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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 thirty 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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Talk about it...

Bill Williams

commented on Mar 8, 2013

I'm very encouraged by the subject of the article, as it is something that I have written myself here, recently. Unfortunately, the author still operates under the idea that the "others" are mainly others who are also pastors. The only mention of lay preachers is in the context of preaching in "nursing homes, rescue shelters, prisons and other places where local church pastors are often too consumed with church ministry needs to go." Although these other venues are certainly important and must not be ignored, there is no Biblical reason why lay preachers cannot also have a place in preaching to the church gathered in worship. Likewise, there is also no reason why these venues are beneath the "local church pastor" and must be delegated to a "lay preacher." In our church worship service, lay members preach regularly--about every other week--accounting for half of the preaching ministry. In the five years he has been with us, our pastor has trained six of us who are lay members, who have no intention of entering the pastoral ministry, but who have been gifted by God to preach the Word!

Chris Surber

commented on Mar 8, 2013

Bill: That's really great. This article isn't exhaustive. In fact, I've got a future installment that addresses some of what you've mentioned. Blessings!

Lafern Cobb

commented on Mar 8, 2013

I felt my calling to the ministry as a young girl. I was blessed with great Pastors, men and women who gave their love and support. Now just two months ago a young lady in our church came to us and said she felt a call to Pastor. She preached her first sermon last December. It was a dynamic message about "The Joy of the Lord." She is 13 years old. Our entire congregation was simply amazed! God has called His Pastors, we just need to recognize them, pray for them and help them grow in grace in the Lord. I just turned 60 years old and to see this younger generation following this divine call is worth getting older! Good article....we just all need to practice it more.

Chris Surber

commented on Mar 8, 2013

Bill: I've not stated or implied that those venues are "beneath" the pastor. Again, this is an article which addresses a certain theme - it's not exhaustive.

Brandon H

commented on Mar 8, 2013

Could not agree more! We absolutely need to be more intentional in training and equipping young preachers.

Keith B

commented on Mar 8, 2013

How is it possible for God to call someone to preach and them not be able to preach? That's a bit of a false premise. While I agree with the need for mentoring...I wonder if maybe a young preacher benefits from having to really pursue it. I've heard it said that if you can do anything else...do it. I wonder if making it too easy encourages unqualified and uncalled men entering the ministry. Or we get what LaFern described....young women thinking they're called.

Brad Brucker

commented on Mar 8, 2013

Great article Chris! I'm constantly looking for godly men to preach and share the pulpit at Woodhaven CC. I was recently at a gathering of young pastors in California with a few older mentors there too. It was pointed out that generally, good preaching is not the norm in most churches and the only critique many pastors get is from their wives. If thats all a pastor gets they most likely need serious coaching! The lack of coaching and vision for a successor is sad and I think ego based! I will pray pastors read and take heed! God bless you Chris!

Orlando Lugo

commented on Mar 8, 2013

I would like to add that there is a need to learn to respect each others callings. It is God who calls, and not man and so as we mentor we influence our mentorees in grace but we need to let God use them as he has called them. If not, we are not discipling, we are cloning. And I sure do not want to develop clones of me but disciples of Christ. David did not fit into Saul's armor and we harm those we mentor when we force them to put our armors....

Orlando Lugo

commented on Mar 8, 2013

I would like to add that there is a need to learn to respect each others callings. It is God who calls, and not man and so as we mentor we influence our mentorees in grace but we need to let God use them as he has called them. If not, we are not discipling, we are cloning. And I sure do not want to develop clones of me but disciples of Christ. David did not fit into Saul's armor and we harm those we mentor when we force them to put our armors....

Michael Roberts

commented on Mar 8, 2013

I am mentoring a youth Pastor currently and he fills the pulpit whe he and I through prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit know he has something for our body. It is a great joy to watch him grow and mature in this role. If the Lord has called them to preach let them preach as God has ordained.

Sean Jones

commented on Mar 8, 2013

My pastor has been training me in how to lead services and preaching, almost weekly or so we go through the lectionary and I will write down my outline for what sermon I would give. He always has good insight and great words for me to think about when evaluating what I've come up with. The fact that he takes about 4 hours out of his work week to help mentor me is fantastic to me. The only reason I haven't yet preached in the service, is due to denominational rules/guidelines. As soon as I get the pass from the District President I will be okay to preach in services, and will start preaching in services.

Brad Brucker

commented on Mar 8, 2013

Great article Chris! I'm constantly looking for godly men to preach and share the pulpit at Woodhaven CC. I was recently at a gathering of young pastors in California with a few older mentors there too. It was pointed out that generally, good preaching is not the norm in most churches and the only critique many pastors get is from their wives. If thats all a pastor gets they most likely need serious coaching! The lack of coaching and vision for a successor is sad and I think ego based! I will pray pastors read and take heed! God bless you Chris!

