preachers share a very unique relationship. In some ways, it is an employer-employee relationship, but it should be seen as much more than that. These two positions function within the body of Christ. There should be a harmony that exists between them. Both positions have a profound impact upon the members of the local congregation. Thus, both elders and preachers should be seeking to make this relationship as close as possible for the good of the souls with which they serve.
We have already noted that one of the terms to describe an elder is “pastor.” This word can also be translated “shepherd.” It denotes one who feeds the flock. Elders are supposed to be men who are highly involved in the lives of the members of the congregation which they oversee. Paul spoke these words to the elders of Ephesus: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Overseeing the flock involves watching for every soul entrusted to their charge (Heb. 13:17). These men must feed the flock. They must make certain every member is growing. They are to care for the sick sheep. They are to seek for the sheep who have gone astray. They are to protect the sheep from wolves and bears. They are to direct the flock in the path of righteousness. It is a monumental and highly significant work that they have. Ultimately, they will give an account to the Chief Shepherd “(I Pet 5:4).
One problem elders experience is a lack of time to adequately do all the tasks that have been assigned to them. Most of them are employed full-time in other works. Oftentimes, they work 40 to 60 hours in those jobs. This leaves them little time to really focus upon all the members of the church. They cannot always visit the hospitals and shut-ins. They are not able to spend all the time that is needed in study and teaching. They cannot take the time to see every member who becomes unfaithful. Thus, they have to rely on others to do some of these things.
One of the individuals they rely upon is the preacher. Most churches have a preacher who has been hired full-time to labor with the local congregation. This man’s main job is to preach the Word. But, these men are also there to serve the local church in any way they can. They view themselves as ministers, that is, servants of the church. Too, they want to make certain that they set a good example before the local congregation. They want the church to see then living the things that they preach. These factors put preachers in close proximity with the members of the church on almost a daily basis. Telephone calls and visits with the members happen almost daily. The preachers is the one present at the hospital when individuals are sick or having surgeries. The minister is there when births occur. They are present at weddings and funerals. They are the ones members notify of sicknesses and problems in their lives. Because of their closeness to the preacher, the members will usually voice their concerns and frustrations to him about the church.
Note that elders and preachers are both actively involved in the lives of the members. Since they are both a part of the local church, they have a choice to make. Either they can work closely together, or they can choose to have tension and a distance between them. Sadly, the latter happens in many places. Sometimes the relationship resembles that of two enemies who somehow must tolerate each other. This writer has heard elders speak evil about preachers. He has also heard preachers speak evil of elders. This is not the way this relationship should playout in the church.
Perhaps both elders and preachers are to blame when the relationship is not close between them. The following are things that may contribute to poor relationships.
1. The elders see themselves as the “boss” of the preacher
2. The preacher does not see himself as having to submit to the elders.
3. The elders are overly critical of the preacher.
4. The preacher is overly critical of the elders.
5. The elders form a clique group that excludes the preacher
6. The preacher forms a clique group with influential members of the congregation.
7. Elders do not include the preacher in important conversations about the church.
8. The preacher thinks he needs to be involved in every decision elders make.
9. The elders do not effectively perform their duties as elders.
10. The preacher does the work required of elders.
11. The elders seldom get before the congregation.
12. The preacher is always before the church, both preaching and teaching.
13. Elders rarely communicate with the preacher.
14. Preachers rarely communicate with the elders.
15. Concerns that each have with one another are not addressed immediately.
16. Elders and preachers do not pray together.
17. Elders and preachers do not study together.
18. Elders and preachers do not visit together.
19. Elders and preaches do not have fellowship with each other.
20. Elders show little concern for the preacher’s family.
21. The preacher shows little concern for the awesome tasks of the elders.
These are just some of the things that hurt the relationship between elders and the preacher. NOTE: Once this relationship becomes distant, it is very difficult to make it close once again.
It is hard to find another relationship that compares with the relationship between preachers and elders. Some have likened it to the relationship that exists between the coaches and a quarterback on a football team. Others have said it resembles the relationship between a board of directors and the president of an organization. These might come close, but they do not fully express the intimate relationship that should exist between preachers and elders. It is one of the most unique and important relation that exists within the most important institution upon the earth
If the church is going to be strong, the relationship between the elders and preacher must be strong. If the church is going to be grow, the relationship between the elders and the preacher must continue to grow. If the church is going to be peaceful, the elder-preacher relationship must be filled with peace. If the members of the church are going to show love for each other, the elders and preacher must show love between themselves. Dear reader, the least bit of “bad blood” that exists between the elders and the preacher will manifest itself in the church. Our prayer is that elders and preachers will develop a relationship like the one that existed between Paul and the elder of Ephesus (See Acts 20:19-36). The last three verses of this text in Acts 20 show us the closeness of their relationship. “And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him. Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.”