Preaching and Leading

As I’ve been reading through the early chapters of 360-Degree Leadership by Michael Quicke, I have been struck by his clear point regarding preaching and leading – they should not be divided into two mutually exclusive camps.  While it is possible to lead without preaching, it is only in contemporary churches that this distinction has become more absolute in recent years.  I may quote Quicke again, but first I would like to share some thoughts from my own perspective:

1. Leading without preaching is possible, but should not characterize the entire leadership of a church. The biblical pattern and instruction is that a church should be led by a group of qualified elders (use whatever term you choose, I’m not getting into terminology today).  What is important to note is that the elders are not qualified by gifting, but by qualified Christian character.  This means that some may not be gifted or effective preachers.  However, it is important to be able to communicate and interact with people as individuals.  Leadership without preaching is possible, leadership without communication is not.  Leadership without preaching, although possible, has become too common in some churches.

2. Preaching without leading is possible, but what kind of preaching is that? Even when a preacher does not have an official leadership label, the act of preaching is an act of influence.  By life, example, instruction and encouragement, the preacher influences the congregation. However, two things undercut the leadership of a preacher.  (1) Preaching what Michael Quicke calls thin-blooded sermons that are individualistic and confined to personal spirituality.  (2) Having that preacher be a guest preacher, rather than a local person of influence.  There is a very significant role for guest preachers, but when the majority of the preaching is done by guests, especially if they preach “thin-blooded” sermons, then leadership and preaching have been effectively divorced – a strange state of affairs for the church.

3. When preaching and leading work together, there is great potential. Not every leader has to preach, and not every preacher has to be an in-house leader, but when the majority of the preaching in a church is leadership preaching, there is real potential!  Guest preachers can be used to supplement and bring something unique (either insight, or energy, or as a draw, or supplementary perspective, etc.)  But when leadership and preaching go together, then the church isn’t functioning merely  as a business, but as a spiritual community responding to the Word of God and participating in the dynamic reality of the Christian trinitarian life . . . the life of a God who speaks . . . (can I really end a post there?!)

I’ve reached my limit for a post, so I’ll save the quote for another time.

Thin-Blooded Preaching – Part Deux

So to the rest of Michael Quicke’s list of what constitutes thin-blooded, leadership-less preaching:

6. Low Compliance – While hoping for positive comments, this kind of preaching really doesn’t expect people to be or do anything substantially different as a result of the preaching.

7. Absence of Process Issues – This is where the preacher steers clear of applying the text to the process of congregational transformation, instead leaving all process issues to the organizational announcements.

8. Solo Role – Following on from the previous item, this is where the sermon ends up in a separate role from the organizational complexities of church life, functioning as a devotional stand-alone on the side.

9. Cowardice – “Maintaining rather than initiating. . . . Safe pairs of hands operating within stable structures rather than big souls daring to live on the leading edge of God’s new structures.”  And to quote a bit more, “Thin-blooded preachers have become understudies on the margins of leadership. Such preaching utterly fails to lead.” 

10. Missionally Defective – That is to say that it fails to lead God’s people in the mission to which they are called in this world.  Preaching becomes about individual conversion, or personal growth, but fails to really engage the interface between the church andthe culture.

“So full-blooded preaching, then, is corporate, holistic, trinitarian, specific in applicaton, realistic about conflict, urges commitment, does justice to process issues, collaborates, is courageous, and is missionally effective.”  The rest of the book pursues that, and I’m looking forward to reading it!

What Makes For Thin-Blooded Preaching?

After a whole series of careful caveats, Michael Quicke defines what he means by thin-blooded preaching in 360-Degree Leadership.  I’ll share brief introductions to each thought, but really recommend buying the book and thinking through his argument first-hand.

1. Individualistic – It is easier to preach to individuals, than to address the complexities of corporate church life, and the calling of the Body of Christ in the world.

2. Aimed at head or heart but rarely both together – On the one hand there is preaching that lodges great slabs of words into heads to occupy listeners with note taking – “Cerebral preachers love to use ‘The Blessed Treasury of Wonderful Bible Verses that will accompany your sermon text and fill up the space to stop you pursuing its specific consequences.'”  Equally he critiques the feel-good preaching that by-passes Scripture in order to only touch the emotions.

3. Spineless Theology – Not theology in general, but the theology of preaching that is essentially unitarian and essentially denies the existence of an actively involved Christ or Holy Spirit, making sermon preparation and delivery an almost entirely human endeavour.

4. Generic Applications – That is, the lightweight fare of homely examples and cheerful little stories that is nonspecific and nonconfrontational.  Pithy anecdotal material that could have been preached unchanged half a century ago, therefore indicating that it isn’t really about gospel transformation of community today.

5. Avoids Conflict – only nurturing and shepherding without exhorting.  This kind of preaching may boldly denounce generic sins, but timidly avoid at all costs the simmering tensions in the church such as crippling tension over worship, or disputes between families.

That is quite enough for one post.  Like me you probably “amen-ed” at least a few of those, but they are all worth pondering as you prayerfully considering your preaching and the preaching-leadership of your church.  I’ll share the other five tomorrow.

Thin-Blooded Preaching

I just started into 360-Degree Leadership by Michael Quicke.  It has been on my shelf for about three years, but until now I haven’t opened it.  Oops.  This book is worth reading.

I’ll write more soon, but how about a very brief post today to get things going . . . Quicke thinks, and I believe, proves, that leadership and preaching have grown apart.  Leadership and preaching are often viewed as distinct elements of ministry, but in reality they go together.  What happens when a preacher preaches without full awareness of their leadership capacity?  Thin-blooded preaching.

Thin-blooded preaching.  What a description!  Before I share the features that Quicke offers for this kind of leadership-less preaching, why not ponder the concept.  What might it look like if you were preaching without leading?  What happens to leadership in the church without preaching?  Well, that’s another matter . . . so much to ponder!