preaching

I noted in a previous article the trend toward more churches having more than one teaching pastor. Though this trend in the past was more common with larger churches, it is becoming more prevalent in smaller churches today. In smaller churches with this approach, many of the teaching pastors are unpaid or bivocational.

In the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to talk with several of these pastors. Most of the time my conversation was with the lead pastor, the equivalent of the senior pastor in many churches. But my conversations included a number of teaching pastors who are not lead pastors. My question was simple: Why do you have multiple teaching pastors? Here are the five most common responses.

  1. It helps avoid a personality cult syndrome. Because the church members hear from different pastors at different times, no one pastor is always front and center. The focus one pastor typically gets is spread among others.
  2. When one pastor leaves, the church is not left with a leaderless interim time. One of the most difficult times a church can experience is a period with no leader, even if the church calls an interim pastor. Transitions are much smoother when there are multiple teaching pastors.
  3. There is always a back-up pastor when the need arises. As a pastor, I can remember a few times where I was sick or stranded in another city the night before I preached. There is always a time of panic trying to find someone to preach at the last minute. With multiple teaching pastors, there is always a back-up ready.
  4. Variety can be healthy. Every pastor has a different preaching or teaching style. The church does not get stuck in the rut of one approach week after week when different pastors are available.
  5. Pastors need breaks. Unless you’ve been there, it is hard to comprehend how difficult it can be to prepare some 50 messages with consistent quality in the course of a year. It is good for the church and good for the pastor to get breaks from the challenge of preparing messages week after a week.

Churches with multiple teaching pastors are still in the minority. And there are some who disagree with this approach of church leadership.

What do you think of these benefits I have enumerated? What perspectives do you have about multiple teaching pastors?

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Comments

  1. Rick McCormick says

    Thom,
    You’re “right on” about having multiple teaching pastors for all the reasons you mentioned. Besides, in addition to these listed benefits, the mere fact of allowing someone else have a turn at leading enhances that person’s own skills and abilities…sort of OJT for up-and-coming pastors. Oh, BTW, this concept is also proven to be a huge benefit in our Sunday School ministries, too….for the exact same reasons. Just substitute the word “pastor” for “teacher” in your list and you’ll see how it fits. Thanks again for all of your wonderful insight.

  2. says

    Hi, Thanks for you work here. I like the idea personally. They multiple ministers do not have to be “pastors” to preach. Protestantism is gridlocked in many different kinds of tradtions of men, most inherited from their Catholic ancestory. So the congregations do need to be restored. For this to happen, the body needs leadership that is called, and anointed. Instead, most groups have “pastors” who are career pastors by a chosen vocation. This simply does not work.
    Eph 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
    Eph 4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

    This is what GOD desires. But unfortunately, man gets in the way with his own ideals, and the body suffers loss.

    Multiple leaders could fall in any one of the categories listed in vs 11 above. But if all they do is preach, they have not followed the leading of the HOLY SPIRIT. Their purpose, as is clearly stated, is to get the people involved in SPIRIT led ministry. Be ye one or 3 or 8 in leadership, this is the purpose of it. Untll we indentify and recognize this, the so called church will be blighted.

    Lahry

  3. says

    This is a good articles and welcome trend in churches. I would add a couple of reasons. First, churches can raise up their future pastors from within. Leaders that the church has known for years avoid many of the pitfalls of unknown leaders brought in from the outside. Any church should know it needs future leaders. Internships give opportunity to train and assess leaders before pastoral roles are given. Second, teaching content needs to be planned and assigned so that there is continuity that leads the church in one direction.

  4. Bro. Heath says

    I love it! I am at a church of 250-300 as youth/assoc. Pastor. Our church would love this. If we could get them to try something different!

  5. says

    A teaching team prevents your church from becoming pastor centered and allows the pastor to raise up other communicators around him. There are churches (and ours was one of them) that when the Senior Pastor is gone no one would come to church.
    Senior leaders have a responsibility to teach those who support them how to communicate effectively, in fact many times a supporting team member will adapt the leaders style of communication.You can hear this in anyone who sat under Chuck Smith or Jack Hayford, etc.

    It is a real healthy thing to do. I also allows other gifts to the church to be expressed. For example our Senior Pastor had a strong evangelistic gifting and my strength was teaching. It was a good balance.

