I recently enjoyed reading The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne. In the book they suggest that the role of the pastor has shifted from religious service provider to CEO in many churches. But they also suggest there needs to be a further shift, to trainer (i.e. multiplier of disciple making disciples). I agree with this perspective and want to make a similar suggestion in terms of the role of the preacher.
What was the role of the preacher in the past? Perhaps the preacher’s role was that of local community leader, or spiritual director of the congregation, or Bible/theology expert. It all depends on the situation or context. There may be some scope for considering what we’ve lost: for example, have we abdicated our role in society, or have we been kicked out? Or have we left behind the days of the “divines” in favour of the days of the networked and busy? But this post wants to push us to think of the future.
What is the role of the preacher in the present? Again this depends on the church. In some churches the preacher is a visionary leader directing the church community via the weekly team talk. In other churches the preacher is an entertainer needed to provide some semblance of content in the weekly gathering. In other churches the preacher is an overworked slave expected to do the work of the ministry while every other minister and priest in the church is satisfied to pay the preacher’s salary. In other churches the preacher’s role is to present and apply the Word of God with sensitivity to God, the people, and the times. I don’t want to suggest all is bad today, it certainly isn’t.
What could the role of the preacher become? The preacher’s task as expositor of God’s Word should not change, although the manner, style, etc., will change. I wonder, though, if there is a shift in the role of the preacher to include a more overtly training mentality – the preacher as spirituality coach, the preacher as Bible study tutor, the preacher as ministry and missions mobiliser, the preacher as mentor of preachers. All of these have been done and are being done. But what about in your church? Where has the ministry arrived at today, where could it go in the months ahead?