Power in the Pulpit


There is a popular preaching textbook with the title “Power in the Pulpit”, and the reference to power is a reference to the potential strength that comes from proper techniques being used to preach an expository sermon. Certainly, that is one form of power! However, there is another sort of power that comes from the one who holds that position in the pulpit, and it is a power that only pastors can truly understand. Pastors hold so many more powers than just the power to preach! Each of these powers comes with responsibilities and duties that can easily overwhelm even the most equipped pastors. Yet, the potential to overwhelm can’t hinder the pastor from fulfilling these responsibilities. Even when there are committees in a church, most members in a congregation know that the buck stops here…right at the pastor’s feet.

One of the most important and most neglected powers in churches today is the power that the pastor holds in driving forward a focus on global missions. The power to share pulpit time with the cause of missions versus the power to deny that time becomes a source of tension for pastors. The power to engage with the missions committee or missions leaders in order to drive forward a missions focus versus the power to delegate and forget that same responsibility is another source of tension for pastors. The power to encourage church members to go on a short term missions trip versus the power to promote some other worthy activity is another source of tension for pastors. The power to advocate for a family member who is raising missions support versus the power to give to the denomination’s missions offering is yet another source of tension for pastors. The list can go on and on! However, there is no denying that pastors hold the power to increase or decrease missions awareness, vision, direction, and action in a church.

A recent article highlights this tension and affirms that part of setting overall vision for a church involves setting a missions vision for the church. One pastor says, “missions for a senior pastor has to begin with a realization of our responsibility.”[1] Interestingly enough, that is where most courses of action begin! If the buck stops at the pastor’s feet, the pastor’s realization and acceptance of that responsibility is where it begins. Once a pastor begins to realize that there is much power in the area of missions involvement that begins with what the pastor does with that power, then a pastor can easily use that power in a way that does not cause tension. Rather, the power will be a catalyst for growth and sustainability so that the church is truly moving forward in global focus.

Here are just a few suggested ways to use power in the pulpit responsibly when it comes to missions:

  1. Consider sharing pulpit time or worship time so that there is a specific prayer request for missions or to highlight a story from the field or to share what God did with some missions dollars that were sent. It doesn’t matter specifically what is done as much as it matters that something about missions is shared during worship. There is power in the pulpit that comes from a focus on missions.
  2. Consider highlighting missions resources for the congregation to use, whether in a church newsletter, on the church website, or in the weekly bulletin. There are more resources than pastors may realize are available. For example, Joshua Project has a free app that believers can put on their phone so they can pray for an unreached people group every day. The power that comes from knowledge of resources is a source for igniting a fire among others.
  3. Consider bringing a missions course to the church or encouraging members to attend one nearby. Perspectives is one of the oldest and most well-known, but now there are others as well. The power in the pastor gaining knowledge in this area or getting laypeople to gain knowledge in this area is a strong source for future growth.
  4. Consider taking a missions “check-up” self-assessment. OMF’s Link Asia team has a free Church Missions Strength Index where a pastor can answer 10 questions so that a report is generated which includes ideas for growing the missions ministry in a church. The power in self-assessment is a true source of motivation for springing forward with purpose.
  5. Consider going on a mission trip, vision trip, or to a missions conference. Because pastors get very little time away, sometimes they are the last to go on a short-term mission trip or on a visit to another country to the field where a missionary is serving. The power that comes from seeing this first hand becomes a conduit for the rest of the congregation to get on board.

The list could go on and on, but the power in the pulpit must be used to advance the cause of missions in the local church. There is no other power from whom the spark must be lit. There is no other power who can influence the congregation for the greatest good. The buck begins and stops all right here, so pastor, use the power in the pulpit today!

Kirsten McClain serves in church missions mobilization for OMF. She has been serving churches and mission agencies for the last 20 years. She has a heart to see the church realize her potential in missions and is driven to be a mobilizer to this end. She lives in Georgia with her husband and three children, and she is ready to direct pastors to the various resources that OMF uses to come alongside churches and individuals so that they can do missions well. kmcclainomfmail@gmail.com

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