May 18, 2015

Every Single Sunday (Why I Don't Preach All the Time)

So, just to get it out in the open and on the table...I'm a pastor. To be specific, I'm the Lead Pastor of a church called The Brook. I love my church family! I am so grateful for not only those I shepherd and oversee, but for those who lead and serve with me. I am grateful for the calling God has placed on my life. 

While there are many different thoughts, assumptions, and perceptions about what pastors actually do (and/or don't do), one thing that many people automatically hold as an expectation - particularly a lot of "church" folks - is that the Pastor (Lead Pastor, Senior Pastor, or maybe the only Pastor) should be the one, week in and week out, to deliver the sermon. Let me put it in really simple terms:

A lot of people expect the Lead Pastor to preach EVERY SINGLE SUNDAY.

For some, maybe this is what they grew up with. For others, maybe they just love their Pastor. Regardless of the reason, not only do I believe this is an unrealistic expectation on any pastor, I believe it's a really bad idea. It's dangerous, not just for the pastor, but also for the parishioners. Yet, many go on carrying this expectation. Many church members go on thinking this way. Many pastors go on bearing this burden. And because of that, through a series of posts, I want to address head on why I do not preach every single Sunday

[Before I dive in, I do want to make clear that this is not a reaction to anything anyone in my own church has done or said, nor is it a defense sparked by someone's criticism. I desire to proactively and assertively champion the health, leadership, and well-being of pastors and the churches they lead. I hope & pray this will be a word of encouragement to someone who needs it.] 

The first issue I want to raise and first reason I want to give as to why I do not preach every single Sunday is that the people of God - the Church - need to hear from multiple voices. God gave the "apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers to equip the saints". He raises up overseers - pastors and elders - to lead and shepherd the people. There is never a scenario in the New Testament where one man (or woman) is called to lead on his/her own. We'll get into that deeper in another post, but for now it helps us see that scripture has established the call and mandate for multiple gifts and voices. 

Looking at this from a practical standpoint, there are several reasons (or arguments) not only supporting the benefit(s) of hearing from multiple voices, but also the danger(s) of hearing from just one.

First off, when we only hear the Word of God preached from one person, we can begin to believe that everything that person says (or preaches) is automatically true or correct. We can unknowingly begin to assume that their authority is without question. And on the other side of this coin, the one preaching all the time can begin to unknowingly think or believe that they have (and are) the unquestionable authority. There's no one providing accountability. This is dangerous. Need proof? Watch THIS. Quite sad.

A benefit that we experience at The Brook - having multiple pastors who can and do preach the Word of God - is that we are constantly sounding things off of one another, whether theological issues, relevant or accurate application of the scriptures, or even cohesion between our view of a text in relationship to the whole of scripture. Rarely is a sermon preached on a Sunday that multiple pastors have not had some opportunity to examine and speak into. This is a benefit and safeguard for everyone; the one preaching and the ones who will be listening.

Another danger in only hearing from one person is the often overlooked prospective question: What if something happens to that person? If Pastor Bill is the only one who preaches on Sundays, and then Pastor Bill gets killed in a car accident, what happens then? I don't mean to sound morbid or insensitive, but this is reality. It's a dependence issue. And the fact is, pastors need to be very careful that they don't begin to actually feed off the fact that their congregation depends on them. To put it bluntly: this is sinful. It's pride. It's a preacher of the Word of God striving (whether knowingly or otherwise) to become someone's idol. Think on that for a moment. 

While I realize I'm taking this to the extreme, if you examine most cults (Mormonism, Branch Davidians, SDA, etc...) they begin with one teacher - one "pastor" - who claims to have a "word from God". They slowly move off of orthodoxy or add to scripture. Because they go unchecked - because no one else is seen in the authoritative light that they are - false doctrines creep in and ultimately a false Gospel is preached. Yes, this is the extreme. But no one who winds up there ever thought they were going to extremes in the beginning. 

There is great benefit from not just multiple voices, but a unified voice, boldly proclaiming and preaching the Word of God, creatively communicating the truths of scripture, and speaking the truth in love to one another, holding each other accountable, and fostering a culture of humility in serving and leading together.

Next post in this series, Why I Don't Preach All the Time (Part 2):
I need to sit under someone else's teaching.

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