Preacher or Preachers?

preacher.jpg An online article in The Christian Chronicle about churches with two or more preachers set me to thinking. I know a little about this because I have worked in places where I was the only preacher and on the mission field when I was one of several.

Churches that have more than one preacher have discovered something church planters already know…the more preachers the better.

In mission congregations, the job of the missionary or mission team is to equip their members for works of service including preaching (not an original thought but a scriptural one – Ephesians 4:11,12). The effective missionary finds the disciples with the gift and the desire to preach and helps them become effective proclaimers. This is one way a church planter helps a mission congregation come to maturity. Some of those he trains may someday enter full-time work. Others may become effective self-supported teachers and preachers. The body as a whole is the beneficiary.

If the church is being planted by a team, most of the male team members take their turn in the pulpit. With different personalities, emphases, styles and perspectives but preaching from the same book; the result is a better-fed congregation. I believe the same thing would benefit any church.

preacher1.jpg

In so many churches we are victims of our own inventions. The centrality of the sermon in our assemblies, for example, is a tradition, not a scriptural principle or mandate. I have even heard the assembly referred to (many times) as “the preaching service.” When the sermon is central, so is the sermonizer. But why do we make the sermon central? I have some theories, but we probably got it from the Roman Catholics (you know, the priest and all that). The purpose of the assembly is edification and everything we do there including preaching must have that end in mind.

The idea of one preacher for one congregation is another of our inventions (or an inheritance from dubious relatives). Where do we find such a thing in Scripture? Nowhere in the New Testament do we find the concept of a full-time preacher much less that he is a necessity. What’s wrong with having no full-time preacher? (Is it because then we would have no one to blame things on? No one to fire when there is trouble?) In a congregation of 100 aren’t there enough men to do the preaching without having to hire someone? I’m not saying it is wrong (no scripture for it) but I am saying that it ain’t necessarily necessary.

When a congregation “hires” a preacher they often expect him to preach twice on Sunday and teach a Bible class Sunday morning and Wednesday night. If he does not, they feel that are not getting their money’s worth. In the process, however, others are shut out of the preaching procedure. This means that those in the congregation God has gifted to preach are not allowed to use their gift for the benefit of the body.

I have a suggestion. Hire a bunch of preachers. Four or five will do. Let them take turns addressing the congregation, teaching, etc. The rest of the time they can be training others who are gifted to preach, seeking and saving the lost and teaching others to do the same. They might even help the elders do their job…stuff like visiting the sick and ministering to the orphans and widows. I think that might work real well.

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under Preaching/Teaching

5 responses to “Preacher or Preachers?

  1. Dwight:

    Preaching is the only profession I know in which the people who pay you like you better if you do less of it!

    Brother, friend, respected mentor – what are you saying? Are you advocating that preachers no longer be paid? My stomach growled just reading your entry! I could hear my babies crying that the apartment was too cold – who will pay for the heat? (Not to mention my membership at the Country Club . . .)

    Seriously, when I left secular life and began making my living as a fulltime minister I really wrestled with the whole concept of a single, long-term, “pulpit minister” for one congregation (I absolutely HATE that name – to what am I supposed to minister if I am the pulpit minister? a chunk of wood? In the case of my present church, our pulpit is glass!). Biblically, where is that example found? We’re violating our own cherished hermeneutic. Practically, is that a sound way of doing things? Believing that one man is able to consistently feed the entire body, with all of its diversity, is unrealistic.

    But your point is really the crux of the matter: if I were to spend my time training the young men to preach and to teach, allowing them to falter, fumble, and learn both in the classroom and in the pulpit (as I was expected to do as a “missionary”) I would be obeying the principles Paul lays out in Ephesians 4, but, I daresay, I would soon be looking for a new Pulpit Minister job!

    Just a final point of interest, I don’t think our present model of sermon-driven assemblies came from Roman Catholicism. It was not until very recently that they allowed the Mass to be spoken in the vernacular (language of the common bloke). Actually, our model of focusing on the sermon came out of the Reformation when those preachers began to realize that commoners needed to learn the Bible – not receive the Sacraments and go home with little understanding of what happened.

