As of yesterday I have preached a total of one time in a total of seven Sundays. That’s a lot of time to be gone. I did a quick count and, at the halfway point of the year, I have preached 16 of 26 Sundays. For me, that is probably an all-time low. My first 52 weeks at the Oaks I preached about 48 Sundays.
Some of these Sundays were unavoidable (like Sundays I am at seminary or Sundays I might be out of town with family). However, a number of the Sundays I was in town, at the services, but not preaching. In fact, of the past six Sundays I didn’t preach I was in town for three of them. So I wanted to take a moment and explain why I believe multiple voices from the pulpit are so important.
- Wisdom: I am a young pastor and preacher. Earlier this year I wanted to commit to varied and older voices on the pulpit. With their age, they bring a connection to those at the Oaks who are older. It isn’t that I don’t believe I can serve those people when I preach, but getting older preachers is another tangible way of serving them. This year we’ve been able to have our former Senior Pastor Dennis Eenigenburg, Larry Spencer (an elder), and Abe Kuruvilla (professor) preach. Kevin McKee (current Senior Pastor) has also been by. These men bring wisdom, skill, and (yes) gray hair into the pulpit. It is a great gift to have them.
- Giftedness: When I don’t preach at the Oaks, Michael Rhodes is usually my first go-to. He has preached four times this year. Michael is an awesome preacher. He has a deep concern for the Scriptures and each time he preaches he grows more. Michael doesn’t need me to tell him he is gifted in preaching. You tell him every time he preaches. When it isn’t Michael I have tried to get other guys on staff to preach (though that hasn’t been regular this year because of pt. 1, above). I don’t realize this until I visit other churches (which I barely do since, you know, I have a job at one), but to have an entire stable of preachers is an amazing thing. I’m spoiled at The Chapel to have a long list of people who can help bring the Scriptures to bear in the hearts of the people.
- Expectations: I think it healthy for a congregation not to depend on any one voice for too long. It is a natural thing for churches to, in some ways, take on the personalities of their teacher(s). But I am not “the” preacher at the Oaks. I am one of many. My gifts are just a part of the whole. Yes, in my role I will be heard more regularly, but I never want the people of the Oaks to expect me every Sunday. This also reminds me that it is Christ who builds his church, not Hans or anyone else.
It’s a humbling (and encouraging) thing to hear how another person’s preaching built up someone at the Oaks or afforded them a significant ministry opportunity later in the week. Different people connect with Michael, with Larry, with Dennis, with Kevin, and with Hans. There are people who will go up to Kevin after a service to meet with him or share something with him that they might never share with me. It isn’t always easy to step back and watch someone else make a good (and likely better) connection with the congregation, but it is getting much easier.
God has been good to us at The Chapel throughout our entire history, and I am excited to see how he continues to use us for his purposes.