For the past several months, we have been trying a new program here at my remarkable congregation, called the "Open Pulpit." It is a program for people with a calling to preach, but not a lot of opportunity. Two or three Saturday nights a month, we have a guest preacher for our "Come-as-you-are Worship Service." (I preach the other two Saturday nights.) The guest preacher signs up for a certain night, prepares a 12 - 15 minute sermon, helps plan the service, delivers the sermon at the service, then we sit down afterwards and I give a little feedback.
So far, we have heard from an associate pastor serving on a church staff, a seminary student, a lay member of our own congregation, the manager of a local Ronald McDonald House, and a college student who is on track toward ordination. We have two people signed up for November and two for January, though none have yet signed up in December. I anticipate that lay speakers, retired clergy, youth and many others would find the opportunity fulfilling.
And let me tell you about my personal reaction - I LOVE IT! Hearing the diversity of preaching styles and theological perspectives is - well that's MY THING, isn't it? And I have a chance to sit and listen, soaking up the word of God for my own spiritual health. It is nice for a preacher to hear a sermon every now and then. It is good for worship leaders to worship.
People in the congregation have responded favorably, also. Many people make an extra effort to greet the guest preachers following the service and thank them for their message. And several have made a point to stop me in order to say how much they like hearing all the different preachers. However, I must say that a couple of the members have expressed to me their disappointment when they learn that it is not me preaching on a given Saturday. But when they say such things, I calmly inform them that one who comes to church because of whom is delivering the sermon is coming to church for the wrong reason, then I smile impishly and take a drink of coffee.
All in all, after three months the Open Pulpit program has been a rousing success. Who'd-a-thunk it? It is nurturing the calling to preach in many people; it opens the congregation to a diversity of preaching perspectives; and it gives me the opportunity to participate in a relatively stress-free worship service a couple of times a month. It's definitely a win-win-win situation!
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