  6. Best INotSay says

    #2 personally resonates with me. When our pastor of 35 years retired it left a management vacuum and the church was taken over by a group of large contributors. Board meetings devolved almost immediately into angry hostile personal attacks on other church members. Many held the church for ransom financially until their demands were met. I eventually took my family and left as did many others. The church still exists, barely, but only as a shadow of it’s former self, and the average age is probably around 55+.

  7. David Cozart says

    Our pastor regularly shares the opportunity to preach with our entire ministry staff. We have three services each Sunday morning. He welcomes the opportunity for Sabbath, encourages each of us and wants the church to experience different voices too.

    I also agree with Rick on a team of teachers in Sunday School. Takes the pressure off and allows multiple people to serve.

  8. says

    Our church has picked up using multiple teaching pastors over the last 18 months. Previously, I could see that our Pastor was becoming almost idolized at the church. I would hear people be disappointed when they saw his name wasn’t on the sermon notes.

    Since switching it up between 3-4 pastors, I’ve seen the church grow. Different teaching styles has impacted everyone differently, and challenges each member. Also, our pastor is still there and preaching just as good as ever, but I see the church no longer idolizes him like they did 3-4 years ago. Praise the Lord for that because no Pastor needs that issue as they try and lead a church body.

  9. Rich says

    Multiple Teaching Pastors can be fake when staff always preach Senior Pastor sermons. Same as multiple staff pastors can be fake multiple elder model when Senior has all pastoral authority.

  10. Robert Conrad says

    Good article. I would like to suggest two other benefits or reasons for multiple teaching pastors; 1. There can be a multiplication of gifts. Very rarely is one person strongly gifted in both evangelism and discipleship as an example. 2. With multiple teaching / preaching pastors the church can be generous in sharing with other churches. At our church there are many times when our elders/pastors are preaching at 3 or 4 different churches on a Sunday morning. Currently I am assigned to help a small Bhutanese church plant in a neighboring city. This would not be possible if I were the only preacher/teacher, which was the case for about 7 years.

  11. says

    I love these pragmatic reasons for having multiple teaching pastors, and have experienced them in the congregations I’ve started or pastored. But I would have loved to see the number one reason be “because it’s biblical.” In the NT, there seems to be a plurality of elders in every one of the churches mentioned. In fact, the word elder, taken from the OT use, is not so much an official priest-like or prophet-like position, but speaks to more of a wise, godly man. In the NT with the power of the Holy Spirit, it is no longer about official position, nor theological degrees, but is about a godly man (according to the requirements for elders laid down by Paul) who knows how to divide the word of God properly, and to proclaim it to others faithfully. We need multiple men like this to shepherd and teach our churches.

  12. Anonymous says

    I think the benefits you’ve mentioned are really great. However, I think the ideal is always more sexy than the reality. I am a teaching pastor on a teaching teAm and before that, I attended churches that used a teaching team model. I would like to mention some of the challenges. 1) it’s harder for the lead pastor to establish the visionary role if one or two others have equal air time. He who communicates the most influences the most. The two previous churches I attended with a team model split within the first five years over this very issue. Thus I would suggeSt that the lead pastor always have the most preaching time. 2) if another teaching pastor has stronger preaching gifts than the lead guy this can create much difficulty as the congregation begins comparing, potentially making the lead guy insecure. 3) to build on the last point, people mention that team teaching avoids a personality cult, but I don’t think That’s true. As I mentioned before, a team of teachers can often lead to a Corinthian situation that segments the congregation. “I am of pastor A.” “I am of pastor B.” With all that said, I am not arguing against a team model. I am just trying to give perspective from somebody who has been in that world for some time.

      • Melody says

        But isn’t that example more of how it can go wrong when people put themsves forward individually and bypass unity in Spirit? All those examples included sin. If a teaching and elder team are praying in the Spirit on the direction the church should then it should always be a unified vision. Obviously in order for it to work it requires men that are committed to having the Gospel front and center and not themselves. They would have to be willing to be accountable, teachable and have the willingness to be corrected without pride being in the way.

        • Andy says

          Melody, as I stated in my comment, I was simply articulating some of the challenges of a team model, not arguing against it.

    • Jim Kress says

      These are great points. But I don’t think they necessitate throwing the entire model. Yes, church unity can come under attack with multiple teachers. But aren’t faith, truth, and the gospel stronger? If relationships are strong and healthy, multiple teaching pastors can make for a stronger and healthier congregation. I think churches can pick up on unity and disunity in leadership. I think unity can be affirmed when the various gifts are utilized. And, in Corinthians, I don’t see Paul advocating a single teacher. I see a teaching moment of reminding the Corinthians to keep their eyes on Christ.
      For me, I would much rather have a team if teaching pastors sharing in feeding the flock than a sabbatical :-).

