Preaching Articles

Those who do not reproduce go extinct. That’s the first rule of survival in nature, and it holds true in the church and in the ministry of the church. For the
wisdom of the pastorate to endure it must be passed along. We are living in a strange time. On the one hand there are a lot of self-proclaimed, self-trained, self-destructive people speaking in pulpits on behalf of Jesus.

Just because you think you have something to say doesn’t make you a preacher. The biblical prerequisite for preaching is not the ability to speak, but the willingness to submit oneself to careful instruction and discipline in godliness. Speaking to his son in the faith, Paul said to Timothy, “Physical exercise has some value, but godliness is valuable in every way. It holds promise for the present life and for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8 NET).

On the other hand, we have a lot of people genuinely called, sincerely gifted by God in both godliness and shepherding skill, who struggle to find their way past the gatekeepers in our churches and denominations. There are a lot of called people who are not exercising their gifts because they have never been coached, never been encouraged, or have not been able to find a coach and a place to exercise their gifts. There are others who refuse coaching. There are still others who wouldn’t know where to get it if they looked. We have an epidemic of unskilled players handling the ball while some of our best players are sitting on the sidelines or just watching from the stands.

We can do better. Thankfully, many churches and their leaders are doing better. I had a conversation through a simple survey of several pastors from my denomination, a few missionaries and local church leaders from a variety of backgrounds. Here are a few insights I gained about how we are cultivating tomorrow’s pastors today. These insights have raised as many questions for me as answers.

I asked: “Do you yield the pulpit to those training to become pastors?”

Several of those polled report that they do not. Interestingly, it seems not to be for a lack of willingness so much as for a lack of candidates. One veteran pastor reported that he would enjoy mentoring a budding preacher, but sees fewer men seeking to enter the ministry today than in the past. In my own experience, it seems that today budding pastors seek out mentoring far less than they should.

It is as common for a man who senses the call to pastoral ministry to be denied the opportunity to be trained in the local church as it is for him simply to start his own church. Perhaps this is a symptom of a lack of desire to be trained and held accountable. Perhaps the shortage that some pastors see of up-and-coming preachers has a lot to do with a preference on the part of many not to be mentored. Could it be that the church today is cultivating a collection of self-appointed experts who don’t recognize the value of mentorship?

In a small minority of cases the senior pastor yields the pulpit on a routine basis, at most monthly and more likely quarterly, as an opportunity to hone his skills in the pulpit for present and future ministry. More often associate pastors are only preaching in the main service while the senior pastor is on vacation, a mission trip, or is ill. How is an associate pastor who has aspirations of becoming a senior or solo pastor ever to learn how to preach effectively if he isn’t given routine opportunity to do so?

When I entered ministry my first preaching assignments were given to me from my beloved first mentor, who is now home with the Lord. He had me preaching in nursing homes and retirement communities. He taught me that the best way to learn how to preach is by preaching with coaching. In some cases, of course, an associate pastor is a man nearing retirement or someone with no desire or calling other than to the associate role he or she plays. Often that is not the case. If the youth pastors, small group pastors and other associate pastors today are the senior pastors of tomorrow, shouldn’t they be honing preaching skills today?

I received responses from about 30 pastors and a few missionaries. I only found one church that has an active program of discipleship for those who are on their way into the pastoral ministry. A church in Minnesota actively seeks out those who sense a call to the pastoral ministry and provides opportunities and training for them to preach. In fact, the pastor and a local denominational leader have sat in as the audience for a sermon delivery and later reviewed and offered insights to the budding preacher from his sermon, delivered in the safe environment of his mentors.

This kind of coaching is much less common than it should be. In the New Testament we see that the Apostle Paul had a mentoring relationship like this with Timothy. Writing to his son in the faith he says, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2 NIV84). While this kind of mentoring may occur in seminary, is it not much more practical for local pastors to supplement a seminary education with hands-on preaching instruction and coaching?

What about those people called to ministry who cannot afford seminary or find a way to attend seminary? What about the shortage of lay preachers to take the Gospel into nursing homes, rescue shelters, prisons and other places where local church pastors are often too consumed with church ministry needs to go?

If the church today is to reach the world with the Gospel through preaching, we need to do a better job of intentionally training preachers.

Until everyone has heard the Gospel there cannot be enough preaching.

And for that preaching to be effective and God-honoring those preaching need to be trained. What is your church doing to train future preachers and pastors?

What are you doing to be trained? Call to the pastoral ministry without training for pastoral ministry has become strangely acceptable to the church. If there is to be a proper pastoral ministry there must be a spirit of vigorous preparation of upcoming pastors.

In addition to shepherding the flock as Pastor of Liberty Spring Christian Church in Suffolk, Virginia. Chris Surber is also Founder and Director of Supply and Multiply in Montrouis, Haiti. 

