How does one who has a desire to preach become qualified to preach the gospel? Many denominations require that their preachers (or pastors/ministers) complete some sort of training at a college or seminary. There is nothing wrong with getting training to preach the Gospel at a Bible college, in fact I would recommend it; but if we really want to know what to expect of one who desires to preach the Word of God, shouldn’t we then just examine the Word of God for what it says on the subject? The New Testament provides us with a description of a person who is qualified to preach the gospel.
**** Disclaimer: In talking about this, I am in no way referring to all teaching that a Christian might do. All of us can teach in some capacity (1 Peter 3:15). We are all responsible to do what we can with the opportunities we are given. We are all responsible to fulfill the Great Commission in the best and most efficient way we can (Matthew 28:19-20 –Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.) But preaching the gospel is more than the teaching or sharing we might do in everyday situations. Preaching is the public, open proclamation of the Word of God. It is the type of preaching for which one may be financially compensated and the type of which one should have a clear calling to do, a calling the Bible tells us is never repented of (I Corinthians 9:14 – Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. & Romans 11:29 – For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.). Having a clearer picture of what we are trying to determine, we can get into our question: Who is qualified to preach the gospel? ****
A PREACHER MUST (according to the Bible):
Be a man – Today we see more and more women ascending to leadership roles in churches. Yet the New Testament clearly and unequivocally prohibits this. Paul wrote, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” I Timothy 2:11-12. He told the believers in Corinth, “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” I Corinthians 14:34-35. This is not to say that women are inferior. It is rather simply to say that God has placed the responsibility of preaching the gospel upon the shoulders of men and not of women.
We could also look at this requirement in a different light. A gospel preacher must be a man, but simply being a male does not qualify one to preach. He must also act like a man, as Paul told the Corinthians to do I Corinthians 16:13 “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” This involves maturity, discipline and the willingness to endure the hardships or push back from what is preached and not waver in their convictions on the Word of God II Timothy 4:5 “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”
Know the word – Paul instructed young Timothy to “preach the word” in II Timothy 4:2. It is a simple thought and qualification – one must know the Word before he can preach the word. We must speak “as the oracles of God” I Peter 4:11. The only way this can be done is to know the Word. The apostles were guided into all truth by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13 – Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.), but not everyone was guided as directly as they were. Timothy was told to study in order to learn how to accurately handle the Word of God (II Timothy 2:15 – Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.). This is what we all must do, what we all need to do, and that is study the Words of God revealed to us by the Holy Spirit and put down for all eternity onto the pages of the Bible. One who wants to preach, one who feels a God implanted desire to preach must know the Word of which he is to be preaching. He must be a diligent student of the Word of God, He must also have a deep respect for the Word of God.
Be loyal to Christ – Paul said he could not serve Christ while trying to please men (Galatians 1:10 – For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.). Yet some seem to be loyal to other preachers or groups, we need to be loyal to Christ; nothing wrong with fellowshipping with or having respect for other preachers and groups, but our loyalty belongs to Christ and His Word. This misplaced loyalty leads them to ignore the sins and errors of these men. We can see this with the different reactions of Peter and Paul to the party of the circumcision (Galatians 2:11-14). Those of the circumcision were a group of Jewish Christians who taught that Gentiles must be circumcised and taught to keep the Old Testament Law. Peter feared them (Galatians 2:12) and did not expose them. As a result he led others into sin (Galatians 2:13) and he himself “was to be blamed” (Galatians 2:11). Paul, on the other hand, openly confronted Peter for his sin (Galatians 2:11) and exposed the false teachers (Galatians 2:4-5; 5:2-4). If one desires to preach, he must be loyal to Christ above all others.