      • Andy says

        Jim, first I want to say that I agree with everything you said. As I told Melody, I wasn’t arguing for “throwing the entire model.” This is the model we employ in my own congregation! I was simply trying to offer some unique challenges faced by those who want to use this model based on my own experience. I have come to believe that if, and the degree to which, a church decides to employ a team teaching model depends entirely upon that congregations unique circumstances and needs. In some cases it is wise. In others it is foolish. Sometimes a season with only one voice casting vision is most healthy. In other seasons, it is best to have multiple voices.

        And I think you misunderstood my point about team teaching and the Corinthian situation. My point wasn’t that Paul is arguing for a single teacher. In context I said that people often argue for team teaching to avoid a cult of personality. I was simply making the obvious point that sinful people will make a cult of personality whether there is one or many teachers.

        And for what it’s worth, I hope I can continue as part of a teaching team AND take a sabbatical!

  13. Nathanael van Wyk says

    Some excellent observations on the matter. If I may add: As a South African, I welcome the idea whole-heartedly. Our Christian communities are very deep into Hero worship at the moment. It scares me because some of the movements are fast becoming cultic in their outlook. Presently we (SA) are running recklessly with random entitlement. Ministers unhesitatingly claim God’s people as “mine” and grow increasingly daring as they lap up all the adoration. We have an alarming increase in the number of Apostles and Bishops – from little store-front churches to mega-churches.

  14. says

    I’d be interested to know the size breakdown of these churches that do this. I would love to do this, but am in a revitalizing church in a smaller town.

    I do think it would take the right people to make it work. Having loyalty with each other and with the vision of the church would be utmost importance in this spot as it could lead to the aforementioned splits if not done right. Is there any literature, books, articles, etc about implementing this process? None come to my mind quickly.

  15. Shamir Roshan says

    In the beginning God The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit were The One Teacher and Leader that The Church had (The Church being at first just one man married to one woman by The Lord). All through the ages Yeshua has been The Teacher or Rebbe and Master of all mankind. God in His Position as The Holy Spirit gifted different people with His Spirit’s gifts all through time. Some apostles, some evangelists, some prophets, some pastors some teachers. Case in point: when Yeshua raised up Nehemiah and Ezra to lead the way into rebuilding Jerusalem when the work was done and the people of Israel were gathered there were teachers, preachers and pastors scattered throughout the flock to help in the service of God’s Ministry that the people who did not understand would gain knowledge and understand The Scriptures proclaimed from the pulpit by Ezra.
    (Nehemiah 8)

    Yeshua has not changed His Ways even in todays world.

  16. says

    I think that number one is by far the most important of all the reasons. As an outsider, I’ve seen what appears to be that kind of cult of personality forming at some churches. Placing multiple teaching pastors in that leadership position would cut off any possibility of misguided adoration of a lead pastor before it forms.

    I have one additional benefit in mind: multiple teaching pastors with different teaching styles could appeal to the multiple ways that people learn. Some congregants might thrive under the teaching of one pastor while languishing under another. However, there’s also the danger of the pastors being so different that there is no continuity in the teaching. Confusion could be bred if one pastor is trying to teach through Romans, for example, while another breaks it up by doing topical teachings.

    Perhaps the best way to measure the success of the multiple teaching pastor model will be a quantitative analysis over the long term?

  17. Lucy says

    One of my best friends is Plymouth Brethren. Though I am not in agreement with all of their theology, I like their approach to an elder led church. None of the elders is vocational, but they all share the pastoral responsibilities, preaching included. This means that there the lay membership is challenged to study for the preaching of the Word and it also means that the church allocates more money to supporting missionaries. I won’t go so far as to say that this is what all churches should do, but I do think that the approach of building up lay leadership who are capable of oreaching, teaching and serving the congregation is in line with the leadership model Jethro presented to Moses. My current ( SBC) church has one vocational elder and four non-vocational elders and, while our vocational elder is the primary preacher, others do fill the pulpit from time to time.

