OK, I wasn’t a math major! Yesterday’s post said there were 4 things I would tell you that every PCC’er needed to know, but I only gave 3. Ugh.
There IS a fourth, and perhaps having a little more room for it is better anyway. Yea. Let’s go with that.
So here’s the 4th thing: For the first time in PCC’s history, we have a functioning Teaching Team that is largely seen as a plus for our church.
Let me explain with a little background.
Most churches – including our church – begin with a single communicator. Usually, that person is the pastor…who also serves as the kids person, the custodian, the youth leader, one of the musicians…you get the point. Fifteen years ago, that person was me. Fortunately, there were many competent people around me, because we wouldn’t have gotten very far on my musical abilities or my kid-coaching skills (‘take a lap’ is the only trick in my bag for discipline, and my ‘fun’ mantra is ‘the playing ain’t over ’til somebody’s bleeding.’ Obviously, they don’t EVER invite me to help in PCC Kids!)
But I was pretty much the only experienced and skilled communicator in the church. That meant that I did ALL of the preaching. All of it. 52 Sundays a year. Over time, I learned that there are two VERY serious costs to preaching that much:
First, the cost to the Senior Leader’s health. Most people don’t understand how much time and energy go into message prep and delivery. I’m ok with that. I don’t know much about what you do, either. But take my word for it: it’s both exhilarating and exhausting. If I didn’t care about developing and delivering messages that were relevant, biblically robust, engaging, fun and practical (all 5!), then it would be a breeze. But I do care about those things. EVERY message has to be those things, to the best of my ability. Who wants to listen to a message that isn’t relevant? Or one that bores you to death? Not me! And I bet you don’t either.
Bill Hybels says that a person cannot lead the church and also preach 52 weeks a year without eventually breaking something inside themselves. The cost is high and irrevocable for the person (and the church) who is unwilling to share the teaching responsibility.
Second, there is a cost to the church itself in terms of content and quality. I don’t care how good a communicator is, they (all of us) live in a certain box. We have a pattern, a finite viewpoint on life, and – though few will admit this – a limited and biased perspective on the Bible. Some of the greatest communicators I follow – Andy Stanley, Jon Acuff, Craig Groeschel, Kevin Myers and John Ortberg – understand better than most people that their churches are not best served by serving their egos. Being on the teaching platform week after week, with no occasional change in the teaching pastor, eventually becomes routine. The church is best served when there is more than one voice. That voice MUST be gifted, called, coachable, and absolutely bought-in to what that church is doing (the mission and vision). They must be willing to work under the leadership of the lead pastor. But (assuming those things are true) the senior leader – and the church – must be willing to share the platform as a way of putting the church first.
My attempts to do this in the past have been good…and not-so-good. We had competent and growing teaching pastors, but I wasn’t coaching them, or our church, quite right. The end result was that I constantly heard, “When are you preaching again?” (meaning, ‘I want Brian back’) Some of this is normal – we get used to someone. But I wasn’t doing a good job of bringing others up to the skill level we needed. The other teaching pastors had it, I just wasn’t helping them to develop it well. There are other things I could have done better, but let’s move on.
Enter today’s teaching team. Angie Frame, Jerimy Ford and Bryan Pope round out the foursome (including me, of course) that constitutes the Teaching Pastors at PCC. Four is a good number, because it gives us a good bench and allows for a healthy rotation, while not having so many people that each only gets one Sunday a year (which isn’t enough to develop skill).
I’m still the primary teaching pastor. It’s a large part of my job. Angie will preach about 10 times a year. Angie has been a Teaching Pastor at PCC for a long time, and the development of her gift is something that has been an great honor to be a part of. Bryan and Jerimy are also clearly gifted, and it’s been an honor to help them hone their skill, too. You’ll see and hear from Jerimy and Bryan a few times each year.
My calling is still as senior visionary, leader AND the teaching pastor who will carry most weekends. But finding a way to share the load has been a blessing to me and to our church. Rarely do I hear, “when are you preaching again.” Now I hear accolades for these 3 talented, humble and gifted people. In fact, at one service last weekend, the crowd applauded when they heard Angie was preaching. That’s what I’m hoping for – that our church embraces, grows from, and enjoys the entire teaching team.