Bill Williams

commented on Mar 8, 2013

@Mr. Surber, I look forward to reading your additional contributions. Please understand I meant no offense with my comments, I merely responded based on how your comments came across to me, but I appreciate your taking the time to clarify. God bless you!

R.l. Wilson

commented on Mar 8, 2013

Excellent article. Thanks!

Bill Williams

commented on Mar 8, 2013

@ kb, I'm not sure I understand what you're trying to say; and I don't think the premise you're opposing can actually be inferred from the article. Are you saying that a person who has been called by God to preach has no need for training or mentoring? How does providing such training and mentoring make it "too easy" and encourage those who are uncalled and unqualified? And is it not possible for someone to preach without entering the pastoral ministry?

Bill Williams

commented on Mar 8, 2013

@LaFern, I hesitate to say this because I fear that it might derail this thread, and I'm confident it was not your intention to do so, either. But I work with high school students every day, and I just have to say that it is so encouraging to me to see a pastor and a congregation encourage and support a young person the way you have. Our pastor says he began preaching when he was twelve years old, and that the support and training he received from his pastor and from his church at that young age probably changed the course of his life. And that's all I'm going to say about that!

Bernard Henderson

commented on Mar 8, 2013

I'm sorry this wasn't around 9 yrs ago I uplifted my family after praying and fasting for direction. I was led to another ministry in another state with an Elder I was under in a former ministry. I traveled about 5 hours to attend the ministry on the weekends. I came with the understanding that he would mentor me. I believed in the Paul -- Timothy principle I didn't want pride I chose submission instead of just going starting a new ministry. I'm not a Pastor currently with a Pastoral calling. I've had to rely on the Spirit of God to help me through a very difficult time. My advice to Pastor's in current positions be very careful on how you look upon your own and not the sheep that God has entrusted you with. Be careful on how you use the gift of a pulpit. Somthing is not correct if you're not willing to pour into those in your ministry and help them in their respective gifts and callings. I have come to understand God will make room for your gift as He perfects you. I say all this to say it has been a very hurtful process and painful experience. If I had not looked up to Jesus I could not imagine what I would have done. For the love of Christ I ask you Pastors to remember that the Lord knelted down to wash His disciples feet and poured His life into them. The example is Christ. Take the time to put your arm around those you are called to help and mentor and encourage them in the things of the Lord. Remember as you pour out the Lord will pour into you. You can be called and not be used it does matter who you sit under and learn from. Its not a false premise it has to do with the Pastor understanding his role and responsibility to lead and feed the flock. One final thought be confident in Christ as the Lord has called you and teach people to be confident in the Lord also as a Pastor.

Keith B

commented on Mar 8, 2013

@Bill....no, I think mentoring is great. I did an internship at my church when I was in school, and my pastor was there to mentor me. But when it came to finding a job, I had a terrible time getting one. It took quite awhile--I didn't just get a pulpit handed to me when I got out of school. I had to "put in my time" by doing pulpit supply, and teaching Sunday School. My point is that I'm concerned that we are too willing to embrace anyone that suggests they are called to preach. Making a person work for a job really tends to weed out those that are not actually called.

Bernard Henderson

commented on Mar 8, 2013

I'm sorry this wasn't around 9 yrs ago I uplifted my family after praying and fasting for direction. I was led to another ministry in another state with an Elder I was under in a former ministry. I traveled about 5 hours to attend the ministry on the weekends. I came with the understanding that he would mentor me. I believed in the Paul -- Timothy principle I didn't want pride I chose submission instead of just going starting a new ministry. I'm not a Pastor currently with a Pastoral calling. I've had to rely on the Spirit of God to help me through a very difficult time. My advice to Pastor's in current positions be very careful on how you look upon your own and not the sheep that God has entrusted you with. Be careful on how you use the gift of a pulpit. Somthing is not correct if you're not willing to pour into those in your ministry and help them in their respective gifts and callings. I have come to understand God will make room for your gift as He perfects you. I say all this to say it has been a very hurtful process and painful experience. If I had not looked up to Jesus I could not imagine what I would have done. For the love of Christ I ask you Pastors to remember that the Lord knelted down to wash His disciples feet and poured His life into them. The example is Christ. Take the time to put your arm around those you are called to help and mentor and encourage them in the things of the Lord. Remember as you pour out the Lord will pour into you. You can be called and not be used it does matter who you sit under and learn from. Its not a false premise it has to do with the Pastor understanding his role and responsibility to lead and feed the flock. One final thought be confident in Christ as the Lord has called you and teach people to be confident in the Lord also as a Pastor.

Chris Surber

commented on Mar 8, 2013

@Bill: No worries. Blessings!

