I’ve served in ministry for 40 years and have filled a variety of roles, but most of my service has been as a church pastor. Late in my ministry I stumbled upon a practice that was so helpful that I regret not doing it much earlier – I enlisted and trained a Sunday morning preaching team.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the ministry of studying God’s Word, preparing my heart through prayer and preaching to others. I love lifting up Jesus and urging non-Christians to open their hearts to Him. In fact, my love of preaching is probably why, for most of my ministry, I seldom shared the pulpit with others. But as our pastoral staff grew, I began to give them opportunities to develop their preaching skills. This worked out so well that I now believe wholeheartedly in preaching teams. Let me share three reasons why:
1. Preaching teams are biblical.
This point alone should persuade us. The New Testament clearly teaches that the early church(es) had multiple teachers and preachers. Consider the following examples:
The church in Jerusalem: “And the apostles were giving testimony with great power to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them” (Acts 4:33).
The church in Antioch: “But Paul and Barnabas, along with many others, remained in Antioch teaching and proclaiming the message of the Lord” (Acts 15:35).
The church in Ephesus: “The elders who are good leaders should be considered worthy of an ample honorarium, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17).
From these references it seems clear that multiple preachers and teachers was normative in the New Testament church.
2. Preaching teams help the lead pastor to recharge and enable him to focus on other important areas of ministry.
From the bi-vocational pastor of a small congregation to the full-time pastor of a larger church, all pastors shoulder demanding responsibilities. They are chronically overloaded and overworked, their families are sometimes overlooked and they often neglect their health. Many pastors live on the edge of burnout. Like the apostles, pastors also need to obey the words of Jesus: “Come you yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile” (Mark 6:31). As the evangelist Vance Havner put it: “If you don’t come apart, you’ll come apart!”
3. Preaching teams enable churches to raise up young leaders and send them out into ministry.
Once a year our church held Youth Sunday. On that day, our youth would take the lead in the various parts of our worship service. I asked our youth pastor to deliver the sermon. After hearing him, I was certain that God had not called our youth pastor to preach. But surprisingly, the next time he preached, his sermon delivery had dramatically improved. And the time after that, he improved even more! His progress was “evident to all” (1 Timothy 4:15). By giving this young man an opportunity to preach, our church helped him to “fan into flame the gift within” (2 Timothy 1:6). Today he is winning others to Jesus and serves as a church planter with the North American Mission Board! How did that happen?!
I am so glad that I learned the importance of developing a Sunday morning preaching team. I only wish I had been wise enough to do it earlier in my ministry. Pastors, I encourage you to consider developing a preaching team in your church. You’ll be glad you did!
Sam Taylor serves as the Boston Area Regional Coordinator at the Baptist Convention of New England.