I could feel my heart racing. I was powerless over my footʼs unceasing need to tap the floor. The first words of the sermon were about to go soaring into the ears of the gathered congregation. My palms were sweaty and my heart was anxious for what was about to take place. There had been months of preparation for this moment. Now it was here. Then, Shawn, a volunteer church member who worked as a police officer at the airport, opened his Bible, and his mouth, and began the sermon for our Sunday worship gathering.
It was phenomenal. The exhilaration and jubilation of watching him successfully deliver Godʼs Word to the church was amazing. Seeing men who were led to Christ at our church, now preaching Christ to our church, gives unspeakable joy. I have had this experience countless times since that moment.
Since the launch of our church (The Journey Church – Lebanon, TN) in January of 2006, we have had over 22 different men (excluding myself), raised up within the church, who have preached on a Sunday morning. Of those 22 men, only 1 had been formally trained. The other 21 men were trained from within our church, and many of them have preached multiple times.
Why do we feel this practice is so important?
First, we believe it is our task as elders and leaders to equip the saints for ministry (Eph. 4:12-13). We believe if God provides men with the gift of teaching, then we should cultivate it and supply opportunities to use it. It does not always have to be from the pulpit on Sunday mornings, but we are open to the possibility.
Second, we believe it is healthy for our congregation to hear from other preachers. They can profit greatly from hearing others faithfully proclaim Godʼs Word. Men with different personalities, different experiences, and different styles than mine, can be used by God to help our church.
Third, we believe multiplication requires competent and trained preachers. If you are going to start new ministries, plant new campuses, or start new churches, you need to be replicating leaders—including preachers. We should not always need to bring in outsiders to feed our sheep.
How did we train and prepare this many men?
First, we pinpointed men whom we had witnessed, or suspected, had a teaching gift, and invited them to join the training.
Second, we conducted a preaching seminar on Sunday evenings for 10 weeks. Twelve men participated. The first two weeks were lectures about the topic of preaching. I lectured on preaching and how to prepare to preach. This included exegesis of passages, using illustrations, and making application.
The remaining eight weeks was all preaching. Over the course of this eight week period, everyone preached two sermons. I gave several criteria for them:
- One of the sermons had to be from the Old Testament
- One had to be a narrative passage and one had to be an epistle-like passage
- The sermon could only be 20 minutes in length
This required them to manage each component of the message very closely. Each week consisted of three men preaching a 20-minute message. Following each message, we would offer critique for improvement and encouragement.
Following the seminar, I had a good idea of how many of these men were capable of teaching on Sundays. Some were good enough and ready for a Sunday morning opportunity. Others were ready to teach in a small group or a Wednesday night service. The seminar served as a launching point for more coaching. As we started scheduling and providing them opportunities to teach, we would walk alongside of them to help them succeed.
A Concluding Charge
Pastors, I encourage you to begin this practice, even if it is only with a few guys. Teach them how you preach. Let them participate in your own sermon prep. Debrief your sermons with them. Let them ask you questions. Assign them passages to work on. Have them write a sermon and deliver it to you and a few others. Give feedback, correction, and encouragement. If you discover someone who is gifted to preach, select a date in the future and let them begin preparing. Walk closely with them through the process. It also doesn’t have to be a Sunday morning. If your church has a more traditional schedule that includes Sunday nights and Wednesday nights, use those times as well.
When that first opportunity arrives, prepare yourself. You will feel like a dad watching their kid take off on the bike for the first time without your help.
Your heart will race.
Your foot will tap.
Your palms will sweat.
And you will be anxious for their success. Something amazing will happen: you will find yourself exhilarated and joyful at their success.
You will be a proud pastor, but most importantly, you will have set into motion a DNA of developing preachers in your church.