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Archer Leupp

commented on Sep 5, 2014

AMEN!!! I attended a church in Portland OR. that was designed just that way. Everything was team-led and gift-based. Our preaching rotation included about 8-9 people. We discussed the series we were in, assignments were doled out, discussed, reviewed, preached, assessed, and then debriefed. At my newest church, as an Associate, I am attempting to wedge this type of mentality in, but it is hard going.

Richard Scotland

commented on Sep 5, 2014

Great article. We have one local church that allows newbie preachers but strangely offers no feedback or mentoring. Obviously they get unofficial feedback from the pews but that is not what is needed. I was lucky to have two mentors that took time to help me. I hope this article encourages experienced preachers to consider mentoring if appropriate.

Michael Bolin

commented on Sep 5, 2014

Thanks for this article....AFFIRMATION!!!

Michael L Winship

commented on Sep 5, 2014

AMEN.... Being called at 59 years old makes it very difficult to attend seminary. I have been lucky to have one or two pastors to help me along the way. I have been preaching at assisted living facilities for a year now and feel it's a great place for someone to start being seminary trained or a laymen. We need to remember that the need for religious leaders is greater now then ever before. We need to encourage those that are called.

Phil Goward

commented on Sep 5, 2014

I'm an associate pastor at a great church, but a church in desperate need of a mentoring program! I've taught twice from the pulpit, which was a great experience but I know there is much to be learned and no one stepping forward to take on that role. Thanks for the article-I'm going to have to be more bold and seek out the mentors! BTW, is there any type of on-line training you might suggest as a supplement?

Carl Phillips

commented on Sep 6, 2014

I have been called but I'm unable to perform any of the duties as a Minister in training because we dont have aSenior Pastor. I haven't been presented to the church as have been called to preach the good word of the Lord .

Victor Aldana-Marie

commented on Sep 7, 2014

Bless God! This is oh so True!!! I'm now 31 and have been in Various Ministries since I was 13 years old. I attended a Church here in SA when I first moved here in which I grew Tremendously in my Walk as a Christian. Knowing I was calledGod opened a door an I walked into it. Began going through different areas of Ministry and then one day another one of the staff Pastors saw the Calling God had Upon my Life and asked me To Speak for The National Day of Prayer Service. I up to about 2 weeks before was like "I'm not to sure about this, after all I had never even written a sermon. Here I am 2 Years later! I am now a Staff Pastor in the Church, MyCalling is Recognized, my talents are Utilized! I Love Serving God! I preach Monthly now! Pastors Get on the Wagon us Youngins are Future of the Church.

Lonnie C Bell Jr

commented on Sep 7, 2014

I have been a pastorfor almost 30 years. For 14 of those years I was an official member of the Board of Examination for the entire conference as an instructor with 2 of those years as the chair person. I love teaching and sharing especially with other ministers. If all who are advanced in ministry by time and age remember they to had to learn and be taught. Learn to share otherwise the wisdom and knowledge you have will go with you to the grave. Lonnie Bell , Lewis Chapel, Long view, Texas

Chris Surber

commented on Oct 17, 2014

Amen. Thank you sir.

Steve Darnall

commented on Feb 15, 2019

I read a new book that included the line "denying friendship means denying access." The point was it is friends of the current leader that get seen and developed. In my secular job we do training and have practices to avoid that limiting factor. Over the years I have seen amazing lay leaders, who know what it is to walk in the Spirit - even in great adversity, have lead many in the workplace to the Lord, teach well, model Godly marriages and intimacy with God and others; yet the places they teach are in parachurch orgs or secular, two now work overseas with businessmen and even world leaders. But they were never given opportunity in their local churches. They are doing fine, still leading people to Christ in non traditional churches and in secular positions; but we the Church have missed out. These are people that could effectively teach/disciple others in how to walk with God and see the Lord do amazing things, but since they did not fit the preconceived notions of "Pastor" they were overlooked, even ignored or boxed in, limited. And there are those like them among us, but their overlooked. Ironically, the reason their overlooked (secular career backgrounds instead of full time church staff career) is part of why they would be great models and teachers and inspire body ministry.

Delwyn Campbell

commented on Feb 16, 2019

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has addressed this issue by funding scholarships for those who would enter Concordia Seminary or Concordia Theological Seminary. That is a solution that doesn't require you to "forget seminaries." The responsibility of the Pastoral Office is not one that can be lightly passed off to someone to train on the people who need to hear the pure Gospel by those who have been equipped in the proper distinction of Law and Gospel. There is a general discipleship/catechetical training that IS the responsibility of the local pastor. That isn't for the purpose of training future pastors only, it is "for the equipping of the saints," some of whom will go on to prepare for the office of the Public Ministry.

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