James O. Baird

A 3-year-old in our neighborhood thinks her parents are living with her rather than the other way around. They have pointed out their job is to take good care of her, and her job is to obey them. However, after this is reasoned through carefully, it is not long until she is clenching small fists and exclaiming, "But you didn't obey me." When it is explained that children should not talk that way to their parents, she repents enough to demand, "Obey me, please." This 3-year-old is suffering from an acute case of role confusion.

She is not alone. Most preachers are as well.

In her case, thanks to loving, strong-willed parents, she eventually will accept the realities of her own role as it ought to be. Correcting the role confusion of preachers is not so simple. Not because of the preachers themselves, but primarily because we, who most love preachers, who support them, and who like to listen to them, are the ones who continue to insist the preacher's role stay misdefined.

We have defined the preacher's role as that of:

serving a group of Christians making up a given congregation by teaching them and preaching to them,

being the primary administrator of the church's affairs under the guidance of the elders, and

doing the work of the shepherd in tending the flock, visiting the sick and admonishing the fainthearted.

This view of the preacher's work has its roots in the priest-flock relationship of the Middle Ages, a notion powerfully reinforced by the preacher-as-pastor view emerging from several centuries of traditional Protestantism.

What we are demanding of our preachers is not something we have planned maliciously. It is more of an unthoughted adaptation to the religious culture in which the church exists. This is an approach that should be changed. We must go back to the Bible for the role of the preacher as God defines it. The primary task of the evangelist according to Scripture is to reach the lost with the gospel. He is not an administrator. He is not the pastor. He is to be the angel of glad tidings (Romans 1:14-16).

If we say we cannot change our present definition of the preacher's role back to God's definition, we are saying in effect that either God's plan is not workable today or we do not have the determination to use it.

God knows what is best for the lost and for the church. Let's free our preachers to preach. (Reprinted from The Christian Chronicle.)

Editor's Note: Now what will we do about the situation? Will we do what we should do and "free our preachers to preach" to the lost? Or, will we keep them to 'fill our pulpits' in our church buildings talking to us and continue in the way we are going? May God help us to see the error of our ways and give us the faith and courage to correct the situation.