Can a Preacher Be an Elder?

Yes

How do I know?
The Bible tells me so.

Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Timothy 5:17, 18, NKJV).

Paul encourages paid elder-preachers.

The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly (1 Peter 5:1, 2).

  1. Peter was a preacher.
  2. Peter was an elder.

The Bible seems clear. In the New Testament, some men were elders and preachers.

In many congregations, the preacher knows as much or more than elders about what’s happening with members. He visits as much or more than elders. Why ask him to leave when personal matters are discussed during elders’ meetings when he often has vital insight? When he’s qualified, recognize him as a shepherd, call him a pastor and you’ll be correct. Having a preacher who isn’t recognized as a bishop, elder, shepherd isn’t necessarily more scriptural. It may be less scriptural.

Which is wiser

  1. To call a preacher pastor who is qualified and shepherds with consistency and compassion…or
  2. To not refer to a preacher as a pastor (shepherd) who is qualified and who shepherds with consistency and compassion?

Objections

  • What about the preachers’ salary who is an elder? Let others decide. What if there are only two elders? The other elder decides or appoints a salary committee to handle the task. Recently I talked with a preacher in that situation. In his congregation, the other elder consults with deacons and they decide his compensation. He was happy and hadn’t experienced criticism.
  • What if the preacher wants too much power? What if any elder wants too much power? This isn’t a new problem. Jesus’ apostles’ fussed over this many times: “Who’s going to be the greatest in the kingdom?” (Matthew 18:1; Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 9:30-34; Luke 22:24). It needs to be handled whether one of the elders wants too much power is a preacher or isn’t a preacher.
  • What if the preacher sins or isn’t carrying out his responsibilities adequately? What if any elder sins or isn’t carrying out his responsibilities adequately? One of the best approaches I’ve heard:
  1. First approach the person privately. If it’s a misunderstanding or the person acknowledges his fault and corrects it, that’s the end of the matter.
  2. If that doesn’t work, get one or two more todiscuss the issue.
  3. If there’s sin involved, and the person isn’t willing to correct it, ask the church to intervene (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Timothy 5:19, 20).

Observation — Barber, not Bible: the issues are often trust and control. A leadership team needs to work on those whether the preacher is an elder or not. The relationship of the leadership team will ooze into the congregation. I’ve seen and experienced love, concern, mutual shepherding, and intentional communication mold leadership teams of ministers and elders into a group that leads the congregation to unity. That needs to happen whether the preacher is an elder or isn’t an elder.

I’ve also seen and experienced mutual distrust and “Who’s going to the greatest in the kingdom?” attitudes among preachers and elders — and elders and elders. That also oozes into the congregation and there’s instability and turmoil.

All Christians need to be working hard to participate in Jesus’ prayer for unity and Paul’s exhortation to have the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

It may be recognizing the preacher as a shepherd could help.

What qualities mentioned in 1 Timothy 3 or Titus 1 would you not want your preacher to have?

If he has the qualities, might it be helpful to ordain him along with other qualified and proven men in the congregation?

What have you observed or experienced with preachers being elders?

(Visited 1,752 times, 386 visits today)
Jerrie Barber
Servant of Jesus, husband to Gail, father to Jerrie Wayne Barber, II and Christi Parsons, grandfather, great-grandfather, Interim Preacher, Shepherd coach, Ventriloquist, barefoot runner, ride a cruiser bicycle

9 Responses to “Can a Preacher Be an Elder?

  • This was an excellent and concise answer from Scripture. Thank you!

  • Jeff Smith
    1 year ago

    Bro. Jerrie, I hope a preacher can be an elder cause I “are” one! It took me almost 2 years to say yes to the call to serve as Elder/Shepherd where I also preach. The other guy, appointed at the same time invested similar time thinking. He leaned a little left, I lean a little right, so our big consideration was, “Can we work together?”, “How will be handle disagreement?” Southside had their first ever solo Bible Camp coming up so Rod and I decided we would be co-head cooks for the Bible Camp. We planned the menu, bought the food, cooked for 50 people for a week and if at the end of that time we still loved and respected each other, we could serve together as shepherds. We did have some conflict, but we worked well together. At camps end we both agreed to accept the call to be elders and were appointed with the other 3 who served Southside at that time. In time we complimented each other very well. I grieve when I say that after about 4 years Rod developed cancer and died after serving almost 5 years. The two of us made a good team and we matched well with the existing elders.
    As preacher/pastor I have experienced very little conflict of interest. I do excuse myself from the room when compensation time comes around. There is little if any hardship created by my duel role. In fact, being “elder/shepherd” and minister has actually clarified my role as minister. This would not have worked for me when I was a young preacher. But being older, smarter, and more experienced in people skills means that the dual role gives me ample opportunity to use those skills. I have no regrets serving as an Elder and preacher at the same time.
    Preachers who “bloom where they are planted” might do well to be considered as Elders/shepherds. Since long term service for one church family usually means you have some level of respect from the membership, and staying planted usually means you have some people skills, there might be many cases where the minister could be a very effective elder.
    The only “negative” for me is this. When just the minister, I would use the Elders as “cover”. That is, in a difficult situation I might defer to the Elders, let them handle it, or hide behind their decision to do something a certain way. That doesn’t work for me anymore. You might say now I have to bear full responsibility for all I do as a minister and elder. I cannot say, “the elders made me do it”. For any minister considering playing the dual role, I would simply say do so with eyes wide open. There is no hiding behind the elders when you “are” one.

    • Jeff,

      Thank you for relating how it is working from someone who is doing it.

      I like the openness with you and Rod. That’s the kind of communication that develops good communication with nothing under the table.

      Your experience can be helpful for others who are considering this dual role.

  • Mike Gurganus
    1 year ago

    Thanks, Jerrie.

  • Edwin J Myers
    1 year ago

    Thank you, Jerry, for your simple presentation of the Biblical principle. I think your article and Jeff Smith response is correct. I have a brother-in-law who has served as both elder and preacher for two congregations where he ministered. At one of them his wife was also the church secretary and the church treasurer/bookkeeper. Interesting, some would say.

    I think one of the major problems in church of Christ centers around the problem of “authority”. Reuel Lemmons sounded a warning about this decades ago in the Firm Foundation. When an incorrect belief in “authority” exists there will always be conflict between elders and preachers and a “hireling” concept of that relationship will exist. Satan will have his way, and churches will be destroyed.

  • Ron Harper
    1 year ago

    Thank you for your insights. I agree with you. I have heard people say “a preacher can’t be an elder because that would be a conflict of interest.” They were not able to say they knew that because “the Bible tells me so.”

  • Thanks for letting the Bible speak to this issue. So many of our notions have no Biblical basis, just human reasoning. I appreciate your writings.

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