A Call to Reform a “Culture of Guest Preachers” in the Slavic Church

guest preachersDISCLAIMER #1: This post is not against missionaries, nor against any one preacher that has visited or spoke at any Slavic church. Most of these “guest preachers” are people who fear God, are called by God, and are doing the Lord’s work all over the world. Many of them do genuinely need financial assistance, and treat every donation with outmost integrity.

DISCLAIMER #2: Many of these “guests preachers” have served as a tremendous blessing to churches in the US, bringing a fresh word from God, and my call is not to “boycott” all guest preachers. My call is to change the constant diet on guest preachers.

DISCLAIMER #3: Many churches are not doing enough to support missions and evangelism around the world, and the guest missionaries have played a role in helping “The Church” to do more outside the four walls of the church.

DISCLAIMER #4: This is not a problem in Slavic churches that are located far away from large cities, or away from large pockets of Slavic immigrants. This is primarily a problem in large Slavic churches, or in large pockets of Slavic immigrants.

Having made the above 4 disclaimers, if you continue to read this blog and become upset and angry over my view on “guest preachers,” please refer back to the 4 disclaimers above to cool down.

BACKGROUND INFO:

  • For those unfamiliar with the Slavic Christian community, a typical Slavic church will have 3 or 4 preachers in every service, most of whom are scheduled several minutes before each service.
  • Because immigrants have come from all parts of the Soviet Union (15 republics), many guest pastors, missionaries, evangelists and singers often visit the United States to raise funds for their ministry.
  • In some parts of the United States, a Slavic church can have 2 or 3 guests in each service, all hoping to raise financial support for their ministry.
  • Last weekend (December 1st, 2013) for example, as one of the pastors of City On A Hill Church, I received 7 different phone calls from guest pastors and singers, all wanting to participate in our weekend service.
  • Even if churches schedule their preachers several weeks in advance, most are forced to reschedule because of “unexpected guests” that show up to each service.
  • Why would Slavic pastors allow guest pastors/missionaries to preach, even if they were unplanned, uninvited, or they don’t know them? Because most of these guests find someone they know in the church, and utilize that relationship to influence the pastor to give them pulpit time. Then, the pulpit is used to “give a hint” that they are in financial need, and most churches end up either taking an offering, or blessing them financially out of the church budget.

11 POINTS TO WHY THE CURRENT CULTURE OF “GUEST PREACHERS” IS NOT HEALTHY IN THE SLAVIC CHURCH

1. PULPIT TIME vs. FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

The church must understand that what guest pastors, missionaries, and evangelists need most is financial assistance, not pulpit time. A church can still financially support a guest, without giving up pulpit time.

The pulpit must play a significant role in each and every service. It must be planned, prayed over, and not bargained with.  Martyn-Lloyd Jones wrote, “Preaching the Word is the primary task of the Church, the primary task of the leaders of the Church, the people who are set in this position of authority; and we must not allow anything to deflect us from this, however good the cause, however great the need.

If you call one of the pastors of City On A Hill Church to visit and speak at our service, just know that 99.9% of the time, the answer will be no. If you call City On A Hill Church to ask for financial support, we’d gladly meet with you, find out the need, and bring it up to a team that makes decisions concerning missions funding.

2. TICKLING OF THE EARS

Again, the church must understand that what guest pastors, missionaries, and evangelists need most is financial assistance. If someone is visiting a church with a purpose of raising funds, it’ll affect their sermon topic, presentation and teaching. In such circumstances, it is much easier for these preachers to fall into a trap and “tickle the ears” of the listeners. Even a sermon and words like “hold on to the true teachings of your parents” are often spoken out of a desire to “tickle the ears” of the listener, especially if the preacher knows that such a sermon will open up the hearts of the listeners to give.

Do all guests “tickle the ears” of the listeners? No. But, a constant, weekly diet on guest pastors and evangelists, overtime, is not healthy. Guest pastors and evangelists will never speak on certain Biblical topics and principles, for it’ll not make sense for them to preach on those topics, or it’ll lead to a lesser offering.

3. LACK OF KNOWLEDGE OF THE AUDIENCE

The traveling guest pastors and evangelists do not know the needs, circumstances, and issues of each community. And a constant diet on such preachers can have a negative impact, overtime, and seem irrelevant, especially to a younger audience.

For example, when I was in Pennsylvania, I heard a local preacher share about a need for patience, especially when faced with a buggy on a road when you are late to work. I, as a guest, never knew people in Pennsylvania need to deal with buggy problems.

