A Good Minister
Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at 12:36PM
Jeff Smith in Authority, Churches of Christ, Evangelism

Paul wrote at least a couple letters to his young protege, Timothy, encouraging him to be a faithful preacher of the gospel (First Timothy 4:1-11). Although a young man, Timothy was commissioned to teach the will of God without compromise, to live according to it as best he could, and to perpetuate it by training others to follow suit. There is among the people of God today a shortage of good ministers because the work is very difficult, not terribly lucrative, and fraught with obstacles.

I. Ministers

A. Terminology

1. the word minister is a fairly comprehensive term that reaches beyond the preaching members of the church to include those who serve officially as deacons, as well as any member who does some service to others in the name of God

a. one of the Greek words that applies here is diakonos, from which deacon is translated, but that word probably derives from diako, which means “to run errands” (Thayer) 

b. Paul uses it specifically to describe the office of deacon (see First Timothy 3:8,12), himself (see Colossians 1:25), and other men and women who were servants of the church (see Colossians 4:7, Romans 16:1), as well as the government in its role of earthly authority (see Romans 13:4)

c. the verb form applies generally to all Christians: “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (First Peter 4:10, NKJV).

2. a more specific term than minister, then, is preacher, from a Greek word meaning, “the herald or proclaimer of the divine word” (Thayer) 


a. the preacher proclaimed the unsearchable riches of Christ and taught people about faith and truth (see Ephesians 3:8, First Timothy 2:7)

b. this duty separates him from others who might minister in other, perhaps less public ways

3. evangelist is used interchangeably with preacher, although some today inaccurately view the preacher as identified with one church, while the evangelist travels to preach

a. in reality, Paul spoke of wanting to “preach the gospel in lands beyond you” (Second Corinthians 10:16) and Philip the evangelist had finished his travels through Samaria to settle in Caesarea (see Acts 21:8)

b. evangelist is also a transliteration of a Greek word similar in meaning to preacher: he is “a bringer of good tidings … heralds of salvation through Christ who are not apostles” (Thayer) 


4. pastor is probably the most common word applied to this work today, but its modern use is not really consistent with the New Testament, where pastors were the overseers of local churches, and only occasionally labored intensively in teaching the word

a. pastors are not synonymous or even interchangeable with preachers, but are a distinct group, save for infrequent cases where men serve in both capacities simultaneously (see Ephesians 4:11, First Peter 5:1-4, Acts 20:17-28)

b. from a Greek word associated with literal shepherding, pastors are “the overseers of the Christian assemblies” (Thayer) 




B. Ministry

1. clearly, then, the work of ministry is not limited to one member of the congregation, even if the preaching work might be done most often by him; church offices exist “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).

2. ministering is the work of every member, but if we are concerned with what makes the preacher a good minister, it is the qualities specific to him that are of the most interest

a. Paul instructed someone named Archippus: “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord” (Colossians 4:17).

b. with Timothy, his objective was focused upon study and teaching: “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed” (First Timothy 4:6)


II. A Good Minister

A. Is Appointed To a Good Work

1. denominational and seminarian ordination is not a biblical concept, but the preacher is surely appointed to an important work when he follows his conscience into this part of ministry or agrees to have fellowship with a local congregation to teach for them

2. Paul writes several times of his ordination, but that was a very special case; most preachers feel just as driven to do the work of an evangelist, even if their entry into it is less dramatic than what happened in Damascus to Saul (see First Timothy 2:7, Second Timothy 1:11)

3. it is a good work, but without a drive to help people and endure hardship, one will never last 

a. some view preaching as a place where brethren will honor you and make you the center of attention, but, then again, Joan of Arc was the center of attention as they burned her at the stake; having the preacher for dinner is sometimes spiritual cannibalism rather than another feast of fried chicken

b. preaching is a stewardship in which God entrusts a very important work to a man who must be willing to study very hard and share himself with other people, including those who will eventually disappoint or reject him (see Colossians 1:25)

4. when the apostles in Jerusalem insisted the church select other men to tend to the benevolent needs of the widows, they established the importance of giving teachers time to study and instruct: “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).

a. the apostles had the advantage of miraculous insight; we have the advantage of the preservation of their inspired insights, but we must be devoted to “reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (First Timothy 4:13).

b. the pressure is often to make the preacher into a deacon, sexton, pastor, youth attendant, messenger, chauffeur, and delivery boy, but when he can concentrate on study and teaching, he is best situated to thrive in the area of ministry that belongs to him, leaving the other realms to others


B. Teaches God’s Will

1. he might be educated in other things and interested in all sorts of subjects, but his work is to teach God’s word, not even his own opinions or personal judgments

2. Paul was reputed to be a “preacher of foreign divinities” when he stood on Mars Hill, but he was really just doing the work of an evangelist as he told the Corinthians: “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (First Corinthians 2:1-2).

