Saturday, February 09, 2008

"Preachers Can't Be Elders" and misspeaking

On Friday I spoke during a Contemporary Concerns Lecture at Freed-Hardeman Lecture, My topic was "Are Women Limited As Leaders." For 35 minutes I dealt with a variety of points dealing with this issue.

One of my final points is that all Christians are limited in the roles. I wanted to emphasize that anyone could be tempted to feel cheated if they desired a role for which they were unqualified. What needs to happen rather than letting the devil convince us we are cheated is to be satisfied with the roles we have.

Women cannot be preachers or elders, but neither can single men be elders or deacons. I noted that even an elder is subject to the eldership, and all elders are subject to the Chief Shepherd and the Word. In the midst of this I said, "and preachers can't be elders." I did not at all mean that a qualified preacher who is appointed by the congregation cannot serve also as an elder. What I meant was that a preacher who did not qualify or was not so appointed could not serve in that role. He too should be content.

I was given an opportunity to clarify the statement, for which I am thankful. Many folks knew what I meant, but others got confused. When you have understanding, you do not have misunderstanding. I was thankful for the opportunity to clarify my statement immediately.

How often words come out misunderstood, misinterpreted, misspoken, and regretted. Speakers, even experienced ones, sometimes misspeak. I did.

Rather than accuse the speaker, please do as kind people did to me, and FIRST ask questions. Did I understand you correctly? Is that what you mean? I appreciated those who came to me and told me what I said.

I plan to listen more closely and ask questions FIRST.

P.S. If you would like my notes, send me an email:



onedaysoon said...

Phil, I served as both an elder and the preacher at the last work I was in. Yes it is possible but it is very difficult to do both works well. Keep preaching brother.

Matthew said...

Phil, It was good to see you at Lectureship, wish I had a chance to chat with you more. Also, I like the point of an elder has to submit to the eldership. This is a good point, that you made me think about.

Richard said...

Yeah, Phil, those slips of the tongue are a pain aren't they! :)

You did well and I also wish I had had more time to visit with you.

BTW, I knew you didn't mean that preachers couldn't be elders but I didn't know what you actually meant, either. Glad you were able to clarify.

Thanks for your work here on your blog.

Steve Higginbotham said...

Phil, I heard your comments and in the context of your comments, I understood what you were saying. --Good lesson!

Preacher Caleb said...

The real question is can a preacher be a deacon and if so do you know of a case where a preacher was appointed a deacon too?

OK, maybe it's not the real question but I am curios what you think, and more importantly why you think it 


Phil Sanders said...


Certainly a preacher can be a deacon, and most are qualified to do so. I think most elderships do not wish to put more on the preacher than is necessary, so they do not appoint him.

The word diakonos is translated as deacon (3 times), servant often, and minister on some occasions. Jesus was called a diakonos in Romans 15:8.

The general term "servant" for diakonos can fit any faithful Christian.


preacherman said...

I understand that preachers can be qualified as elders and some are elders. Yet preachers who do become elders can tend to becoem a "Pastor" role and not listen to the "authority of the elderships." I believe this can cause divisions within the body of Christ if we aren't careful. What do you think?

Phil Sanders said...


Whether it is Scripturally permissible for a preacher to become an elder also is one question (and yes, he can); but whether it is the best thing for him to do so is another question altogether.

I was once asked to be an elder. I declined, because some felt that the congregation might think I had too much power. Some preachers who are strong personalities might very well gain too much control of a congregation.

The other problem I faced, thanks to the counsel of my good friend Greg Tidwell, was that I would have my priorities mixed. Some preachers who become elders lose sight of the need for evangelism, since they are busy in the role of elder/pastor as well as preacher.

Preachers enjoy the protection good elders provide for them in not having to make controversial decisions over expedients. My elders care what I think and often ask me, but I am glad the final decision and accountability is theirs.

I do have to say that I do not believe that Hebrews 13:7 and 13:17 apply only to elders. Preachers are also leaders. When they are preaching God's word, they too have an authority (Tit. 2:15). I don't think elders always consider that.