Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching 2 Timothy 4:2
PREACHING GOD’S WORD
One of the great joys and responsibilities of being an ordained minister is the preaching of God’s word to God’s people each week. The significance of this ministry is not just reflected in the amount of time we give to sermons in our Sunday services, but also the substantial and appropriate time spent in preparation. In many churches, this responsibility falls to the single vicar, rector or senior pastor. Many of my dear colleagues and friends in ministry face the challenge of faithfully preaching week in and week out without much of a break.
ST JUDE’S CONTEXT
In my parish of St Jude’s, we face a different context and a different challenge. St Jude’s is a multi-site and multi-staff church with 6 Sunday services across 3 sites, some occurring at the same time. Thus we need a number of different preachers each week to cover all our services. Additionally, we have 7 members of staff who are regular preachers, 3 who are occasional preachers, not to mention our ministry trainees and student ministers and we are even blessed with a vicar emeritus who is known to preach now and then. I am very thankful that we are very blessed with a large number of preachers.
HOW WE WORK OUT WHAT TO PREACH
St Jude’s is committed to expository preaching. This means that as we go through a book of the Bible, the main point of the biblical text being considered becomes the main point of the sermon being preached. The vast majority of our preaching is spent working through a book of the bible week by week.
Although we have six congregations, we have a combined preaching program for the whole church. I bring a draft program to the senior staff team and together we shape the preaching program for the coming year. Over a year we aim to cover a breadth of scripture. This usually means preaching through, a gospel, a New Testament letter, and a book from the Old Testament. Additionally, we preach through the Psalms over January. We tend to break series up to cover 6-10 weeks, with longer books being broken up into parts (eg. we recently preached through all of Romans over 4 years). We also write Bible studies for each series to enable our small groups to follow the preaching program.
There is also space for congregational ministers to choose their own preaching series for a set number of weeks These may be more topical or theologically shaped (eg. a series on “work” or the Apostles Creed etc).
HOW DO WE WORK OUT WHO WILL PREACH
Preaching is one of the fundamental ways of pastoring people entrusted to our care as shepherds. This means that our key pastoral leaders do most of the preaching. In our case this includes me as the vicar and the senior staff who lead campuses and congregations. The need for at least 2-3 different preachers each week ensures that most senior staff are preaching regularly and that congregations hear a variety of voices from the pulpit. We also create space for other staff, trainees and student ministers to preach 2-3 times per year. Having a team of preachers also allows our staff to serve by preaching at other churches from time to time.
OVERSEEING A TEAM OF PREACHERS
One of the challenges of being a multi-site church is that I am not able to see and hear all sermons preached on a Sunday. To address this challenge, we have two key strategies. Firstly, we have a weekly “Hour of Power” meeting for all the preachers who are preaching in 2 weeks time. This hour is spent exegeting the passage and discussing any initial thoughts and reflections. This gives preachers the ability to work together and allows more experienced preachers to guide those with less experience (iron sharpening iron). Secondly, junior staff are given feedback on their preaching and assistance if needed by the senior staff they report to.
While I know that not all pastors have the opportunity, I consider it a great joy to lead the team of preachers at St Jude’s. Not only am I blessed with hearing the scriptures expounded so carefully by my colleagues, it has also helped me improve my own preaching as we seek to powerfully bring the word of God to bear on people’s lives.
John Forsyth is Vicar of St Judes Carlton