A stable of preachers. It’s a phrase that has been on my mind the past few weeks.
Last month, I read an article about small churches finding retired pastors to fill their pulpits in order to provide a sabbatical for their pastors. What a beautiful expression of the Church! According to this article, there are 25 pastors that are ready to go when called. I’d pass out their phone numbers if I had them because I know they are needed.
I haven’t been at this pastoring/preaching thing for very long, comparatively. To pastor a church and to preach week in and week out for decades without an extended break…whew, I can’t imagine the endurance and stamina that takes. After most of my sermons, I feel like I’ve just mentally, spiritually, and physically competed in a triathlon. It’s just a thirty minute triathlon mind you, but still. Faithful preaching asks a lot of a preacher.
In the early days of Inland Church, the five-year-old church that I helped start, we asked the question, “Who has something to say?” Based on the answer at that time, we had two people that shared the preaching duties. Then, we continued to ask that same question and low and behold, the number grew to three. And then four. And so on and so on.
As of this coming Sunday, we will have had sixteen people that are a part of our congregation preach. That’s a relatively large percentage of our church family and I love that! It is Inland Church’s own stable of preachers.
Preaching is a sacred task (but what isn’t?). To preach the Word of God to God’s people is something that we take very seriously. It’s not something that we willy-nilly invite people into but it is something that we ask many people to consider. We believe in the priesthood of all believers and we believe that every follower of God has a voice. These voices must find a venue. They must be heard. For many of our people, the pulpit has been a successful venue for their voice to be heard.
I get nervous each time someone steps up to preach their first sermon.
“Are they ready for this? Was it a mistake to ask them to preach? What if they say something dumb or racist or heretical or obscene or sexist or slanderous? Will they forget their entire sermon? What if they’re terribly boring? What if they preach for way too long? Will they say anything meaningful?”
These are the questions that haunt me.
And each time someone has stepped into the pulpit to deliver their first sermon, I’m blown away and all my fears go unrealized. Each time, we hear from a competent, passionate, and beautifully unique voice that has found a venue. This has been a pleasantly surprising blessing to our church family.
The even greater blessing has been experienced by our stable of preachers. To have a person call you to something big, something bigger than you think you’re capable of. To have a person say, “I believe in you, even if you don’t.” To have a person walk alongside you the whole way, offering encouragement, help, and suggestions. And then to have a supportive and affirming congregation say, “Well done,” and “Thank you for sharing your voice.” It is a beautiful and empowering vision of an individual’s potential in the Kingdom of God.
We will continue to grow our stable. We will continue to take risks on our people. We will likely get burned at some point but it will be totally worth it. Because God’s people have something to say and we want to help them say it.