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.
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.