Last week, I began to make the case that lead pastors should strongly consider sharing the pulpit more. I listed the following reasons: 1) Sharing the pulpit more is good for the pastor’s humility. 2) Sharing the pulpit more frees up time for lead pastors to focus on other important areas of their ministries that often go neglected. 3) Sharing the pulpit more gives pastors much needed time for spiritual and physical rest.
Today, I want to discuss three additional reasons.
4) Sharing the pulpit gives other gifted brothers in the congregation the chance to utilize and cultivate their gifts.
How can we train a future generation of preaching pastors if we rarely give them a chance to preach? How can we expect to send out future church planters if we rarely if ever allow them in our own pulpits? I am so thankful for multiple pastors growing up (including the pastor at my home church) who gave me chances to preach. My sermons were long and terrible (many of them still are), but these pastors humbly shared their pulpit with a young hot-head because they cared about helping raise up men that would push ahead in the Kingdom of God years after they were dead and gone. The only way preachers get better is by preaching.
Not only in terms of cultivating new preachers to raise up and send out, but most of us have other gifted men in our congregation that may not even aspire to be lead pastors, but who can still faithfully preach the Word of God. They need to be given the opportunity to use their gift. It would be incredibly bizarre if we were the only man in our church to whom God had given the ability to preach. I concur with Brian Howard when he writes, “Consider preaching no more than 40 times per year. Seriously. Are you really so gifted and important that you need to preach 50 times per year? Your church will survive with you out of the pulpit once monthly.”
5)Sharing the pulpit is good for the congregation and helps them not be overly dependent upon one personality and preaching style.
It is good and healthy for our people to be exposed to multiple preachers. If they only hear from us, they will only learn to receive God’s Word – from us. What then happens when we retire, or die, or move to another church? It is dangerous for a congregation to become overly dependent upon one man or one preaching style. Multiple, diverse men and personalities are able to deliver God’s Word in a powerful way to our people that may connect with or engage them in a way that we cannot. When it is made known that the “main preacher” is going to be on vacation, and as a result a significant chunk of the congregation stays home that Sunday, it may be the sign of an unhealthy congregation that has been trained only to hear from one voice. It may be a sign that the lead pastor is more popular in that church than Jesus Himself.
6)Sharing the pulpit is wise because it’s healthy for preachers to be preached to.
Podcasts are great. Thank God for John Piper, Tim Keller, and Paul Washer. But at the end of the day, there’s something wise and good about a lead pastor sitting among his own congregation listening to another man preach in the pulpit at which he normally stands. Preachers aren’t just shepherds; we’re sheep. We need to be fed, too. It’s a beautiful thing when the preacher can be regularly seen not merely as “the pastor,” but as a church member. The preacher’s wife and family are uniquely blessed when their husband and father can sit with them throughout an entire worship service. Many pastors’ wives would give anything to have more Sundays when she didn’t have to function like a single mom.
Not only is it good for the preacher, but it’s good for the congregation to see the preacher sitting in the congregation as another man preaches the Word of God. I want my congregation to see me submitting myself to the authority and instruction of another. It’s a good reminder to them that my soul is just as much in need of God’s Word as is theirs.
There are plenty more, but these are just six brief reasons as to why preaching pastors should consider sharing the pulpit more often. I realize that for some, your current church structure and polity might make it very difficult to make any significant changes in your preaching schedule. If moving towards sharing the pulpit more would reap havoc in your church, don’t do it. It’s not worth dividing the church over. However, simply begin praying that the Lord would move among the congregation (or powers that be in your structure) to see this become a possibility in the future.
For those who have the freedom to begin moving in this direction, it may be as simple as beginning by sharing the pulpit 4 or 5 times a year (if you are accustomed to preaching 50 times a year). If you are already there, consider sharing the pulpit every 8 weeks. Then, over time, consider sharing the pulpit every 6 weeks or so. Eventually, perhaps it would be healthy to be able to have another man stand in the pulpit every month or so on average. As I was wisely counseled a few years ago, if you are able, take 3 or 4 weeks in a row away from the pulpit during a summer month. Your soul needs it, and your people may be uniquely blessed to hear from a fresh voice.
In 2016, I will preach on Sunday mornings approximately 33 times at Pleasant Valley. In other words, I will not be preaching on 19 Sundays. The numbers were just about identical in 2015. Granted, we are nearly 10 years in as a church. I would not have been out of the pulpit this much early on in those most formative years. In the early days, I hardly ever stepped out of the pulpit (to a fault). Yet over the years our church has grown to have a high view of a plurality of pastors, and God has been kind to send multiple, exceptionally gifted men who can faithfully preach the Word of God. As these things have transpired, I have found it to be good for me, our church, and other gifted brothers in our congregation to share the pulpit more frequently.
If you are unwilling to consider sharing the pulpit more, I simply ask you to consider the question, “Why not?” For some, the answer may be directly tied to our church structure and polity; we simply may not have the freedom to make such changes. Perhaps we should gather with some of our church leaders, however, to at least have the conversation and explore the option and potential benefits. Our people may be more excited than we think to hear from other men besides us:)
For others, we have the freedom to share the pulpit more, but we simply choose not too. Why not? Is it because we don’t feel there are other gifted men in the congregation? Then we’ve got a great opportunity to help train them. They’ll never get better if we don’t give them a chance.
Is it because we’re afraid people won’t come to church on those Sundays we don’t preach, and “giving” will be down? Then we’ve got a whole deeper set of issues with which we need to deal. Perhaps our people have become to dependent upon us; if we (as the lead pastor) are what gets them to church, then our church has an idolatry issue.
What are other reasons we may be reluctant to share the pulpit more frequently?
I would love to continue this conversation. What are some push-backs that you would anticipate in your own congregation if you were to share the pulpit more often?