Not all of you preach, but I suspect that all of you hear sermons with great regularity. One overlooked dimension of leadership is the Sunday sermon. Each week, the preacher rises to offer a word from God, grounded in the witness of Scripture. That word—as it seeks to inform, to persuade or to motivate—performs a leadership role in the life of the church.
Why would I make such a claim? Part of leadership’s role is helping a community understand the big picture: leaders shape the goals and aims of the community. Sometimes the aim is stated clearly; sometimes it is implied. But churches are constantly responding to leaders’ actions and words. Effective leaders seek to always keep the end in mind as they practice leadership.
Leadership through preaching occurs when preaching effectively posits a goal or an aim for persons and congregations. To do this, good preaching connects with hearers both intellectually and emotionally. When done well, preaching brings God’s preferred future into conversation with the present contexts of the hearers’ lives. The sermon creates the space for God’s active work on hearts and minds and for the church to respond.
Preaching matters for our churches, and much more could be said about its significance in the life of the congregation (see resources, below). However, I make this connection about preaching and leadership to offer the following observations:
- Preaching matters—so encourage your preacher to do well with the sermon (and make sure the preacher has the resources and time to hone the craft of preaching).
- Preaching matters—so if you are a preacher, do not neglect the power and possibility that is present in the sermon each Sunday.
- Preaching matters—so preachers, ministers and other leaders need to ask how preaching connects to strategic and pastoral realities. How does the sermon advance the missional life of the congregation?
Elders and preaching ministers need each other. Together, they share in the leadership of a congregation. Find ways to work together, to listen to each other and to prayerfully discern God’s preferred future.
May God bless your ministry of leadership this week!
- William E. Hull. Strategic Preaching: The Role of the Pulpit in Pastoral Leadership. Chalice Press, 2006.
- Thomas G. Long. Testimony: Talking Ourselves into Being Christian. Josey-Bass, 2004.
- Earl Palmer. “The Pulpit as Primary Setting for Defining Reality.” In The Three Tasks of Leadership: Worldly Wisdom for Pastoral Leaders. Eerdmans, 2009, 68–73.
- Carson E. Reed. “The Ends of Leadership: Phronesis and the Leader as Guide.” In The End of Leadership?: Leadership and Authority at Crossroads. Leuven: Peeters, 2017.
- Carson E. Reed. “Motive and Movement: Affective Leadership through the Work of Preaching.” Journal of Religious Leadership 13 no. 2 (2014): 63-82.
Dr. Carson Reed is Vice President for Church Relations at Abilene Christian University and Executive Director of the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry. He also serves as the Director for the Doctor of Ministry Program and holds the Frazer Endowed Chair for Church Enrichment in the Graduate School of Theology. Through the Siburt Institute, Carson does consulting work with congregations and church leaders across the country. His teaching and research centers on leadership, preaching, and issues surrounding faith and culture. Carson and his wife Vickie have been married for over 30 years and have four grown children.