One of the things our church is passionate about is raising up faithful preachers of the Word. As a result, we are often contacted by churches in need of pulpit supply for a Sunday or two. In order to help our guys make the most of this opportunity, we remind them of these seven essentials to effective guest preaching. I hope these are helpful for you and those you are raising up as well. - M
Guest Preaching: 7 Essential Things To Remember
I'm not sure there is a greater honor this side of heaven than being asked to be a guest preacher in a church. To encourage a congregation through the preaching of God's Word? Wow. What a humbling privilege and joy. Of course, there are those who do it well and there are those who completely tank. Just being honest here. Let's consider together seven essential things that can help prepare you to make the most of this incredible opportunity. Seven things to help make sure you honor the Lord and honor the congregation you are seeking to serve as a guest preacher.
1. Preach a sermon you have preached before and love to preach...if possible.
I have a handful of sermons that I love to preach when asked to be a guest preacher. These are sermons that deal with themes I am most passionate about. I encourage you to do the same, if possible. It will help with your prep time and help to assure that you bring a quality message that will encourage and strengthen the congregation in their walk with God.
2. You must be well prepared.
The congregation will be able to tell if you are not prepared and will not feel well served by you. That is the last thing you want them to feel. Preaching a familiar sermon can help you in this, but doesn't guarantee it. Remember, preparation is key. Even if it means pulling some late nights the week of, be prepared when you step into that pulpit. God's people deserve it.
3. Prepare to preach a 30 minute sermon.
No one wants to hear a guest preacher preach a long sermon...unless you are John Piper or Tim Keller. Because every church is different when it comes to average sermon length, it is always better to err on the side of shorter rather than longer. If your church is used to 45-55 minute sermons, awesome. However, most churches don't fall into this category. In my opinion, a 30 minute sermon is a good length to shoot for as a guest preacher. The truth is, preaching too long can actually cause you to lose respect from the congregation and can come off as insensitive and rude. Don't be that guy. No one ever complained from having a guest preacher go a little short.
4. Practice your sermon out loud at least 3 times...and time it.
Practicing your sermon forces you to become familiar with your sermon and how well it does or doesn't flow. It allows you to make needed changes before you step into the pulpit and preach it during an actual service. Plus, it helps you know how long your sermon is so you can manage the clock. Don't be afraid to cut "good" content...in fact, be sure that you do. The goal is not to present every piece of your exegesis in this sermon. Stick with the main thrust of the passage, point them to Jesus, and land the plane on time. Again, discipline yourself to practice at least 3 times. Make this a non-negotiable in your preparation process.
5. Take your phone into the pulpit and turn the timer on.
Seriously. The 30 minute sermon is a big deal. Take a timer into the pulpit to hold you accountable. There is nothing more painful than sitting through a guest preacher whose sermon has no clear landing in site after he's already been going hard for 30 minutes plus! Again, don't be that guy. Your phone will help you in this.
6. Come to the church early and stay late to love on the congregation.
Remember, the way you greet, encourage, and love the congregation before and after you preach is what the congregation will remember most. Make it your goal to shake hands or give a hug to everyone in the congregation BEFORE you preach. It has been said that "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." It is true. Make sure you go the extra mile to show love to those you are preaching to. Be there early. Stay late. Love them well.
7. Have fun and give them joy!
What a privilege it is to preach God's Word to God's people. This is something to take seriously. But have fun and enjoy it at the same time! The folks you are preaching to need more of the joy of the Lord. I guarantee it. We all need more! Ask the Lord to fill you with His joy that you might share it with this congregation. What an encouragement this will be to them. And to you!