Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bring back the 'Local' in 'Local Preachers'

Good day God,
I want to say from the onset that I am genuinely glad that you keep calling people to proclaim your word. One of the most powerful signs that the Church has that you are still interested in us, is that you keep calling people to share with us the word of truth that you share with them.

But I'm getting increasingly confused as to how this 'sharing' is supposed to happen.
It used to be that a Local Preacher was able to preach to the Congregation by setting the gospel in their particular 'Local' context. The Local preacher would know what was happening in the lives of the congregation, what their concerns were, their hopes and aspirations.. they would be a part of the conversation of  your people with you God, not set apart from it!

More and more it seems to be the case that local preachers have less and less to do with the congregations they preach to. Time, money (and perhaps some misplaced idea of the role and authority of the Local Preacher) has led to a situation where most Local Preachers seem to work in isolation on their service and sermon, as though the mission of the congregation is of no account.

I know that Faith and Worship tries to encourage those learning to preach to take account of the 'nature of the congregation' in terms of its age, ethnic composition etc.. but I'm talking about something far more fundamental than that. I'm talking about the MISSION of the congregation, the way in which worship is a means of grace, and what the congregation is hoping for from its encounter with your Word in worship.

Intentional or not, we seem, as a Church, to be encouraging a generation of 'hit and run' circuit preachers who visit the Churches and say what they want to say or believe you have called them to say - with seldom any thought to the conversation that congregations are already having with you.  Which, can often mean that the 'service' is nothing more than a rude interruption and something which makes a mockery of the whole concept of a 'Local Preacher' no matter how good the sermon!

I believe that any Church can flourish as a result of the special diversity and contribution that Local preachers can bring when they work WITH a Church to provide worship which serves as a means of grace. When they bring their own unique perspectives to bear on whatever it is that the Church is trying to explore or promote as part of its mission and outreach, Local Preachers really can add to the richness of grace. But of course to achieve that wonderful fusion of your calling and the congregation's growth in grace and holiness means that a Local Preacher has to spend time with a congregation BEFORE they preach to them, BEFORE they have decided what it is they think you want to say to them. All that takes extra time and effort if they are not a member of that Church or if the Circuit is so big that the preacher seldom visits a Church more than once or twice a quarter.

I think most ministers would welcome the chance to work with a team of 'Local preachers' who are really 'Local' and who really do want their preaching to play a part in the local mission of the Churches in a circuit. I am sure I am not the only minister who wants  Local Preachers to do more than read a letter that tells them who their steward will be and when the Junior Church are in or out.. Local Preachers can be a phenomenal resource for your work God, by helping congregations fulfill THEIR mission and grow in grace, rather than just letting them hear another sermon - (even if it is a brilliant sermon!).

There is a way of recovering the 'Local' in 'Local Preacher': Change the Plan.

In one circuit, for example, the local preachers were asked to work in teams with each of the circuit ministers. They were asked to meet with the minister and the Church officers at the start of each quarter to think and pray through the Church's worship. They were a part of the discussions which determined (according to what was happening locally with that Congregation) which acts of worship that quarter were best suited to evangelistic outreach, which would be really helpful in addressing issues the congregation were facing, which were ideal for including families or young people etc etc etc.. Only the team were planned to preach in that Church that year..
Yes.. It reduced the number of local preachers visiting each Church over the year - but it strengthened the concept of local ministry and local mission, What was heard was the Word of God for the people of God at this time and at this place.
And without exception the Churches grew.
So did the Ministers and Local Preachers.


  1. Totally agree with you, Angela, and this will become increasingly necessary as circuits become larger geographical units - which will be an inevitable consequence of 'Mapping a Way Forward' (or whatever it's euphemistically known as nowadays). Congregations I've known have greatly benefitted from focussed preaching and worship leading by ordained and lay preachers, and I would wholeheartedly commend it as a way forward.

  2. You raise some interesting points here Angela and I have to say I find myself in agreement with much of what you say.
    I do think though that there will inevitably be circuits where this would be difficult to achieve due to shortages of preachers or unwillingness of preachers to take more than one or two appointments per quarter.
    In our circuit we have a total of 25 preachers (including ministers, supernumeraries and lay worker) with 9 churches most of whom only have morning services and yet the super still struggles to fill the plan.
    I have to be honest I also feel we under-use our worship leaders and suspect that this may be partly because we like to be 'in charge' and feel we will not be if someone else is taking part.
    I will be interested to see what other people think about this issue.

  3. Thanks Guys,
    I think the note about Worship Leaders is a valid one - or would be if we had more of them and there was a clearer idea of how Local Preacher's should relate to them.

    I also think there is a danger of a Worship leader becoming the 'Local' element and letting the Local preacher off the hook. Bottom line - there is more to being a local preacher than just preparing the sort of service they would like to attend - its about being 'local' and getting involved - the sort of worship that sustains the people of God is not just a Sunday affair.