There are two laymen in our church who are good preachers. Both of them are obviously gifted communicators who love Jesus, His bride, and His Word. And we have it set up so that one of these men preaches about every six weeks.
We are not a large church. We don’t have a staff—just me. It's not a necessity that they fill in. I'm not out of town or anything. It probably even seems a little strange to some folks that I'm at the service but not preaching.
I love to prepare and preach sermons. Love it. It's easily my favorite part of pastoral ministry.
And these men are not getting paid to preach (whereas I am) and they have fulltime jobs outside of the church (I don't). So why have them preach?
I have a few simple reasons for sharing the pulpit. Some of these are particular to my personality and gifting. Some are pretty universal. Here they are:
1. It's good for me to remember what it's like to be a listener. I've found it to be super helpful to be on the other side of the sermon. It helps me stay in tune with the way the congregation is processing what they're hearing. After I finish my sermon manuscript, I like to "hear" it from my congregation's perspective. Sitting with them every six weeks greatly helps me with this.
2. It's a joy to sit with my wife and hear the Word of God together.
3. The week where I'm not working on sermon prep, I'm able to pour more time and energy into pastoral care, vision and strategy, plotting out upcoming sermon series and all kinds of other pastoral responsibilities. When I'm preaching for months on end, some of these areas can slide into "maintenance mode". The most urgent tasks get taken care of but many important items don’t receive the energy and attention they need. I don’t get the chance to put the extra time into them, and the church suffers as a result.
4. It allows the congregation to hear the hearts of the elders. We hold these laymen up as shepherds—it's important that the congregation hear God speak through them.
5. It stirs my joy in preaching. Taking a week off is refreshing; it renews my energy. And it stirs up an itch to get back in the pulpit.
6. And last but not least, sharing the pulpit every six months or so is good because Sabbaths are good. Taking a week off from preaching reminds me that this church isn't dependent upon me. This church is dependent upon God. And it reminds us all that the power isn't in the personality or gifting of a certain preacher (we all have our favorites). No, it's in the Holy Spirit bringing the Word of God to bear on our hearts.
Probably most of us reading this post serve as solo pastors of smallish churches. Even so, if your church is blessed to have another guy or two gifted by God to preach, I encourage you to share the pulpit. It'll be good for you and good for your church.