How a Pastor CAN and CANNOT Lead the Church through the Pulpit

  1. Through the pulpit, a pastor can lead the church by how he preaches. People will remember how we preach long after they forget what we preach.

Passionate preaching of the Word of God teaches church members to value the Word in their own lives and demonstrates that the future of the church will be based on the Word. I recently preached what I knew was not my best sermon. Giving it a 4 out of 10 would be generous. (And, whenever you are reading this, you can be sure that I recently preached a 4 out of 10 sermon!). After the worship service, three church members came up to encourage me. Actually, I think it was to console me!. One comment stood out. A gentleman said, “I really appreciate how much you value the Word of God.” Even though what I preached that day wasn’t as helpful to this gentleman as I would have liked, how I preached still encouraged him to love and respond to God’s Word.  

Faithful preaching of the Word teaches church members how to read and study the Bible for themselves and how to teach the Bible to others. As we preach, we are able to give the congregation glimpses into how we approach the text, the questions we ask, and the applications we draw. Over time, preaching will lead the church toward solid interpretation and application of Scripture, which not only helps individuals as they read their own Bible, but also develops discernment for listening to other sermons. 

  1. Through the pulpit, a pastor can lead the church through difficult situations, but cannot lead individuals through their personal issues. The pulpit is a place for wise counsel but is not the place for counseling.

Biblical preaching, over time, will shape the hearts and minds of our congregation. As we preach the Gospel and the full counsel of God’s Word, we can lead people to think biblically about various situations they might face in life. In this way, pastors can lead their congregation through personal, local, and cultural crises. 

However, the pulpit is not the place to address individual issues in front of the full congregation. Rarely, if ever, would a pastor do this by using the person’s name. More often it occurs when a pastor uses the sermon to address an issue or make a point that directly affects one person. Do nott be passive-aggressive from the pulpit. If possible, speak to the person the week before the sermon if there is concern that a sermon topic or point might feel overly targeted to that person. Lead the church by providing wise, biblical counseling from the pulpit; just do not attempt targeted or nuanced counseling from the pulpit. 

  1. Through the pulpit, a pastor can lead the church into the future, but cannot use the pulpit to dictate future decisions for the church.

Preaching is a wonderful opportunity to lay out the preferred future for the church. In fact, helping people see where the church needs to go and who the church needs to become is a key responsibility for leaders. The preacher must be careful, though, of using the pulpit to make decisions for the church that should be made by the staff, committees, or congregation as a whole. Preachers prepare the canvas, but they should be cautious about choosing the colors. Preach in such a way that members are excited about the future and equipped to use their gifts, talents, and resources to do the work of the ministry.

  1. Through the pulpit, a pastor can lead the church toward a shared ministry focused on Christ, but cannot lead the church to see the pastor as the crucial figure for the church’s future.

“Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.” (Exodus 1:8; KJV)

“Preach the gospel, die, and be forgotten.” (attributed to Nikolaus Zinzendorf) 

As pastors look toward long-term leadership at a church, imagining anyone else in the pulpit can become difficult if we begin to see ourselves as the primary leader of the church. Instead, we must remind ourselves that Jesus leads the church, and we want to preach and lead in a way that puts all the focus on Him.

“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Corinthians 4:5; ESV)

Pastors can lead by raising up new leaders in the church, sharing the pulpit with other, biblically qualified preachers, and ensuring that every sermon proclaims the Good News of Jesus Christ. We must battle against a perceived form of religious celebrity. And, we must battle against leading the church through the pulpit toward any sort of codependency on us. Faithful preaching will exalt Christ and equip the Church for the future..

Owen Nease is the Pastor of Emmaus Baptist Church, Moore and can be reached at owen@emmausokc.org.

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