3. while there is incredible potential in simply reading the Bible, the Holy Spirit indicates that the preacher is an indispensable part of the process of indoctrination: 


How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news! (Romans 10:14-15)


4. the Old Testament leaves us the image of Ezra standing in a makeshift pulpit, addressing the remnant people of Israel; he “read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8).

a. in the Lord’s day, the preacher would sit and the audience would surround him

b. what matters more than such placement is what is taught: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (Second Timothy 2:15).

C. Does Not Preach for Hire or Tickle Ears

1. the good minister does not preach for hire by following “the way of Balaam … who loved gain from wrongdoing” (Second Peter 2:15)

2. regardless of its reception, he preaches the word of God (Second Timothy 3:16-4:5)

a. Micah said about his own generation, “If a man should go about and utter wind and lies, saying, ‘I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,’ he would be the preacher for this people” (Micah 2:11)!

b. Ezekiel was humbled when God explained that his popularity as a preacher was only superficial: “Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them” (Ezekiel 33:32).

3. a good minister files away his own opinions, refuses to bind or loose where God has not, and imposes his personal judgments only upon himself, rather than expanding the catalog of sins to include violations of his scruples; “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1).


D. Serves and Suffers

1. a good minister serves, but inevitably also must suffer for his ministry – the rise and fall of the work he does, the slings and arrows of his detractors, financial setbacks, personal disappointments, the moving game

2. the preacher, therefore, deserves to be supported as adequately as possible, and not made to feel as if his remuneration is a luxury; he is not an employee of the church, but a partner in the work, but the taught have a duty to reward his service liberally

a. “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches” (Galatians 6:6).

b. “If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you” (First Corinthians 9:11)?

3. the truth about the preacher’s life, however, is reflected in Paul’s need to seek support from other churches to satisfy his life’s needs (see Second Corinthians 11:8, Philippians 4:14-18) or to labor in a secular trade to supplement that support (see Acts 18:3, Second Thessalonians 3:7-9)

4. Paul figured out what all preachers – and their families – must (Philippians 4:10-12)


E. Deals With Error

1. some ministers prefer to avoid conflict and controversy, lest it diminish the size of the church or threaten their prospects for preaching elsewhere, but a good minister, while not seeking to create conflict or worsen controversy, will never shy away from standing up to error (First Timothy 6:20-21, Second Timothy 2:14, 23-26)

2. error is not merely a violation of human tradition or personal scruple, but a transgression of God’s will and a good minister must be prepared with a biblical response (Titus 1:10-13, 3:9-11)

3. we deal with error by waging a spiritual war (Second Corinthians 10:3-6)


F. Is A Human Being

1. a good minister is a human being, who unlike the elders and deacons, may or not be married, and may or may not have children – his family is not subject to the same scriptural scrutiny as elders and deacons, but he will strive to live consistently, if imperfectly, according to what he teaches others (First Timothy 4:11-12, Second Timothy 2:22)

2. he will sometimes sin, he will have good days and bad, he will both inspire and disappoint, he will beg for mercy and show it liberally

3. his family, if he has one, has no official duty in the church and should not be subjected to any more circumspect judgment than anyone else

a. there is no office of preacher’s wife except in a tradition that has caused much anguish to generations of women who did their best and were censured for not being perfect

b. preacher’s kids live in a fish bowl and undergo so much pressure to be mature from birth that many of them eventually give up and rebel because their best efforts go unnoticed, often by the church and even by their dads

4. for these reasons and more, Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians is significant: “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves” (First Thessalonians 5:12-13).



A good minister is hard to find, but a perfect one does not exist. A good preacher takes his work seriously and deserves whatever reward he receives, but the costs are sometimes so bitter and heavy that it is a wonder any survive.


Questions for Review


  1. What is the Greek word for “minister”? What does it mean and include?
  2. What is the difference between preacher and evangelist?
  3. When is the preacher not a pastor?
  4. How important is study to the good minister. Give examples.
  5. Why is it tempting for a preacher to tickle itching ears?
  6. What kinds of things might a minister suffer while he serves?
  7. What makes for a good minister?
Article originally appeared on ElectronicGospel (http://electronicgospel.com/).
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