Itinerant ministry can be a blessing to pastors and local churches if it is done well. There is a need for more gospel-loving itinerant ministers to encourage pastors. However, not just any ministry will do; the Church needs itinerant ministries that are healthy. There are many ministries around the globe, but not all are healthy. What then characterizes a healthy itinerant ministry? The following are three characteristics of a healthy itinerant ministry.
1. A healthy itinerant ministry is under the authority of a gospel-preaching church.
Even though an itinerant preacher may regularly find himself preaching in pulpits, he should be an active covenant member of a local church. Guest preaching and conference preaching should not overwhelm an itinerant minister’s local church attendance and involvement. He should schedule Sundays each month to be with the faith family with which he is covenanted. Doing so will prove spiritually healthy for him and his church family. It is spiritually healthy for the itinerant minister in that he will have a faith family who knows him and his family (if he has one), prays for him, and to whom he and his ministry is accountable.
2. A healthy itinerant ministry is characterized by topical expositions.
In the itinerant ministry, a man may be tempted to preach topical sermons based on perceived felt needs of a congregation. Of course, the itinerant minister does not have the luxury of preaching traditional expositions completely through a book of the Bible. Often, the itinerant preacher will have one opportunity to bless a local church with his preaching. And that is it. He should aspire to proclaim topical expositions. Unlike topical preaching which is based on whatever the preacher feels like preaching, topical expositions are driven by the text. The text is king. Jason K. Allen writes, “To interrupt sequential exposition in order to let another text speak can reinforce the authority and relevancy of God’s Word.”1 Although Allen is speaking of pastors, his words are applicable easily to itinerant preachers also. An itinerant minister should seek to encourage local church pastors and their congregations by preaching text-driven topical sermons. After all, itinerant ministers are preachers of the Word.
3. A healthy itinerant ministry makes much of Jesus
Nothing is more cringe-worthy than a guest preacher who takes a pulpit only to make himself famous. Itinerant ministers should make much of Christ in their sermons. Again, Allen is helpful. He exhorts, “The Scriptures point to Jesus–the lost need to receive Him, and the saved need to be encouraged in Him. . .It is just hard to mess up a sermon that exalts the Lord Jesus Christ.”2 The above is wise advice for itinerant preachers as well. Pastors and congregations need to be reminded of the preciousness of Christ Jesus. Itinerant ministry is not about motivational speeches; it is about a crucified Christ. Itinerant ministry is not about bragging about how many people you or I have ‘won to the Lord;’ it is about making much of Jesus for the glory of Almighty God.
If an itinerant minister is willing to be under the authority of a local church, commit to heralding topical expositions, and making much of Jesus, he will be a blessing to Bible-loving local churches wherever he travels. His heavenly Father will be pleased, and the itinerant minister will have much joy. There is much more that could be mentioned; however, the above three characteristics are vital for ministry health. May the local churches raise up more men who love the local church, love text-driven exposition, and love exalting the Lord Jesus.