I am grateful to other churches who have sought to partner with us through the sending of speakers. It is a great expression of fellowship in the gospel to send tried and trusted men to help build up smaller local congregations. Receiving men who have a desire to preach the word of God and who come with the approval of elders is a blessing indeed.
What feels less like a blessing is the sending of men whom you don’t trust enough to put in your own pulpit. These are the guys you either don’t believe are ready to preach on your grand stage or have had a go but you didn’t rate them highly enough to incorporate into your own teaching programme. Instead of training them with care, or bearing with them while they learn, you palm them off on a smaller church down the road. After all, they’re probably desperate enough for anyone and we wouldn’t want to drag down the quality of our own service.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for training younger guys and, as a pastor of a smaller church, I’m always glad to provide opportunities for men learning to preach. It just feels more like a partnership, and a bit less contemptuous, when you send us the guys you’ve been willing to put into your own pulpit; those you have found to be genuinely capable gospel preachers. Just because somebody may not be the finished article doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from their ministry and we’re glad to be involved in the ministry of training the next generation. Nonetheless, it would be nice to get a sense that you are actually trying to train them through opportunities in your own church first rather than just palming off your untested B-team onto us.
Let me put it this way: if the guys you’re sending to us aren’t good enough for your people, what leads you to the conclusion that they’re good enough for ours? If we were happy with any old body in the pulpit, we wouldn’t need to come to you in the first place. We’re perfectly capable of pushing those without gifting into the pulpit from our own congregation and churches abound with ‘speakers’ that would come whom – if we don’t care about theology, biblical faithfulness or teaching gift – would fill half an hour.
We’re not demanding that you only send those with at least one theology degree, just those you can actually commend to us because you’ve given them opportunities to preach and have seen that they can credibly feed our people. We’re glad to to provide opportunities for the guys you’re training to preach, we just don’t want to find that our pulpit is their testing ground and the extent of your training.
Real partnership should be seen in mutual support. While we’re glad to give opportunities for preachers in training, it is in good faith that those you send have been suitably recognised as those who can preach. This necessarily involves you having heard them preach. If you feel these guys are credible preachers, then incorporate them into your teaching programme. Send them to us because we need good preachers, not because you don’t know how good this guy will be and you’re concerned that a less than A-grade sermon would not suit your church. Being able to commend them means having some grasp of theological backgrounds and nous.
The bottom line is this, if they’re not good enough for God’s people in your church, then they’re not yet good enough for God’s people in any church. In the spirit of real partnership, please send us your best preachers.