Be ready to preach – All Christians should be ready with an answer for the hope that is in us (I Peter 3:15 – But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:), but this readiness needs to be especially true for preachers. Because God called preachers have a greater responsibility (James 3:1). Paul told the saints in Rome “I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.” (Romans 1:15). A gospel preacher must be ready to do what Paul did, preach or “declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Preachers today must be ready to do the same. They must teach the whole of God’s Word, even the parts that others find unpopular, controversial, difficult or that go against long held traditions of men. Will a preacher necessarily have all the answers on every topic? No, of course not, but a preacher must be willing and able to study to find the answers he does not yet know when the question arises. A man qualified to preach the gospel must be willing and able to preach whatever is revealed in God’s word.
Be humble – A preacher is supposed to be trying to draw others to Christ and not to himself. Paul told the Corinthians he worked diligently to win them to Christ (II Corinthians 11:2). A Preacher must be trying to show others truth and not simply trying to win arguments. A preachers responsibility is to lead others to accept the truth. Humility is also necessary because a preacher must be able to realize that he could be wrong. We are all fallible humans; you are and preachers are, non preachers need to keep that in mind. Though a preacher may strive for perfection, in the end he is human just like everyone else. If a man cannot admit mistakes, or weaknesses then he is not fit to preach the gospel.
Not hinder the gospel – A preacher must not live in such a way so as to cause a hindrance to the gospel. Paul told the Corinthians, “but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.” (I Corinthians 9:12). He must live blamelessly and uprightly, “Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed:” (II Corinthians 6:3).
SOME THINK A PREACHER MUST (according to man or tradition):
Must be an excellent speaker –Many want a preacher to be or think a preacher should be someone who speaks eloquently. This is not what the Bible puts emphasis on though and we should not put emphasis on it either. The emphasis should not be on the delivery of the message but rather the message itself. What someone should be looking out for is does he preach the Word, does he have a good working knowledge of Scripture, does he do a good job of explaining and teaching the Bible? These things are more important then if he is a good orator or not. The Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 2:1-2 about this “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
Must be formally educated – There are many good Bible colleges out there. Many churches make it a prerequisite that their Pastor, or someone on their Pastoral staff, have certain types of degrees from certain preferred and approved, by them, schools. This is never required, or even hinted at, in the New Testament. We cannot require more than God does. And we must not think less of men who have not had such training. The Apostle Paul did not follow Jesus around and see His example and hear His teaching while He was living on the earth as the other apostles did. Even so, he was “not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.” II Corinthians 11:5.
Must be popular – This seems to be necessary, at least for one to preach at a larger congregation. But were any of the apostles popular? How about Jesus? Was He popular with the people? On the contrary, by popular opinion, the people demanded His crucifixion (Matthew 27:20-23). Popularity is not the proper way to gauge the worthiness of one to preach the gospel.
Must not be divorced – A divorced man can preach the Gospel if the divorce was a biblical one and he is otherwise qualified. You will not find one verse in the Bible that says otherwise. If you think you have you are guilty of inserting your own man made exception clause into the Word of God while ignoring the exception clause given to us by God in His Word (Matthew 5:32 & Matthew 19:9). The Bible must agree as a whole to all other parts of the Bible. If your interpretation of one part of the Bible disagrees with a clear passage in another part of the Bible, then you my friend have a wrong interpretation of that particular passage. Dr. C.I. Scofield used to say “Never use a doubtful or obscure passage to contradict a clear and positive one.” If your thoughts don’t agree with the Bible on a particular subject, then repent of your thoughts, if your traditions you adhere to do not agree with the Bible on a particular subject, then repent of your traditions and go with the Bible. You will be right every time.
We have looked to the New Testament to see what God’s Word says about the requirements of a gospel preacher. In short, he must be able to present the Lord’s message in its entirety, in its purity, regardless of the situation or opposition, in humility, and without distracting from it. One who is able to do these things and is called by God to do so should make a good gospel preacher, as long as he keeps himself right with God, even if he may not meet all of man’s requirements. One who is not able to meet the Biblical requirements, even though they meet mans requirement, should abstain from preaching until he meets the Biblical requirements. After all, “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” James 3:1.