It seems that elders are appointed forever and preachers are hired until their welcome is worn out. There are many reasons why churches fire a preacher. Some of them are legitimate reasons and some are not. Let us examine a few reasons why a preacher should be fired and some reasons why they should not.
Preaching False Doctrine
I know of no greater reason to fire a preacher than when he preaches false doctrine. What is false doctrine? It is any doctrine contrary to sound doctrine, which in fact is, the doctrine of Christ and His apostles (Tit 1:9 ff; Tit 2:1; 2 Jn 9). Sadly, many preachers are fired for preaching sound doctrine, because they refuse to preach the doctrines of men. Any preacher who preaches in and out of season in accordance to God’s Word is often tagged as a heretic or legalist in today’s society (2 Tim 4:2-5). Progressive churches want growth in number and will go to any extent to gain them. Whenever a preacher stands his ground, usually he is fired. Yes, there are a few gospel preachers who will stray from sound doctrine, and all such must be fired lest they lead the whole congregation to apostasy. Qualified elders must pay close attention to what a preacher preaches in order to protect the flock. It is not only a good thing to do so, but it is their responsibility (Acts 20:28-31).
Preachers are mere human beings who can fall into sin as much as any man. In fact, preachers are often the prey of the world and are at risk for going astray. The works of the flesh are before the eyes of every preacher. They deal with sinners every day and as all should know, the pleasures of the world are many. However, when a preacher commits adultery, fornication and the like, they must be fired lest they lead the entire congregation to follow their example. Preachers MUST practice what they preach. Paul said, “You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples” (Rom 2:21-22)? Preachers and teachers are held to a higher standard because both saint and sinner alike are either following or encouraged to follow their teaching (Jam 3:1).
Preachers are not elders! Any preacher who prevents elders from being selected or rejects an elder’s authority, must be fired. Elders lead, preachers preach, and never the twain shall meet. I have heard of preachers who have become elders while they are currently preaching in that congregation. If you ever want an example of a wolf in charge of the chicken house, this is it. Sure, a former preacher, if he is qualified, could and should become an elder. However, to become an elder and currently preaching in the same locality presents a direct conflict of interest. That would be like a President of the United States who currently is a Supreme Court justice or Speaker of the House. I will say that would be a great way to obtain job security. I know a few preachers who have done so, and they all remained with the same congregation until they eventually died or retired. Such things as this give the appearance of impropriety. As Peter who served as an apostle, a preacher, and an elder said concerning such, “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” (2 Pet 5:1-2; also read 1 Tim 5:17). I have also seen preachers prevent congregations from selecting elders because they themselves are acting as elders. This too is wrong. Power seeking preachers should be fired lest they destroy the work of God and make the church a laughing stock.
Reasons Not To Fire a Preacher
Any preacher who preaches the gospel of Christ in and out of season should never be fired. Preachers are not cheerleaders. They proclaim the Word of God. They should not be judged by how many are baptized or return back to God, but rather by the word which they preach. If the church is not growing, it is not the duty of preachers to make it grow. Preachers plant, and elders water, but only God gives the increase. In other words, preachers preach the Word, and elders nurture the members to understand the Word, but only God can open the hearts of all that hear the Word.
Preachers should not be fired just because members don’t like what or how he is preaching. Eloquent and soft spoken preachers, who preach what you want to hear as opposed to what you need to hear, is the quality of a false teacher (Rom 16:17-18). “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ ” (Col 2:8). Many false teachers have gone out into the world and will lead a Christian astray unless they have put on the whole armor of God (1 Jn 3:1 f; Eph 6:11-18). Christians must be as the Bereans and hear what is preached to them, but verify each and every word which is preached by the Word of God (Acts 17:11).
Preachers who speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where the Bible is silent should never be fired (Rev 22:18-19 ff; 1 Cor 4:6; 1 Pet 4:11). It is a rare quality in preachers today who speak the very words of God and never goes beyond that which was written. Whenever a preacher preaches the very words of God and is fired, the congregation is not firing him, but God. Wherever God’s Word is not welcomed, neither is God or his servants.
Conclusion: Yes, there are many reason why a church might want to change preachers. However, never let it be said once among us that a sound congregation ever fires a sound preacher.