Poor Man's Preaching: Why The Richest You'll Sound is When You Sound Like Yourself

I remember the first moment I ever heard Rob Bell preach. I was seventeen and just committed to studying pastoral ministry in college, and I was enchanted by his teaching. His church was skyrocketing. He just started these video teachings that were super hip. And deep within me was a desire growing to hear more about God. It was the blissful moment when you’re the first of your friends to discover a new band.

But I showed up to bible college only to find that I wasn’t the only one listening to Rob Bell. Everyone was oozing pathos during chapel. Practice sermons were punctuated with rhetorical questions just like Bell’s. Even tough guys were caught inflecting their voice to sound just like his raspy plea. Everywhere I went I met the poor man’s Rob Bell.

If Bell himself could have observed this, there’s no way he would have denied the existence of Hell, because that’s exactly what the culture of preaching had become… a preaching hell. 

I’ve noticed since his departure from pastoral ministry, nobody is trying to reproduce Bell. Instead, this ghetto is filled today with thousands of copy-cat preachers who don’t have enough assurance in their own style and their own voice so they parrot top podcasting preachers.

So, to the Stanley-Driscoll-Judah-Chandler-Levi-Furticks out there… try preaching your message as if you were trying to copy you. You actually might connect well with yourself.

And that's what will connect well with everyone else. 

The Indispensible Quality of a Campus Pastor

If church members think the Senior Pastor only works on Sundays, they’re clueless as to what I do as a Campus Pastor. About half the time at my church we stream the sermon to our campuses, leaving me to do some announcing, praying, and general cheerleading. My congregation sometimes looks at me and asks, “You don’t preach? What did we hire you to do?” But the role of a campus pastor is much more than being a glorified host. And as thousands of churches each year are becoming multi-site, this new pastoral niche is rising in prominence. Anyone can read announcements. Not everyone can flex into the position of a campus pastor. Here are five reasons flexibility is an essential trait of a great campus pastor. 

You are the grease in the machinery of the church.
Multi-site churches have exponentially more moving parts, and therefore exponentially more problems. The need for staff communication is ratcheted up, the ability for church members to feel connected to the entire pastoral staff is hampered. The possibility for colossal failure is high. Most of my job is making sure the gears of campus staff and central staff are playing nicely, as well as communication from our leaders to the congregation is effective. When I do my job well, misunderstandings are cleared up quickly, and misaligned teams and projects are put back in sync with the church’s overall objectives.

You are the voice of encouragement to your leaders.
One of the blessings of the role of a Campus Pastor is that it is relatively free from the burden of overall leadership in the church, and also free from the scrutiny of senior leaders. Because of this, I’m sure I could easily fall into the trap of throwing stones at my elder board or leadership team. But instead, I’ve made it my mission to love my Senior Pastor well by listening to him, learning from him, and highlighting the positives in ministry for him. A well timed note, an honest reflection, a forwarded message of appreciation from a congregation member, and an above and beyond appreciation when he comes to preach live at the campus… these all go a long way in making his job a joy instead of a pain.

You are the champion of the city.
One of the greatest blessings of the multi-site experiment is the ability for large churches to have local impact across a broad region. Since I’m focused on a smaller area, I’ve been able to develop personal relationships with school superintendents, principals, mayors and other city officials, as well as local business owners and pastors. Because of this, it’s easy for me to lead the gospel charge in our local community because my scope is smaller than most autonomous churches. We’re not trying to reach the world, we’re trying to reach our community. 

You are still the shepherd.
No matter how the sermon is delivered on Sunday, people still need a pastor. Because I have about 26 weeks a year where I’m not preparing a sermon, I try to spend ample time over coffee with members, calling visitors, praying over new babies, sitting in my office with couples in counseling, and developing the leaders in the congregation to multiply the ministry. This is my time to learn the lives of my people, and help them know my life as well. I’m sure some in my congregation wished I preached more often, but I hope they know how grateful I am to have the freedom to spend so much time on these critical pastoral functions without the stress of study. 

You are a leader under authority.
I’m convinced that the most obvious “under-shepherd” is the campus pastor. Because my role is to align our congregation with the church at large, I don’t feel the temptation to move the church in the direction of my own preferences. In fact, submission and deference are needed in large doses. Our budgets, programs and philosophies have to be highly aligned across the board. At the end of the day, to build a Christ-exulting church means I often need to give on some of my soapbox issues and remember that we’re all in this together for the glory of the Good Shepherd. 

Make it count: Ignore the Excuses

My wife and I have a small group that I lead at our campus. It sounds more noble than it is. We stumbled into leading it, to be honest, but we truly love the people we're with in the group. They're all having kids, moving around, parenting, making a difference in the community in various ways. Big picture: it's a joy. 

But it meets on Sunday evenings. And on Sunday evenings, I can think up five or six excuses as to why we should cancel small group...

In the first place, I'm a pastor, and the only day I work is on Sunday, so I work really really hard on Sundays. So hard, that by 2pm, I'm exhausted and I need a break. 

Usually someone's out of town.

I just saw them all at church just a few hours ago.

My kids didn't nap today, so they're cra-cra...

My friend's kids didn't nap, and I don't hang out with their kids when they don't nap.

Football season is only here for 17 weeks. 

These are lame excuses. I always find when I ignore the excuses, hanging with other families that want to But I find it's the important things in life, the things that make our lives count that I'm tempted to short-change with lame excuses.

I was preaching through Ecclesiastes 11 this past weekend at Bethel, and these verses really cut to the heart of how we make our lives count...

If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves on the earth, and if a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie. He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.
— Ecclesiastes 11:3-4

The picture is one of a farmer standing in his field in the springtime, wondering what the wind looks like, and if today is a good day to sow seed. Too much wind and the seed won’t be scattered properly. There’s a lot of money in a bag of seed, no farmer can afford to just waste it. So the question is "Is the timing right?" 

But then we also see the same farmer at harvest time, looking out at the crops that need to be collected, and they look up at the clouds and wonder if the weather will rain or not, if they should harvest now or later, and they delay because conditions are not quite right.

These are excuses for why we procrastinate our responsibilities, or even worse, are paralyzed by fear. Solomon's encouragement to us is to ignore the excuses. You want to make your life count? Act when the circumstances around you aren't ideal. Take a bit of a risk. Get done what needs to get done, regardless of the storms around you.

If you wonder, "Will it rain? Is it going to be better tomorrow? Today is inconvenient…" then you are acting like a fool who thinks he knows when the right conditions will come. Acknowledge that circumstances are outside of your control, and the right moment might not come. And get busy. 

Are you one decision away from a great work? Then make the decision to ignore the excuses and get after it.