A friend is part of a search committee for a preacher at his church. They’ve been searching one year and they are getting close. He asked me to interact some about what a congregation can do to help the preacher.
He says, “We want to be ministers to our minister.” So my friend asks, “What do preaching ministers truly need from their congregations to be and do their very best?”
Great question and much appreciated, and I’m going to shift here to first person as if I’m talking to my own church, and I’m also operating on the belief that my church has already given me many of these things, but my voice is the voice of “any preacher” and the needs he or she may have in a congregation. I’m going to also in this list assume some of these things are elder-led, committee led, congregation led. It is targeted to all those groups generally.
- Pray for me. I need you to pray for me. When you pray for me, it calls on God to divinely guide me in the word, preaching, and pastoring work I do daily. It also helps move the pray-er from an erstwhile critic to a genuine confessing sinner redeemed by Christ who is praying for a fellow confessing sinner redeemed by Christ who is the preacher.
- Give me a very narrow role. Please don’t give me a three-page job description. I’m already dealing with Post-Traumatic-Messiah-Complex-Syndrome (PTMCS). Many preachers want to fix people, but I’ve learned I am not the Messiah but point to Him who IS The Messiah. I can’t fix people, so I don’t need to be set up in a place where I’m going to fix the problems that exist in the church right now. If I can’t love people right now without fixing them, I need to not be at this church.
- I don’t just work on Sundays. One of the funniest jokes people love to say either behind preacher’s backs or to their faces is, “Well, you only work on Sundays, right?” So funny . . . again! I’m sure there are preachers who play golf, sit at coffee shops, waste time and get a lot of time off, but I don’t know many. If preaching is going to be great, I need time to prepare weekly. It usually takes me up to 20 hours to read, study, mentally prepare, rehearse, and preach a biblical sermon. When you consider that a lot of that time needs to be uninterrupted for the most part, that makes the preacher into a fair recluse for a big part of the work day. If he is preaching biblical, Christ-centered, God-honoring, Kingdom sermons, that’s the time that’s needed, so give me time to prepare and do the best I can possibly do at preaching the Scriptures.
- Be sure I’m preaching not Relevance but Revelation. But on the flip side of that coin, elders, be sure that I am preaching and proclaiming the gospel, preaching Christ and Him crucified and resurrected Messiah of Israel and the Nations. Make sure I am reading, studying, and preaching from Bible texts and not the texts of needs, wants, and feelings or pop psychology or culture-driven concerns. There is a big difference between relevance and revelation. Make sure revelation is happening in the preacher’s life by digging in the word daily.
- Support me with a great staff. Believe me, a lot comes my way from a congregation being born, living, dying, getting married, having family crises, falling into addictions and sins, the need for Christ-centered counsel, critiques, church problems, communication, projects, the list goes on. Listing is not complaint but simply fact: a big group of people seeking a spiritual leader in times of crisis and times of celebration as well as weekly or more than weekly, puts one person in a 24-hour state of alert that is exhausting. I need staff to deflect, take on, execute ideas into practice and success, do all sorts of things that continually distract me from my primary mission: to preach the gospel of Christ to the church and community. Not that those other concerns are not important, but if I fall back into fixer or Messiah role, I’m going to take on stuff I have no business taking on. Staff helps me not do that. You want me to keep sermons relatively short? OK then, I need administrative staff that knows how to keep a story in the office short as well. I need staff that solves more problems than are caused. I need a staff that does not gossip, that knows how to handle problems without complaining or constantly running them up the chain of command. Does staff sound important? Yes!
In the next post I’ll name four more things “a preacher wants.”