Whether you are in a church with one preacher, or a church with numerous preachers (team or itinerant or mix), it is important not to grow complacent through insular evaluation. I’ve come across this more than once. Having only really listened to preaching in their own church, people have made comments like, “We have some of the best preaching in the area!” or “The bigger churches in the city don’t have anything more to offer than we get here!”
Nice sentiments, but if they are based on no comparison, they are meaningless. Now my point is not that we should be frantically comparing the quality of preaching in different churches or forming some sort of hierarchy. My point is that we shouldn’t grow complacent based on these kind of comments. It is part of our stewardship of the church and our own ministry to look to develop as preachers. Part of the impetus or help for such development can come from a humble appreciation of others from outside of our own fellowship who may do something particularly well. So a couple of comments:
1. Don’t try to copy another preacher, but do learn from them. You need to be you when you preach. Copying mannerisms, style or content from another will not suddenly increase the work of God through you. Preacher, be yourself, but let us recognize that others have strengths in areas we still need to work on. Listening to other preachers can help strengthen us in areas of weakness.
2. Don’t be intimidated by other preachers. While some may be motivated by carefully listening to others, this is not always the fruit. Some of us can easily be intimidated by the “mega-preacher” – especially after his message has been edited carefully for the podcast or radio show! Incremental improvement is appropriate, but remember that your church needs you to give the best that you can give, not the best that someone else somewhere else can give.
3. Be wary of inter-church competition, esteem God’s work elsewhere. While it may be natural to compare and contrast, it’s not particularly healthy or helpful to be making comparisons between churches as if they were in a league competition. Esteem what God is doing through others, recognizing that there are differences in style or approach. A giving spirit and attitude toward others will not harm your church and ministry at all.
Let’s be wary of looking inward and deciding all is well. Much healthier personally, as well as ecclesiologically, to be looking upward to the Lord and appropriately outward to others.