At times, there are families going through something in a church, like a loss of a child, a divorce, or physical abuse, and therefore, certain words, sayings, or sermon topics would be inappropriate at a given time. If a church is constantly on a “guest” diet, it is more likely to lead to hurt or pain, or, keep the people away from healing or forgiveness, because of a lack of speaking on a certain subject.

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4. EXPOSITORY PREACHING and the WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD

A constant diet of “guest preachers” is like going to a buffet, and only eating mashed potatoes. Guest preachers will only speak on certain aspects of a Christian life.

The whole Bible was given for us to read, to hear, and to be taught. Yes, the Holy Spirit can inspire a guest preacher to speak on a “needed subject.” But, the Holy Spirit HAS ALREADY spoken through the revealed word of God. Instead of crossing our fingers and hoping a revelation from God comes, the church leaders must focus on preaching the WHOLE counsel of God, which is revealed in the Bible.

A healthy diet is a diet of food from all categories from the food pyramid. If our bodies lack a certain vitamin, overtime, the body wont work properly. Guest preachers, though they might be fully capable of teaching on every aspects of the word of God, don’t know what has been taught the last several months in the church. Churches must transition to expository preaching and teaching through the whole counsel of God, for people to grow spiritually in a healthy manner, without deficiencies.

5. KNOW WHO LABOR AMONG YOU (1 Thes. 5:12)

As pastors, we are called to know those who labor amongst us.

I recall as one time, we visited The City Church with my friend Mike Khochay. Mike was moved by the atmosphere, and went up to Pastor Jude Fouquier to ask if he can share a testimony (if you know Mike, you know this isn’t out of the ordinary…). Pastor Jude turned to him, and whispered, “The Bible says we are to know those who labor amongst us. I don’t know you, and Biblically, I cannot allow you to speak here.” Later on, we met, got to know Pastor Jude and have stayed friends since. But, his words have impacted us to this day.

There is no way to know every guest that comes through our area, especially at the rate they come through. “To know” does not equal, “someone recommended him to us.”  As pastors, we need to be very cautious and highly protective of who is allowed to speak behind the pulpit. Even if the speaker does not say anything wrong behind the pulpit, the people in the church automatically assume that person to be trustworthy. Such openness to guests in the Slavic churches has led to finances going to dishonest, even immoral people.

6. THE HARDEST PART OF THIS DILEMMA

Most pastors and church members agree that the “guest preachers” culture in the Slavic church must change. And most members will complain and openly speak out against this problem. That is only until one of their friends, or friends of friends come to visit from Ukraine, Russia, or another country.

Most guests end up preaching at a church not because of the invitation of the pastor, but because of the insistence of a church member.

Reformation of this problem not only starts from leadership, but from church members as well.

As pastors, how do we say “no to pulpit time for a guest” and yes to a continued relationship with a member of a church, who has a friend pastor visiting from Moldova?  Honestly, I don’t know… We’ve lost some relationships because of this issue. But, at this point, guarding the pulpit is more important for us, then keeping relationships that are conditional upon us releasing the pulpit to their friends.

7. AM I ANTI-MISSIONS?

I do believe each church should set aside their “tithe” to missions giving. But, how a church decides to spend their Missions Funds is up to them. I would argue that there is a better way to invest Mission Funds, than just bless every traveling guest with $200. Most Slavic churches have given $100,000’s of dollars to missions, but if you were to ask any of their leaders and members where the money went and how it was spent – no one would know.

A church would be wiser to select several missionaries or projects, develop a long-term partnership, and invest heavily into them! Then, the funds would be accountable, each member could visibly “see” the work, pray for the work, and support the work.

Further, these missionaries would not have to spend a lot of their time traveling to raise funds. Their only travel would be to come to your church once a year, and give a praise report of what God is doing to the people that support them!

8. WHY NOT GIVE A 5-MIN GREETING TO GUESTS?pint-sized-preachers

Most people have figured out that at City On A Hill, we plan the main message in advance, and traveling guests do not come through, unless it is someone we know, and have invited to come and speak. Yet, guests will still come, and want 5-10 minutes to introduce themselves.

Here is my response: As a church, we gather only once a week. Midweek, our church meets at home groups. Our services are 2 hours long, the first hour being dedicated to worship. Therefore, we only have 52 hours in a YEAR as pastors of City On A Hill, to teach the word of God. With such an understanding and view, each hour is prayed over carefully, and prepared in advance.