  18. says

    Our experience with team teaching has been very positive. But it takes work. A series has to be developed as a team if it is going to be preached as a team. There is great benefit in the collaboration — multiple ideas, different styles, added resources — but it takes time.
    And it takes healthy, trusting, mature relationships. It won’t work if there is a poor peer-to-peer communicator on the team. Or an attention hog. Or a procrastinator that won’t do his share. Which all requires “speaking the truth in love.” Transparent honesty. Mutual respect. Humility (which is sadly lacking in some pastors). Grace (which is also too often lacking in churches with the word “grace” in the church name on the sign).
    But when all of that comes together, it is a sweet thing, for all the reasons listed above. 1 Corinthians 14:26 comes to mind: “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up…” Notice the “each one.” Sounds like a team to me.

    • Nathanael van Wyk says

      Agree wholeheartedly with the “work” ethic. The TEAM has to produce the series. It should definitely be developed over a period of time until the relationships are healthy, trusting and mature. It would be great to see this work in our country.

  19. says

    50 quality lessons in a year?

    I know guys at small churches for whom “50 quality lessons” is a slow month.

    My own personal record for lessons in a year is 421. And I’ve known guys who regularly produce over 500.

    Some lessons are “better” than others, but somehow God manages to get the words people need to hear into their ears when they need to hear them.

    • says

      Hi Ben, I noted the 50 per year as well. I thought about the Sunday AM, PM and Wednesday evening and thought of about 150. I think for some churches, the pastor brings one message each week, but perhaps multiple times on Sunday AM, maybe Saturday PM as well. The church I pastor still has Sunday evenings and Wednesday evenings, and I am grateful. It provides the opportunity for someone hungry for God’s Word to be there more often. I know Sunday PM and Wednesday evening services have been a blessing for me over time even before I was a pastor. God Bless you,

  20. says

    We love having a group of pastors that speak into our church although my husband does it predominately. One of the things our church loves most is doing what’s called 5 on 5. We actually got this idea from another church; basically, it is five different leaders in the church with five minutes each. They come out and they give their very best for five minutes. There is one emcee who “hosts” that is a recognizable face, so people feel a sense of familiarity but it allows new potential people the opportunity to step up in a speaking position without having to carry the whole 30 or 35 minutes. It lets people start to rise to the surface while their gift is developing and also gives the congregation a lot of different people that they can connect with (housewife, businessman, college student, etc). We usually do it on a weekend like July 4 weekend or New Year’s weekend where the attendance is normally not as high but the people who are speaking invite so many family members to come here them that the church is literally flooded with new people. We have a countdown clock, minute warning signs, etc. it truly is awesome for everyone!

  21. Mark says

    If they alternate, no one gets the burnout. No one can force the congregation to go a particular direction. Also, unintentional or intentional bias is removed. If you go liturgical, then the sermon/homily of the day is already determined for you.

    One of the best sermons I ever heard was given by a lawyer who formulated an argument. It made sense and contained no fluff.

  22. Pastor Glenn Denton says

    Not one Biblical reason was given for multiple Pastors over one congregation. Also why is it not possible to preach over 50 and my case over 150 sermons a year to one Church? All it takes is study, preparation, prayer, and the touch of God on you. It seems like you are making reasons for lazy preachers and unbiblical approaches.
    Also multiple preaching Pastors can cause rivalry and partial attendance and envy and competition. It seems that defeats the whole purpose. Anyone can be made an icon but it seems to be more likely for one out of place and uncalled. The Church suffers and the Pastor sloths.

  23. Don says

    What’
    s behind the shift from the term preaching to teaching? There seems to be a clear delineation in the NT between preaching (kerussein) and teaching (didaskein). I’d be curios for your take on why teaching seems to be replacing preaching.

  24. Mark says

    Thomas,
    Thank you for posting this. Our church (SBC) follows this pattern as well. We are also led (while congregationally governed) by a plurality of elders/pastors/bishops (1 Peter 5 used the term synonymously). I am one of them. Not only does it prevent burnout and prevent a “cult of personality,” but it is most beneficial to our fellow congregants. Each of us has different strengths in our preaching. While we are all expository in nature, we have different areas of emphasis. There are two of us. One of us is really good at uncovering theological themes in a stretch of text. The other of us works in the original language and aims to deliver the authorial intent of the text in its textual, historical, and sociological background translated to a modern audience. Both are very beneficial. We also have two services: the morning and evening. We alternate who delivers the message during those services. We each have a Sunday Morning series and Sunday evening series. There is a balanced diet of not only theological and exegetical preaching but also of canonical variety. However, all elders (current and future) will have this in common: there is only one vision and visionary in our church and His name is Jesus. Things have been setup to where the long term plans of the church will transcend whoever happens to be elders.

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