Axioms I brought into being a Senior Pastor with me from day one of my ministry (a long time ago)…
“Don’t give up your pulpit easily to just anyone”. Some preachers look for opportunities to not prepare a sermon. It’s hard work! Give up your pulpit often and easily and your people will think you’re not doing your job during the week. They’ll think you’re lazy. Also, you never know what kind of a meal your guest speakers will give your people. You teach your people.
“Sermon preparation is hard work but it is also your core work. A SP should never give up his core work.”
Now those aren’t the only things I brought with me into the pastorate…but those are two axioms that probably kept me from allowing my staff to preach much in the church I serve as Senior Pastor. As I have gotten older, more tired, more secure, as I’ve seen the patterns change among churches where there is more shared preaching than my era promoted, and, and as I am moving into more of a coach’s mentality where I see that the baton is passing and must be passed to younger pastors, I want others on my staff to speak. It surprises even me, but it’s a good thing this change! This past week as I was listening to a great sermon from our Assistant Pastor Curt Moore, I jotted down some benefits to having other staff preach on Sunday…why it’s good for our church and for me. Ok, so in writing this down during the sermon I missed some of his sermon. But I sat through two services, so…I DID listen to him too and got it all…
Here’s what I learned about having other staff preach…
- 1. The Father wants to speak to me in the same way He wants to speak to my congregation (Ok, it’s not “my” congregation; it’s the congregation I serve as pastor. But pastors are kind of like fathers and “my kids” are “mine”…fathers are possessive, so it’s “my congregation” only in so far as its first Jesus’ congregation. Whew…I was worried about some pastor calling me on the theology of “my”.) Back to my point. It’s really good for me to sit under the preaching of the Word of God and for my people to see me sitting under it, and taking notes and nodding encouragingly and laughing when appropriate, and in general being supportive of our staff. God wants to speak to me in church too I learning, rather than just speaking through me. I love being a learner and it’s a great place where I can grow too. When I permit other staff to speak, and I do think it’s the Senior/Lead Pastor’s call who preaches, I/we send the message that we too believe in preaching and want to hear from the Lord in that context.
2. It gives my staff an opportunity to grow as communicators in a real life context. I have taught communications in a seminary setting, but obviously seminary is not a real life church setting! In seminary we gain tools but not experience and certainly not expertise in preaching. All seminary grads have an MA or a Masters of Divinity, but in reality when we graduate with the monster 3 year full time M.Div we’re masters of nothing when it comes to practical ministry. As a younger pastor myself I was developing as a communicator and didn’t want to share my venue. Selfishness and competition got in the way. Getting older, I feel like a coach more, and appreciate the younger guys, and want them to succeed. I’m not going to be in my SP role forever, and want good guys to succeed after me. Why not help my staff feed my people better? I’m slow, but learning. I’m also learning how to give constructive advice without being condescending or demand that they do what I want them to do in communicating. Steve Brown has modeled this consistently to me and for me. What grace!
3. When my staff preaches it gives me an opportunity to encourage them with what they did well and right in preaching, and it draws us closer as a team.
4. When my staff preaches I get a break! I need weeks where I don’t have to study for and write up and then communicate a sermon. Sermons take a lot of hard work, and should be given the best part of our weeks. But we all know how many other things we need to do, and some weeks off preaching give me as Senior Pastor a break. Some, like Andy Stanley, will prep a sermon even when he’s not preaching and that makes sense too. He’s got three sermons prepped already and in the bag and reviews this week’s upcoming sermon on Saturday night. That’s great if you can do it. When I line up another staff member to speak, I can work ahead on a sermon, read another book on the topic on which I’m preaching, find better illustrations…and think more about it. Ah…more thinking and praying are what I need for every sermon. I was living large this past week. I love preaching but only had to do welcome and announcements, baptism and the Apostle’s creed. I was able to give myself to those elements of worship without worrying about my message.
5. Your congregation will view your staff with a higher estimation because of the preaching role. People connect with their pastors in the communication process and if they minister to the flock well through their sermon the flock will esteem them and support them better in their staff position. That of course is good overall for the church! Clarification: If the staff member is not a good communicator, and isn’t making progress in communication and doesn’t have the preaching gift/or really like to preach, then they will generally do more harm to themselves and the ministry than if you force/allow them to preach. Be a lion about this. If you have a staff member who wants to preach but just can’t “bring it”, don’t let them preach. Take the flak you have to take for the good of your people and ministry. When it comes to visitors: “You only have one opportunity to make a first impression.” A really bad staff preacher can hurt your ministry. Your call. Did you hear that? It’s your call.
6. Your staff in their preaching can convey the church’s vision, your vision, with their own “take” on it and this will help unite and move your church family ahead.
7. Having other staff preach forces you to have your security and identity in Christ and not in being visible or the center of attention. Allowing your staff to preach periodically can be a spiritual discipline which enables you to not feed but actually starve the sin of pride and ego. Our role as Senior Pastors is about and was always really about Jesus anyway.
8. Allowing your staff to preach reminds you how exhausting and taxing preaching is! When they’re done preaching and are tired, and you actually have energy for the rest of Sunday and feel like doing something with your family, you’ll remember that what you do every week is monumental and challenging, even though rewarding labor. Preaching is why you need to take time off to relax and recuperate. It’s why you get irritated in meetings sometimes and just want to run away. I think a lot of us are running on empty a lot of the time. Partly, it’s because we’ve not gotten proper rest after preaching. Spurgeon had it right…something about preaching yourself to death and then allowing God to breathe new life into you. Leave it all on the court…er..worship center. But make sure you give time for the Spirit to bring you back to life again. I use Monday as a flex day to recover. If I don’t, I won’t just burn out, I’ll explode.
Well, those are some of the things I learned this past week. I’m sure there is more…other…better lessons.
Those of us who are a little older as senior/lead pastors have a great opportunity…to coach! What have you learned by letting your staff preach?
You take it to heart!