Loving Questions for Pastors of Seeker-Sensitive Churches #3
There is a not-so-subtle indication in the history of one prominent seeker-sensitive church that effective leadership is a more precious commodity than faithful teaching. During some of the darkest days of this church’s pastor’s ministry, the church was still growing while teaching was his last priority. “Hardest to ‘fit in’,” says one observer, “was his teaching ministry at [the church].” This led to a commitment to “team teaching” and to the pastor’s belief that teaching ranked third in his spiritual gift category, behind leadership and evangelism. This is evident in the way he articulates the necessity of good leadership:
In a biblically functioning community, the leaders make sure that the preaching is done only by those who have the appropriate spiritual gifts, who have yielded themselves to the spiritual disciplines, and who have been anointed by the Holy Spirit to teach. When that happens, life starts pulsating through the place. You show me a church that’s led by leaders and well served by someone with the spiritual gift of preaching, and I’ll show you a vibrant and growing community of believers.
Practically speaking, everything said here seems right and true. Churches need real leadership that will make hard decisions and protect the church’s most important ministry, the teaching. Yet in Scripture, those who have the authority to lead are those with the authority to teach. An elder, according to Paul writing to Timothy, must be able to teach (1Tim. 3:2). The church, according to Paul writing to the Galatians, must guard herself from false teaching (Gal. 1). Why? Because it is through the preaching of the Word that God’s purposes are accomplished (Rom. 10:14-15).
The priority of preaching cannot be taken for granted. In one church growth book published this year, the author listed seven pastoral sins. Notice sin number 2: “Believing that preaching will change them.”
Preaching is important, but it is important only in connection with the rest of what a pastor and church do. Jason was told in a seminary that preaching is the most important thing a pastor does. No, Jason, it’s the most important thing in the preaching class, but it’s not all that big a deal to Grandma and Grandpa.
The New Testament doesn’t seem to pronounce a chasm between teaching or preaching and leadership, yet some church leaders and church growth specialists do. Therefore, pastors must ask the question, “Is biblical teaching a necessary variable or the central mission of the church?” As a future pastor, Lord willing, I suggest that there is no ministry no prominent than the teaching ministry. Why? Because there is no message more important than the message we are to convey. If the gospel is God-made and not man-made, its proclamation should be every pastor’s fundamental passion.