Bill Williams

commented on Mar 8, 2013

@kb, thank you for the clarification. Your point that a church shouldn't just embrace anyone who suggests they are called to preach is a point well taken. I still don't see, though, how you inferred that premise from this article. The author, in fact, writes just the opposite: "Just because you think you have something to say doesn?t make you a preacher." That seems to be pretty much the essence of what you also are saying. I guess my point is that I haven't understood anyone here, including the author, suggest what you think is being suggested. No one is advocating just handing the pulpit to anyone, but rather training those who are called to such a ministry.

Steve Orr

commented on Mar 8, 2013

Regarding the pulpit most pastors echo Charleton Heston, "From my cold, dead hands." :-) Good article, waiting for part 2. Many Godly voices were heard in the New Testament. There was some chaos in Corinth but overall the church was healthier for it. We complain about the lack of participation in church but we chain the body with inflexible formulas for worship. What's wrong with releasing gifts where non-preachers share devotionals and personal testimony? Why not have teams of teachers? Why not have a special service with nothing but lay member devotionals? Years ago I was involved in a network of 5 churches, there was a split and 3 churches were pastor-less. There was a clarion call for "lay preachers" to fill the void. It was amazing, it was thrilling. From many unexpected founts wisdom of the Spirit poured forth. Despite the trauma of the split, the church was growing, not just in numbers but in graceful maturity. But over time new salaried preachers were installed and the Spirit was once again limited to a single voice. The thrill was gone, would be leaders languished, and the flock wandered off. Why isn't there a community wide "Toastmasters for Jesus" where teaching gifts are nurtured amongst the membership of many congregations? Are churches stuck in a rut because pastors won't share?

Keith B

commented on Mar 8, 2013

@Bill....I'm sorry, I don't mean to imply the author said that. He did state that people are called to it and don't get a chance. I don't know how that is possible. If God calls you to it....it's going to happen. Then, I was responding to a few others regarding just handing out pulpits to anyone that wanted to give it a shot.

Michael James Monaghan

commented on Mar 8, 2013

You may think it's over-simplistic , but do you not find that many preachers come from families of preachers , and they have the contacts and the breaks that individuals who may want to preach may not have ?. Does not he Bible say , 'If a man desires the office of a Bishop .....'? So Paul seems to be saying it's the job of the church to recognize preachers in their midst and encourage them if they meet the qualities and qualifications ?. But i'd say the man not already in the 'in crowd' may not have such a good chance of a pulpit as 'family members' . Or , It's not what you know , but who knows you ' ?

Chris Surber

commented on Mar 8, 2013

@michael James Monaghan: In my experince that is a part of the equation without question. You can cite bit examples like Jerry Falwell's sons taking over leadership at Liberty and Thomas Road Baptist Church, Andy Stanley, who himself said that its not surprising you have more than a thousand people show up to a church plant's first meeting when that church is planted in Atlanta and the pastor's last name is Stanley. But I have seen that even on a local level. I have had some prominent mentors who even affiliation with them has enhanced my credibility. My sons, who are young but already talk about God calling them into ministry, will no doubt have an easier time with regard to understanding how to get past the "gate keepers" for ministry. Its not always nepotism though, my coaching of them is from a great deal of experience so they are more likely to be on a right path toward ministry. So, yes I think that is a real issue. Who you know does open doors. You can call it providence, and perhaps it often is, but at times it does seem like we play the world's games in the church rather than focusing on God's call and confirming it according to fruits.

Bill Williams

commented on Mar 8, 2013

@kb, ok, I see where you're coming from. I imagine you are reacting to the statement: "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." The author has shown the willingness to interact with us, so I'll let him speak for himself regarding what he intended to communicate. But I can speak as to how I personally understood him. And I don't think his intention was to downplay or negate the sovereignty of God's call, as if humans had the power to stop God. I understood his intention to be to remind pastors of their Biblical responsibility to reproduce themselves in the lives of others. God's call on someone does not automatically open doors or remove all road blocks. And pastors should not be the ones closing the doors or setting up the road blocks. Pastors should be the ones helping them to prepare to live out God's calling for them. That is the Biblical job description of the pastor--to equip the saints for the work of ministry, including the preaching ministry. I think that's all he was trying to say. As far as just handing out the pulpit to whoever wants to give it a shot, I still don't see that anyone commenting here has suggested that. But overall, I think I have a better idea of what your original post meant. So thank you for taking the time to discuss with me. Have a great weekend!

Andrew Shields

commented on Mar 11, 2013

It is ironic kb that you continue to deny women the chance to say they have been called to the ministry and to preach. Especially while you are commenting on the fact that young ministers should have to fight for a position and have nothing given to them. No one fights harder to preach and be mentored than a woman called to the ministry. And they are not fighting the world they fight bigoted pastors and church leaders. Wonder why there are fewer young prospects? (and this is not just to kb but to all) start teaching that anyone can be called to preach and watch women suddenly appear who have been called all along but kept quiet or driven away.

Keith B

commented on Mar 11, 2013

Andrew....I don't deny anyone. God has given the qualifications to preach. One of them is that the pastor be a man.

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