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In my book, On Preaching, I recommended several best practices for guest preachers.

I can summarize that chapter in one sentence: As a guest preacher, don’t make a mess for the pastor to clean up when you leave.

I recently got a question about that chapter: I advocate clear, bold, and faithful preaching of the word of God. Yet I recommend guest preachers be careful should not say or address anything controversial in the sermon. Is this a contradiction?

This is a good and fair question. But the answer is obvious for guest preachers who are local pastors: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The key to handling this matter properly is to balance biblical authority and pastoral wisdom.

As a herald of God’s word, you have the right and responsibility to preach the truth. This divine call inevitably requires that you say difficult things at times.

But pastoral wisdom will not allow you to mount the pulpit to “get people straight.” As a local pastor, a shepherd’s heart will force you to be wise about what you say, when you say it, and how you say it. Wisdom leads a caring shepherd to lead his flock, not drive them.

Guest preachers should pray for the same pastoral wisdom.

Sure, you have authority to say what the word of God commands you to say. But you do not have responsibility for that local church. You are only giving a sermon or two and leaving. Don’t leave a mess for the pastors to clean up after you leave.

• Is there sin that should be confronted?

• Has some error infiltrated the congregation?

• Do a stern warning need to be issued?

• Does a divisive subject need to be addressed?

• Is there a doctrinal matter that needs clarification?

These are issues for the spiritual leaders of the local congregation to preach and teach. Not you. You are only giving a sermon or two and then leaving. Don’t leave a mess for the pastors to clean up after you leave.

What do you think?



H.B. Charles, Jr. is the Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida, where he has served since the fall of 2008. He is primarily responsible for preaching-teaching, vision casting, and leadership development – along with all the other tasks that are a part of pastoral ministry.

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Moses Brown

commented on Dec 8, 2015

Serving as a Chaplain, most of the year I'm traveling as a guest speaker. Thank you Dr. Charles for the "guest speaker Manual" . Very helpful!

Rod Kesselring

commented on Dec 8, 2015

Actually, I have seen guest speakers brought in to say things that needed to be said that might sound self serving if the pastor had said them. Not to avoid any subject but to hear someone else reinforce things like Pastoral authority and commitment levels. If preached by someone outside of the church it can be a great encouragement to a pastor to hear someone else stand up and say, "Honor your pastor. He works hard on your behalf and scripture reminds you to make it a joy full task to lead you. (Heb 13:17) Just another side to this topic :)

Jeff Strite

commented on Dec 8, 2015

A good guest-preacher realizes that he is there to help the man who fills the pulpit. If that preachers wants certain subjects addressed then the guest speaker should do so (after all, they can't fire him)... but he should do so with tact and courage.

Mike Brenneman

commented on Dec 8, 2015

Well presented. Our leadership has infrequently asked guest preachers to speak on difficult subjects--with the congregation's approval. The result has been positive most of the time, but not always. Conversely, I witness one occasion in 1993 where a guest speaker decided to preach on marriage, divorce and remarriage. He did so without permission and did great damage--by being mean spirited and saying things that were incorrect. Some topics may be better suited for a class setting, where truth seekers can ask questions. Thank-you, brother Charles, for your valuable wisdom.

Diana Wittenberg

commented on Dec 9, 2015

No. I do not believe this is correct teaching for young ministry. Truly Anointed preaching will be administered in the love of God which does many times bring a congregation to their knees. An anointed message and preacher will shake an entire Church and should correct a church for the benefit and honor of Christ Jesus. Certainly not with regard to how much of a Pastors time constraints might be saved afterwards. Do you not trust God to do what your sheep need, whatever the outcome? In case you have not noticed, be awe are at war here on this earth as children of God. In unity, we must stand together without all of this denoninational correctness and rule making supervision. God might shake a church-up and could even cause some to leave but it is His Work and His Glory we seek than let Him work as He Chooses and let the visiting Pastor you have prayed for and chosen to preach what God has placed upon his heart untethered with this sort of church ethics code of nicety than only serves men. I am not talking about a display of emotionalism but rather an anointed preacher reaching into the hearts of the sheep in your flock and preaching to them what God desires without am attempt to control the outcome. All scripture is written from God's love whether it admonishes or rebukes, instructs or soothes. His outcome is all we should seek, pray for and trust even if it wounds and sorts the wheat from the chaff. ,

Aniekan Akpan

commented on Dec 9, 2015

After all said and done as the case may be, how can a Pastor clean the mess that his guest preacher has created in the congregation?

Aniekan Akpan

commented on Dec 9, 2015

Thank You Sir for this tip. i will trust God by His Spirit to stay within the most needful areas in my preaching engagements as i always do anywhere. and this calls for prayers and preparation in the Spirit before inviting any guest preacher.

Tamika Estes

commented on Dec 16, 2015

The undivided Word Of Truth stands alone. Sin never wants to be confronted or corrected. So my question is if a guest speaker comes speaking the Truth to GODS people how is it a mess. People just want sermons watered down to make them feel good. This not good for the body of CHRIST. Preach the word HALLELUJAH AMEN

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