Find the text of Study 4: Pastors/Preachers below. If you’d prefer to listen to the study, you can watch the video — the content is the same. We will host a Zoom meeting for anyone who would like to discuss this on Thursday, Feb. 24, from 7-8 p.m. EST at this link.
What comes to mind when you hear the word “pastor”? What about when you hear the word “preacher”?
While these terms both often refer to the human leader of a church, “pastor” highlights the role of overseeing a congregation and “preacher” highlights the role of verbal proclamation. In some churches the terms may be used interchangeably; in some churches they may refer to different people. But in all churches, the humans who are in charge and who speak for the church are given tremendous responsibility. With this responsibility comes the risk of these human leaders causing hurt and divisions in their congregations.
Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 (NIV below).
10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?
Paul was writing this letter to the church at Corinth – a church he helped found. We read in Acts 18 about Paul’s time in Corinth, where he stayed for a year and a half as he reasoned with Jews in the synagogue before teaching Gentiles throughout the city, with many Corinthians believing and being baptized. Paul’s first friends, coworkers and hosts in Corinth, Aquila and his wife Priscilla, left Corinth with Paul to go to Ephesus. It’s there in Ephesus where Aquila and Priscilla encountered Apollos, an Alexandrian Jew who believed in and taught about Jesus, and whom Paul references in 1 Corinthians. Aquila and Priscilla took Apollos in and “explained to him the way of God more adequately,” and by the end of the chapter, Apollos was the one in Corinth arguing to Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.
Now, as Paul wrote this letter of 1 Corinthians, the church at Corinth was, perhaps put too simply, divided over which preacher they liked better (and maybe this was causing hurt to some in the church). There was Paul, “the original,” the founder of the church, who admitted in a later letter to being “timid” when with the Corinthians; a little later came Apollos, the fiery one who “spoke boldly” and “vigorously refuted” those who disputed that Jesus was the Messiah. Apparently some Corinthians also favored Cephas – whom we know better as Peter. Maybe Peter made some appearances as the “big-name” guest preacher? We don’t have any details in the New Testament about Peter’s relationship to the Corinthian church, but apparently he had fans in Corinth.
What do you think are the ideal qualities of a preacher?
What are the ideal qualities of a pastor?
Where have you seen preachers/pastors who have these qualities?
Where have you seen preachers/pastors who don’t?
But surely the Corinthian church was thinking of more than just preaching style; Paul wasn’t just a distant figure on a stage; he worked as a tent-maker in the community and lived with a married couple who seemed to be very important to the church. There are personal relationships at play here, and “church hurts” can involve pastors inside the pulpit and outside of it. Paul caused hurt to the people in the Corinthian church – he actually admits this in 2 Corinthians 7:8, although he claims no regrets and says he caused “Godly” sorrow that led them to repentance.
Are there any situations in which it would be legitimate for a pastor/preacher to cause hurt to the church (perhaps with a higher goal in mind, as Paul had)?
Church hurts can also happen because of the absence of a leader. In other letters, Paul writes about having strong desires to visit the churches in Rome (Romans 1:13) and Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:18) but being unable to do so. Perhaps some were disappointed or even upset that he had not been there.
What stories have you heard about how a preacher/pastor has caused hurt to those in the church in today’s world? What, if anything, could have been done to avoid causing that hurt?
What do you think someone should do regarding “the church” if a preacher/pastor has hurt them?