There is no significant difference between giving a guest a 5 min word, and just greeting him publically from the pulpit.  The only difference is the time and toll that it takes out of service, and its affect on the attention spam (if a guest takes a microphone, he will typically take more than 5 minutes)…

We will gladly greet a visitor from the stage.

If you are going to give someone time for a 5-min sermon, why not give one of the youth pastors in the church? It is a great opportunity to grow, and is a great way to invest couple minutes of a service time!

9. BUT OUR CHURCH DOESN’T HAVE GOOD PREACHERS

There are churches that have been built on guest preachers, and their pastors don’t do much more than make announcements and pray. Such churches claim to have “benefited” from traveling guests.

But the cause of such a state has been the influx of guest preachers. If there were no guest preachers, pastors would dedicate more time to sermon preparation, and opportunities would have opened up for other, maybe younger people in the church to practice and grow in teaching and preaching, and overtime, the church would be much more healthier.

Yes, it would seem like a step “backwards” for a church to reform their services, and only invite guests periodically. But, that step backwards is a temporary setback. In the long run, the church will be much healthier.

10. HEALTHY BALANCE

Biblically, we do see Apostle Paul and others traveling from church to church, teaching and preaching. My blog does not call for the other extreme, when a pastor completely takes over the pulpit, and the church will never again hear from anyone else.

At City On A Hill Church, there are several people whom we invite at least once a year, to speak to our congregation. These are men like George Davidyuk, Alex Shevchenko, Gordon Banks, Joel Stockstill, and several others. When these people visit us, the ministry they bring to our leadership team behind the stage serves even as a greater blessing to our church, than what they speak on the stage.

Guest preachers can be a HUGE blessing to a local congregation. Sometimes, a guest will say the same thing that the pastor has been saying for months, but, because it is coming from someone else’s mouth, the people will respond and be moved in a new way!

Also, there are pastors & teachers that specialize in “certain” topics, and we invite them to speak at City On A Hill on that subject. For example, we are inviting Ravi Zacharias to speak at City On A Hill on the issue of Apologetics in September, 2014. We are bringing in Heath Lambert, author of “Finally Free” in the spring of 2014, and we will focus a whole week on issues of pornography, lust and sexual addictions.

And finally, guest missionaries can serve as a tremendous blessing to the church. As they share their testimonies, people will be encouraged to reach out locally, pray globally, and maybe even travel globally. Such testimonies need to be regular, planned, and systematic. But not at a diet rate that currently exists in the Slavic church.

11. AM I A HYPOCRITE?

I do travel from time to time, and speak at other churches. And actually, in the Spring of 2014, we hope to plan a trip to the East Coast and Northeast, together with Pastor Mike Khochay, and speak in several Slavic churches. Our goal will not be to gather any finances, but to see what God is doing throughout the East Coast, and hopefully minister in several areas. Am I a hypocrite from writing this blog, if I myself continue to travel?

If we do speak at a church, it is because we have been invited. But, if a pastor of a church does not feel like our ministry can be a blessing to their church, I will not try to utilize a relationship in that church, to break open the door, just to get to the pulpit.

IN CONCLUSION:
This blog came out of months of prayer, many discussions, and frustration weekend after weekend, when my phone goes off constantly getting calls from guests wanting to speak at our church. Such is the case most weekends.

Yes, last weekend, we did say no to 7 guests speaking at our church. But yet, we did have guests minister at our church, at our South/main campus. Did we show partiality?

No. Our main desire for that service was to speak on Jesus vs. Cults. Instead of speaking from book knowledge about Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses and how to minister to them, we invited a former Mormon and a former Jehovah’s Witness, and they shared from their perspective & experience. Their knowledge in that area far surpassed anything I could have known. Therefore, we utilized their testimony to teach our people on how to witness to people who are Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and how their beliefs differ than what the Bible teaches.

Guests can be a blessing. They can also be a hindrance, if we are not careful. If the current culture of a constant diet on guest preachers continues in the Slavic church, you are not going to get a lot of protests. What you will have is a quiet, mass exodus of young people from the Slavic church. Young people are longing to be taught the word of God & doctrine.

Перевод даной статьи на русский язык, переведенный благодаря Валерию Борзов, https://russellkorets.com/2013/12/03/призыв-реформировать-постоянный-дие/

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