Tuesday, April 12, 2011

About Preachers

I Timothy 5:17-22 deals specifically with the subject of preachers, or at least leaders in the church. Paul has just finished talking about older people and now we see the word elder again, but in context it appears to be the church leadership he is talking about instead of just old people. Some churches pull this term out and go so far as to elect a board of elders. There’s nothing in the Bible that indicates that a board of elders was ever elected by the early churches. That’s not to say that it is wrong for a church to do so now, but this passage isn’t suggesting it. The elders here appear to be those that teach and preach doctrine. It certainly applies to preachers and given the leadership role they hold, it might also be used to help us understand how we should treat Sunday school teachers.

An elder is worthy of double honor. Some have taken this to mean that a preacher ought to be paid twice as much as the wealthiest person in the congregation. Part of the argument for this is because of verse 18. I don’t think double honor is referring to how much he gets paid. I think it has more to do with the respect owed to these people. Even if we link verse 18 to verse 17, I think we can still have that meaning. There are times that people will look at the recognition leaders in a church receive and they don’t think it is fair, so they get upset. The next thing you know, they are accusing the pastor of being in it just for the money or the recognition. Well, just like you aren’t to muzzle the ox that treads out the corn, we shouldn’t be trying to keep the pastor from receiving recognition or the gifts people give him. If he stops doing the work he is supposed to be doing, that is something else, but those who do the work should receive benefit from the work they do.

Accusations against church leaders should not be taken lightly. If someone accuses a church leader, don’t go on that person’s word alone. Verify the facts with two or three witnesses. All too often, all it takes to hurt a church leader is for one person to make an accusation. People just assume it true. By the time they find out the person was lying, the leader is disgraced. Leaders should be given an even greater benefit of the doubt than ordinary people.

But when a leader sins, Paul says, rebuke him before all. When people see that even the leaders can’t get by with inappropriate behavior, they will be more likely to think twice about doing the same behavior. We’re not to prefer one person over another.

Paul told Timothy not to lay hands hastily on any man. We don’t have to put our seal of approval on a man just because he says he is called to preach. Take some time. Listen to what he has to say. If he is sound in doctrine, then is the time to let people know we stand behind him.