    And, since we’re dabbling in trivia, our design of our Auditoriums came out of the Reformation too. The Mideival Cathedrals were shaped in the form of a cross. The far back was the altar and inaccessible to the laity. On either side (the cross members) were two smaller chapel areas, usually containing relics of some kind and the ubiquitous collection box, where the worshipers could assemble and pay homage (do penance).

    When the church converted, the Reformers walled off the chapel areas and made “Bible Classes” out of them leaving one, long, rectangular shaped room. Since the altar was no longer holy ground they just moved the pulpit back to the far wall and began preaching and teaching as the “main attraction.” That is where our concept of a lecture hall came from (I think – these things are impossible to prove, they are just someone’s theories).

  2. dwhitsett

    Man! I should have checked with you first! Thank you, Bob, for all that information. I just tend to blame the RC’s for all the stuff I disagree with…handy target! Nothing personal though…some of my best friends are RC.

    I like preachers! I think every church should own one or more. And I think they should be ADEQUATELY SUPPORTED…by that I mean a decent salary, health insurance and retirement plan. No cold apartments!

    I not only believe we should be training those in our congregation with God-given gifts to preach…I believe it is non-negotiable. When churches start doing that, they will be so happy with the results that the preacher will be able to stay forever.

  3. Bob Chapman

    Dwight,

    Let’s go back beyond the Vatican to the days when preachers preached regardless, and God added the saved to the called out ones who had all things in common and turned the world upside down with their preaching, regardles of whether they had a pulpit or not.
    The days when the Kingdom of God was the emphasis and its arrival announced Satan’s kingdom was on the mat.
    The days when preaching was accompanied by signs and wonders because folks had the faith of a speck of a mustard seed and no mountain was too big.
    The days when preaching was all day in the market place and in the byways and in the courts of officials and in prisons and not for twenty minutes on a Sunday to the converted (although that is questionable in many churches or all descriptios today).
    The days when gatherings of believers appear to be held at night on most nights because they were too busy preaching while the sun shone.
    The days when worship was a result of what exciting things the Lord did through their faith in the market place, prisons and courts of officials.
    The days when every day was considered another day for the Lord’s kingdom victory over sin and Satan, not just Sunday.
    The days when elders were spiritual qualified and ministering to the needs of the sheep, and not sitting on church committees qualifying and quantifying the performance of their very own “pulpit man”, “assistant pulpit man”, “youth leader”, “executive pastor” etc.
    The days when team ministry was not composed of several preachers, but rather apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists and pastors all working together in the leading, empowering and anointing of the Holy Spirit not their talent, academic prowess, smooth speech etc.

    Now, those ,were the days dear brother!

    But they can be so again if we just search for that speck of a mustard seed once more and give not just the Roman Catholic system the flick, but our protected, sugar candied, ear tickling two hour Sunday gatherings over to gatherings where prayer and fasting and waiting on the Lord for boldness takes precedent once more like it did in the days of old; days we seldom ever experience anymore because we are too afraid to let God be God in our lives once more, Acts 4:13-37.

    Blessings
    Bob Chapman

  4. ern smith

    Dwight, I agree with most you say.A full time worker can get a lot done l guess. In our highly educated world more men can preach and teach effectively. A lot of gatherings haven’t got preachers and survive. Lets all encourage one another to read and understand the Bible for ourselves, thus we all get uplifted and motivated to do Gods will. Ern Smith…

  5. “Preaching is the only profession I know in which the people who pay you like you better if you do less of it!”

    Ummm… how about preacher and attorneys?

    On the topic though… too often churches hire a “preacher” or missionaries/preachers view their job as professional speakers from Sunday 10:00 – 11:00. It seems as if little is done to teach and train missionaries/ministers on how to delegate their time during the other 167 hours of the week. Plus, churches judge preacher/ministers based upon a 30 minute lesson. This isn’t to say that most ministers are poor stewards of their time. Rather, it’s simply to point out the fact that ministry encompasses more than one hour per week. Churches as a whole shoulud focus on the cumulative work of a minister.

    As you point out in another blog article, a minister/missionary should be equipping its congregation. This may, of course, include allowing others the opportunity to speak/teach.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s