Skip to content

Preachers and Leaders 4: Preaching and congregational leadership today

preachers-and-leaders-310-190Background: This post is part 4 of an essay called “Preachers and Leaders”. I am seeking to demonstrate that preaching sermons should be understood as an act of responsible congregational shepherd-leadership. I argue that preaching is the public component of the speech of a congregational shepherd-leader to the congregation under his care, by which he ensures that the truth handed down in the Scriptures is learned and obeyed by that congregation, in light of the congregation’s particular circumstances.

WSB-cover-thumbnailIn this essay, I am responding to a recent trend to separate preaching from congregational leadership, which I believe is biblically and historically unwarranted. One example of this trend appears in recent debates among “complementarians” about women and preaching–hence the essay has been published in the book Women, Sermons and the Bible: Essays Interacting with John Dickson’s Hearing Her Voice (Peter G. Bolt and Tony Payne, eds., Sydney: Matthias Media, 2014). However, the issues addressed in the essay are broader than the particular debate about gender. My essay appears here with the kind permission of the publisher.

Here are the sections of the essay which appear on the site so far:


Preaching and congregational leadership today

Now, as then, preaching should be understood as the public component of the speech of a congregational leader to a congregation under his care, by which he ensures that the congregation learns, obeys and holds on to the truth of God’s word. A congregational leader leads his congregation by preaching; conversely, preaching is the key public expression of a congregational leader’s role.

As we have seen, some recent authors wish to reconcile the practice of women preaching with a complementarian framework. In doing so, they have claimed that the act of preaching carries little or no relevant authority, and is thus quite different from the ‘teaching’ envisaged in the New Testament (especially in 1 Timothy 2:12). Yet this claim is inconsistent with the New Testament witness and with key figures in church history. Preaching, in itself, is an act of congregational leadership. Preaching therefore always involves significant dimensions of responsibility and authority. Anyone who engages in the preaching role—whether lay or ordained, regular or occasional—is engaging in an act of congregational leadership. Therefore preaching shouldn’t ever be separated from questions of relationship, gender and authority. Indeed, it is in the very act of preaching—and in our decisions about who should preach—that our central convictions about the nature of Christian authority and leadership will be expressed and displayed most clearly.

We have seen how the New Testament bears witness to the importance of responsible and authoritative ‘shepherd-speech’ by congregational leaders, and that it employs a range of ‘speech’ words to describe this activity. The word ‘teach’ in the Pastoral Epistles, including in 1 Timothy 2:12, is an important one of these terms, focusing on how congregational leaders instruct and inform their people so that sound doctrine is understood, learned and obeyed.

We have also seen how key figures throughout the history of the church have emphasized the importance of preaching as the public means by which shepherds lead their sheep. These historical figures frequently used the language of ‘teaching’ with reference to this public preaching ministry—often in explicit dependence on the language of the Pastoral Epistles. The relative availability of the Scriptures throughout history makes little difference to the need for shepherd-leaders to preach and teach those Scriptures. No matter how many Bibles our congregations or the individuals within them own, we still need godly, responsible leaders who preserve the truth through private instruction and public preaching.

There is, of course, a vital place for more general encouragement and mutual exhortation in congregational life. There are various kinds of ‘ministries of the word’ in which Christian brothers and sisters are called mutually to encourage one another (e.g. Col 3:16; Eph 4:15-16; 1 Corinthians 11-14; Heb 3:12-13, 10:24-25).1 The voices of men and women, young and old, should ring amongst us with God’s word, and should do so more and more. As we encourage this, however, we should not neglect or undermine the significance of the public preaching ministry. Alongside personal admonition and exhortation, preaching is the key means by which a congregational leader ensures that the apostolic truth is guarded within individual congregations. Preaching, in other words, cannot be separated from congregational leadership. A congregational leader leads by preaching; conversely, preaching is the public enactment of congregational leadership.

Through this ministry, we pray, God by his Spirit and his word of grace will continue to draw many to himself, building us up and bringing us into the inheritance among all those who are sanctified (Acts 20:32).

