A Good Minister
The apostle Paul wrote the following to the young evangelist Timothy - "If you instruct the brethren in these things, if you visit the sick and the shut-ins, if you comfort the dying and their families, if you are involved in all the activities and programs of the church, if you efficiently run the church office, then 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" (I Tim. 4:6).

Hopefully you realize that I Timothy 4:6 doesn't actually read that way. Nowhere does the Bible define the role of a preacher or evangelist in this manner. Sadly, many religious folks seem to believe that this is the way it is or the way it should have been written. Rather than letting God's word define the role of preachers, many have allowed denominational thinking and practices to do such for them. Many believe that a good minister is one who spends most of his time visiting, comforting, counseling, and essentially "running the church." This is what most denominational preachers do. Some in the churches of Christ have come to expect the same thing from their ministers.

Careful students of the Bible will learn that it is every Christian's responsibility to visit the shut-ins, comfort the dying, serve the needy, be active in the programs of the church, etc. (cf. Matt. 25:34-40). These things are not the exclusive work of preachers, although such has become their designated work in many cases. A good minister, according to the Bible, is one who will preach God's word! He is always ready to "convince, rebuke, and exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching" (II Tim. 4:2). A good minister should devote a good portion of his time to studying and teaching God's word. Too many sermons today are filled with shallow thoughts and very little Biblical substance. In many cases, the simple reason for these empty sermons is that the minister doesn't focus his energies on lesson preparation. He is too busy playing the part of a pastor or shepherd--and the "people love to have it so" in many places (Jer. 5:31).

Who is at fault for this notion in the Lord's church that a good minister is one who primarily scurries about taking care of everyone and everything? First, preachers are to blame. Some preachers are afraid to speak out on this subject (among others) because they might upset people, and, consequently, they might lose their "job"! Other preachers see nothing wrong with behaving as a pastor. They desire to be the leader of the congregation. Studying and teaching are not high priorities to them. They'd rather "wait on tables" than give themselves "continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:1-4). "Waiting on tables" is certainly a commendable work, but it should not be the primary work of a preacher. Second, fault lies with elders who are not willing to assume their responsibility as the true shepherds of a congregation, but would rather push their responsibilities off on the preacher. Third, fault lies with members of the Lord's church who do not want to accept the responsibility or commit the time that Christian living demands. Some seem to think that they pay a preacher to do their visiting, secretarial work, benevolent work, organization of activities, etc., and, if they pay him well, then their personal responsibility is mitigated. Such is far from the truth.

What is the solution to this problem in the Lord's church? Obviously, brethren must be taught what the Bible says about the duties of a good minister. This will take men of courage in the pulpits who are not afraid of losing their support and who desire to give themselves to studying and teaching. It will take elders who are willing to reassume their role as shepherds, and members who are willing to lay aside carnal thinking for Biblical instruction and get busy working in the kingdom. Friends, do you and the congregation where you worship have a good minister or a pseudo pastor?