I share the pulpit with another pastor. Indeed, I should say a pastor shares the pulpit with me. Bruce Wesley, the founding and senior pastor of the church I serve, brought me on staff as the Teaching Pastor when I was 26 and the church only four-and-a-half years old. Gutsy move for a young church planter, right? Many would have been concerned with establishing themselves as the head honcho amongst the people which means, among other things, keeping the keys to the pulpit. Fortunately for me, Bruce was secure in both his leadership and preaching to let me drive from the moment I arrived in Houston.
Twelve years later and I’m still greatly blessed by his sharing of the pulpit.
I could spend the next few moments sharing the benefits of team teaching, but I’ll leave that for another post. I wanted to simply share something I’ve learned about myself and preaching.
Get comfortable with yourself because you can’t be anyone else. When I began, I regularly found myself being blown away by Bruce’s messages. He truly is a master preacher. His sermons were always well thought out, insightful and the language he used was crafted to perfection. Many times I would find myself saying, “Man, I need to preach more like Bruce preaches.” But, in trying to preach the way Bruce preached, I implemented practices, approaches and styles that not only were hard for me to do, they actually worked against the strengths of who I was in the pulpit. After finding enough frustration down this road, I finally came to grips with the fact that I wasn’t Bruce. I was me. Better yet, God wired me the way I was. I either needed to accept that fact or get used to walking the road of disappointment and disillusionment in preaching.
Now I’m greatly at peace with that fact. Honestly, it’s taken me much longer to get that into my head than I’d like to admit. I can say though, not only am I more content with who I am as a preacher, it has actually freed me up to enjoy God’s work through preaching. It’s even allowed me to acknowledge and embrace my strengths homiletically. And that itself has truly been a grace from God.
Make no mistake. I haven’t “arrived” preaching-wise. There’s still more to learn, grow and do. But thanks to serving in a multiple-teacher church, I realize that in trying to be someone else in the pulpit you are ultimately robbing God, the church and yourself. God made you to be you with all your strengths and weaknesses. That’s good to remember whether you preach with a team or you are the lone ranger at your church. I know in the world of podcasts, downloads and online messages, many a young preacher is exposed to different styles of preachers he admires. However, if he isn’t careful, that healthy admiration in front of the computer can turn into an unhealthy imitation behind the pulpit. This doesn’t mean you can’t learn from other preachers. On the contrary, I think was can and should! Just be careful that you are learning from other preachers to be a better you, not a poorer version of them.
So, when you alight upon the pulpit this Sunday to open up the oracles of God, make sure it’s you who’s preaching.