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Who Turned Preaching Into a Solo Sport?

The vast majority of churches rely almost exclusively on a solo preacher. The vast majority of preachers prepare in isolation. Who turned preaching into a solo sport?

Here are six factors that have influenced this situation. None of them make a good case for going solo!

1. Tradition!—it is hard to overstate the impact of what you have always seen and experienced. Pastors protect their pulpits and prepare alone. It is what our fathers and forefathers before them have always done. So it must be right!

2. Solitary Spirituality—the preacher is, after all, the anointed individual that climbs the stairs to the study and meets with God, alone. We are much more into Moses on the mountain in Exodus 33/34 than we are into the Moses + Joshua in the tent with the LORD earlier in Exodus 33, or Moses and all the elders together meeting with God in Exodus 24!  Actually, if truth be told, we aren’t Moses.  We are members of the Body of Christ—and the New Testament description of spirituality is far more communal and shared than it is isolationist and solitary.

3. Clergy-Laity—the church has been a big promoter of a gulf between clergy and laity for centuries, but it is difficult to make a case from the New Testament for the distance that has been created. A priestly class feels threatened by the invitation to share ministry with others, and a comfortable laity feels intimidated by the idea of joining in.  Perhaps we need to revisit the Bible regarding this assumption about the people of God.

4. Single Salary—since many churches only pay one person to be the pastor, there will be a pressure for that pastor to be the preacher. Unless something is done about it, the default assumption of both congregation and pastor will be that the pastor should preach. What are we paying for? (Actually, much more than just preaching!)

5. Fallen Nature—preachers are human and suffer the same weaknesses others do. This means they are likely to self-protect, both in terms of sharing the pulpit, and in terms of sharing preparation. Human nature wants to be at the top of a pyramid, not sharing credit with others. Human nature is such that I will assume my ideas are better than your ideas, so why should I hear your ideas anyway?

6. Insecurity—this one is massive. How much spirituality is actually a mask for personal insecurity? We don’t want to share our sermon thoughts with others until we roll out the finished article on Sunday, no matter how much it might help us to do so. Insecurity will always seek to undermine ministry in team. What if someone is better than me? What if their input improves my message? What if they are? Praise God if it does!

On Monday I will post 10 Pointers for Preaching Teams. This preparatory post is intended to stir our thinking. Why do we prepare alone? Why do we resist sharing our pulpits?  

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Peter Mead is involved in the leadership team of a church plant in the UK. He serves as director of Cor Deo—an innovative mentored ministry training program—and has a wider ministry preaching and training preachers. He also blogs often at BiblicalPreaching.net and recently authored Pleased to Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation (Christian Focus, 2014).