Over the last few months, we have had several of our elders at Cornerstone share messages on Sunday morning. I think it’s great and I wanted to share we feel it is important to expose the congregation to teaching from different people. For many churches and congregations, there is a unwritten and unspoken expectation that the pastor should be preaching every week unless he is near death. The expectation is that they should be preaching because that is what they are paid to do. However, if you want your church to be healthy, there will be times the pastor needs to step away from the pulpit and let others preach. Here’s why.
I know what many people think, pastors don’t work hard enough to need rest! I’ve heard it and experienced the perception that pastors don’t really do much during the week. Nothing can be further from the truth. I think I can uniquely respond to this since I’ve worked both in the business/manufacturing world and in the ministry. The two fields are very different.
Preparing for a sermon each week is a responsibility that you cannot take lightly. Just imagine having to write and prepare a 5000 to 8000 word essay each week, and then present it in front of a group of people who expect it to be life-changing and incredible each week. It is the preacher’s responsibility to read the text, research the meaning behind the text, and then present it in such a way to help people see the need of the Gospel in their lives. But in addition to preaching they have many other roles: counseling people in crisis, coaching leaders, meeting and encouraging people in the church, hospital visitation, and just leading the church. The biggest difference between the corporate world and the ministry is that you simply cannot leave everything at work. You have to always be ready, and most pastors work far more than 40 hours per week. I don’t share this to complain, because I fully believe this is the life that God has called me to, but I do share it so that you know that pastors are under incredible stress. The statistics on how many pastors leave the ministry are mind-boggling, click here to see what I mean.
Pastors simply need time to pull back and spend time with their families. Most people don’t realize how busy pastors are on the weekends, so by letting others preach you are giving them a chance to spend a normal weekend with the family on occasion.
Planning and Preparing
Pastors need time to plan and prepare. Time where they can slow down and simply listen to God’s voice and direction for the church. It is great to have weeks where the pastor can focus on prayer and study, without the added responsibility of putting together a message. There are events that need to be planned, upcoming sermon series to map out, calls that need to be made, administrative details that need following up, and people that need to be discipled. In a healthy church, the pastor needs time to lead, and stepping away from the pulpit on a regular basis helps the pastor and it helps the church.
Ephesians 4:11-12 tells us that our job is to equip the saints. As a church, we will have a far greater impact if we continue to develop and train gifted teachers. This doesn’t mean just anyone can stand up and preach on Sunday mornings, but for those who excel in teaching in our LifeGroup system, this is a great next step. 1 Timothy 3:2 lists one of the requirements for elders is the ability to teach. Although this can take other forms such as writing or one-on-one teaching, several of our elders have the gift of public teaching. For me, it helps to know we have guys who are solid in their theology and can stand up and preach boldly. I can guarantee that most gifted pastors weren’t great public speakers when they first started preaching. It takes time and it takes practice to become comfortable preaching in front of a crowd.
We also need to realize that people respond differently to preaching styles. While one person may love my style, another may very well be reached more effectively by someone else. I pray that we don’t turn church into an “Idol” style competition where preachers are judged on style rather than substance. Unfortunately, that is what happens far too often in the church world. People pick and choose what church to attend based on the personality of the pastor, and then they complain whenever anyone else shares from the pulpit. It shouldn’t be that way!
Here’s what you need to ask each time
- Is the Word of God preached?
- Is Jesus lifted up?
- Are believers built up?
- Is the Gospel clearly proclaimed?