The problem with preaching is that Sunday keeps coming, week after week, no matter what else is on the plate. Don’t get me wrong; I love to preach. I love the Word of God. I love speaking into the community of faith. I love everything about it. But asking one person to consistently provide fresh ideas and an inspired message every week until Jesus comes back is a tall order. Add to that the heady responsibilities of a typical church planter and I wonder why truly sane people would ever attempt the feat.
I confess to an envious attitude — especially early on in the process of planting — toward my brothers who serve large churches with staff teams. They have people who can share the load — full-time pastors who collaborate on all aspects of ministry, including preaching. I’d find them on Facebook high-fiving their staff members for a sermon well-preached, and I’d secretly covet what they have. I’d catch them on Twitter as they described these amazing team meetings where groups of enthusiastic preachers collaborated on topics and series ideas and themes. I’d read their posts, attempt to suppress my envy, then return to my solitary work of building sermons, building series, building preaching plans.
That was my practice for fourteen of my sixteeen years in ministry. Then I had an encounter with the Holy Spirit that changed everything. No, I wasn’t healed of my inability to focus. I was given a vision that would free up time while making the most of the gifts of the people. What has happened since has been one of the most refreshing, renewing opportunities in ministry. Raising up a team of preachers who share the load has addressed some very basic needs in our ministry:
Team-based ministry is healthy.
I tell my folks over and over that there are no lone-ranger ministries in our church. If no one else has been called to share your passion, then we take that as God’s call to wait. This is just good practice. In the event of accident, death or relocation, we want good ministries to continue on.
Ministry based on the gifts of the people bears much fruit.
We encourage everyone to identify and make the most of their gifts. We give spiritual gifts inventories and teach about the beautiful way the Body of Christ is designed. We believe there are teams of people cut out for children’s ministry and worship ministry and administration. It doesn’t seem likely to me (any more!) that in a congregation of 200 or more people there would only be one person with the gift of preaching. Identifying and cultivating others with the gift is just good stewardship.
A rhythm of preaching that allows for downtime results in stronger messages.
Having an extra 10-15 hours per month to give to other things has stoked my preaching fires. The downtime gives me room to pray, to listen, to study, to go deeper.
Having more voices in the pulpit reaches a broader audience.
Our current team is made of two men and two women. The men have an approach to life and communication that is completely different than the women. It should come as no surprise that our church members quickly identified which one most resonated. Some prefer a more pragmatic approach; others like going deeper. With a team, we’re able to touch a variety of listening and learning styles.
A preaching team makes my work more enjoyable.
I love coaching a new generation of preachers! These are not folks who plan to become pastors. They have jobs they also enjoy, and to which they also feel called. They have not been called to pastor, but they do have a gift for preaching. And sharing the journey with them has given fresh energy and inspiration to my own gift. I love meeting with them to talk about the art of preaching, and I love coaching them on the back end of a message to help them hone their gift.
I feel like the man who found a treasure buried in a field. And when he’d found it, he went and bought the whole field! In the formation of a preaching team, I have found a treasure and with it, a plethora of benefits.