This post is part 4 of a series:


Footnotes:

  1. cf. P Adam, Speaking God’s Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching (IVP, Leicester, 1996), 75-6; C Marshall and T Payne, The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift that Changes Everything (Matthias Media, Kingsford, Sydney, 2009), 44-59
Published inChurch

Publications by Lionel Windsor:

  • The Named Jew and the Name of God: A new reading of Romans 2:17–29

All posts

Recent blog posts

  • Shipwreck with rainbow in backgroundGrace in ministry: Avoiding the shipwreck (1 Timothy 1:12–20)
    "There was a widespread view expressed by participants that within [the church] culture there was an over-emphasis on sin and an under-emphasis on grace". The report describes how this grace problem permeated the culture. It affected membership commitment expectations, views of authority, pastoral care, and more. And yet, the thing is: Nobody would deny that this church believed in grace. They preached a conservative evangelical reformed doctrine of grace. But on the ground, in so many instances, grace was not a key feature of this church’s ministry and relationships—with disastrous results. Today I want us to grasp that in Christian ministry, grace can’t only be the content we preach. Grace also must permeate and transform everything about us personally. And I want to give some suggestions for things we can do even now in lockdown, to wage the warfare of grace. (a sermon)
  • Yes no“Paul within Judaism” and Romans 2:17–29
    My article on Romans 2:17–29 supports one key feature of the "Paul within Judaism" perspective, but undermines another common feature.
  • Photo by Engin Akyurt on UnsplashThe goals of Bible teaching (1 Timothy 1:1–11)
    In gospel ministry and Bible teaching, if you’re not committed to the right goal, or if you have the wrong goal, it’s not just a matter of being ineffective: you’ll be downright dangerous. So what is that goal? What are you seeking to achieve in your gospel ministry and Bible teaching - now and in the future? And how would you know if you’d done it right? This passage in 1 Timothy 1:1–11 speaks to this issue of the goals of ministry and teaching. It challenges us to think about our own aims in teaching, and to see how important it is to get it right. A sermon preached at Moore College Men's Chapel on 14 July, 2021.
  • Slow-burn crazy-making behaviours. Photo by Vadim Sadovski on UnsplashSlow-burn crazy-making behaviours: recognising and responding
    Do you know someone who seems to have drama and problems constantly appear around them? Whenever you relate to this person, perhaps you find yourself feeling vaguely guilty, or uncomfortable, or put down, or obligated to affirm them? Do you often feel like you’re questioning yourself and your actions because of what they say and do? You don’t feel the same way around other people; it’s just this individual who seems to attract these dramas and give rise to these feelings in you. If that’s the case, the chances are it’s not you who is the problem. It’s quite possible that the person you’re thinking of is exhibiting a pattern of behaviours that can be significantly detrimental to you and to others. This pattern of behaviours is hard to pin down; it doesn’t seem too serious in the short term, and indeed it might appear quite normal to a casual acquaintance. However, over the long term, it can cause serious problems for you and others. That’s especially true in close-knit communities, like families, churches and other Christian ministries.
  • Romans Crash CourseRomans Crash Course (video)
    A 75 minute video course in the Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans designed for church members and leaders.
  • The Mistranslation "Call Yourself a Jew" in Romans 2:17: A Mythbusting StoryThe mistranslation “call yourself a Jew”: A myth-busting story (Romans 2:17)
    This is a story about a scholarly myth and how I had the chance to bust it. I’m talking here about a small but significant 20th century biblical translation: “call yourself” instead of “are called” in Romans 2:17.
  • Breaking news: Religious Scandal in RomeThe named Jew and the name of God: A new reading of Romans 2:17–29
    I've just had an article published in the journal Novum Testamentum. In it, I provide a detailed defense of my new reading of Romans 2:17–29. This passage is not primarily about Jewish salvation - rather it's primarily about Jewish teaching and God's glory.
  • Photo by Joseph d'Mello on UnsplashPreaching the Pastoral Epistles
    A one-hour audio seminar with principles and ideas for preaching the biblical books 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus ("Pastoral Epistles")
  • A Crash Course in Romans: Livestream
    Here's a <90 minute "Crash Course in Romans" I'm running on Monday evening 1 Feb 2021. It's aimed at leaders and any interested members of my church St Augustine's Neutral Bay and Church by the Bridge Kirribilli. Anyone is welcome to watch the livestream.
  • Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on UnsplashWhat’s wrong with the world? Is there hope? (Ephesians)
    Guilt, weakness, spiritual slavery, prejudice, arrogance, tribalism, conflict, war, victimhood, persecution, pain, suffering, futility, ignorance, lying, deceit, anger, theft, greed, pornography, sexual sin, darkness, fear, drunkenness, substance abuse, domestic abuse, workplace abuse, spiritual powers... In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he says many things about the problems we face in this world. He also gives us wonderful reasons to find life, hope and healing in Jesus Christ. Along the way, he provides practical teachings about how to respond and live together.

On this site

All content copyright Lionel Windsor