“Preacher/Pastor” - What’s the Difference?

In the majority of cases people refer to a preacher as “the Pastor” of a church. Those called such often use the expression, “I pastored a church at . . .,” or “I am the Pastor of . . .” This is a misuse of both terms. The New Testament makes a clear distinction between a preacher and a pastor. A “pastor” is a shepherd of the congregation over which he serves (Read 1 Pet. 5:1-3). A “pastor” is one who tends the flock in the way a shepherd watches over his sheep. A preacher is one who proclaims or preaches the word.

Paul identified himself as a preacher, apostle, and a teacher - but never as an elder or pastor. “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity” (1 Tim 2:7). As a preacher he was also an apostle, one sent by the Lord to preach. He also served as “a teacher of the Gentiles.” He repeated this to Timothy in the second letter (2 Tim. 1:11). Paul had the right to have a wife, but apparently did not (1 Cor. 9:5). He had a right that he had not exercised. One of the qualifications of a pastor requires him to be “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2). No such qualification is given for a preacher.

A preacher is an evangelist. Paul instructed Timothy to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim 4:2). He included this as part of doing the work of an evangelist and minister (verse 5). These terms define the work God wants a preacher to do - preach and teach the word. This is his ministry. He must never preach anything other than the gospel of Christ (Read Gal. 1:8-9).

A preacher may also serve as a pastor, but only if he qualifies per 1 Tim. 3:1-8 and Titus 1:5-9. Peter was an apostle but also an elder (1 Pet. 5:1). Another term for pastor is “elder.” Some elders (pastors) serve in both ways. Of such, Paul said, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine” (1 Tim. 5:17).

This is why we never refer to our preacher as “our Pastor.”

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