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Over the past couple years I’ve done a lot of guest speaking at churches. I consider it a great honor to give friends a break who may be out getting some much needed rest. I also learn a ton while visiting other churches. So many different things we’ve implemented at Cross Point over the years have come from my visits to other churches.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to speak at Central Christian in Vegas for my good friend Jud Wilhite. I can’t say enough good things about what this church is doing under Jud’s leadership. Unbelievable!

With each opportunity I’ve had to visit your churches, there are a couple things I’m picking up on. I don’t have this whole “guest speaking” thing down, but here’s what I want to share:

First of all I want to address those of you who do guest speaking from time to time.

To Guest Speakers:

1. Don’t go over your allotted time. Period. I don’t care how “inspired” you feel. You have no idea the issues (parking, service turnover, take down, childcare) you create when you don’t follow the time frame they’ve given you.

2. Don’t make controversial statements the church staff are going to have to clean up later. Your "funny" joke may have cost the pastor hours of meetings. If you feel led to stir the water a bit do it on your own platform, not theirs. They’ve probably spent years intentionally building integrity with their community and attenders. You have the power to put that in jeopardy in one 30-minute message.

3. Respect the methodology of the church you’re speaking in. It’s quite simple. Take time to understand their protocol. If they do altar calls each week then you need to do an altar call. If they don’t, then you don’t. If you like to use outlines but their church never uses outlines, then take a pass and find a way to communicate your message without using an outline. If you can’t jive with their methodology, then you shouldn’t have accepted the request in the first place.

4. Take a moment to give honor and respect to the pastor and staff, but don’t overdo it. I think it’s important to recognize the pastor and his leadership. Say for him what in his humble spirit he would never say about himself. But at the end of the day, make sure you put the focus of the message where it really needs to be, which is on Christ.

To Guest Speaker Listeners:

It’s confession time. While I appreciate your kind words and praise, you need to know something:

I brought my silver bullet. Chances are I gave my “best” message I’ve written in the past two years. If I was assigned a topic, I ignored it and still gave my favorite message in the past two years. 

No, seriously, if I was assigned the topic, I still probably had several weeks or months to prepare and work in my favorite illustrations and zingers. Your pastor who pounds out new messages week after week—he’s the real hero, and he’s probably twice the communicator I am.

What communication tips do you have for guest speakers?



Pete Wilson is the founding pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN and author of a new book entitled Plan B, his thoughts about what to do when life doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would. He is a frequent blogger on his popular ministry blog, WithoutWax.tv. Pete is married and has three sons.

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Richard Scotland

commented on Apr 1, 2014

I will never forget the guest preacher who during the sermon actually plugged his own book and stated he had spare copies to sell at the end of the service! Respecting their methodology is important - I always ask for a standard order of service, even if they claim there is no "usual" that I need to follow. Good article and I think you could follow up with something on how good it is to swap pulpits every so often for some of the points made in the final section.

Doug Hawkins

commented on Apr 1, 2014

a great article! full of wisdom !! .........................we look forward to being with Pete when he addresses the Promise Keepers convention in Toronto on May 3rd...

Joe Mckeever

commented on Apr 1, 2014

Oh man, I love this and believe it so strongly. Thanks, Pete.

Rosalind Osgood

commented on Apr 1, 2014

I am the Guest Preacher frequently. You are right on target. I try to get a lot of info beforehand so that I comply with the house rules. I also try real hard to use the theme and or scripture assigned if applicable. Many times they are not in line. Thanks for sharing especially for reminding us that we preach for impact not for impression

Alexander Drysdale Lay Preacher Uca Australia

commented on Apr 1, 2014

As a Lay Preacher in the Uniting Church in Australia I am always a guest speaker. If I am invited to a church where I have not been before I always do a visit sometime before to see how they 'do' it. Hopefully have a chat with the minister at the same time. Invariably I am told that congregations are flexible and an Order of Service is entirely my choice. As a result I have an Order of Service which I like and when it is put together, including hymns, music (if I have a choice), I will send it to whoever is my contact for their perusal and alteration as necessary. The Message is 99 of the time from the Revised Common Lectionary and there has never been any questions asked or comments made. I must, with God's help, be doing something right because I am asked back again and again. Thank you for your comments and almost confirmations!!

Hellen Akinyi Ajwalah

commented on Apr 3, 2014

Very nice indeed and right on target.

Andrew Moffatt

commented on Apr 3, 2014

Great article!

Andrew Moffatt

commented on Apr 3, 2014

Great article!

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