Some preachers have a public pulpit, so to speak; they announce good news to some portion of the general population: as street preachers, cyber preachers, crusade preachers, radio preachers, even those who preach at public events (weddings, funerals, inaugurations, baccalaureates, etc.).
Most preachers, however, are parish preachers; they declare the gospel to a specific congregation gathered in a specific location week after week. More than 100 million Americans gather each week to hear their sermons; and as a result, these preachers function as leaders in the largest, most influential network of volunteer organizations in the country.
Rev. Bill Hybels, pastor of the innovative Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago, describes the local congregation this way:
“There is nothing like the local church when it’s working right. Its beauty is indescribable. Its power is breathtaking. Its potential is unlimited. It comforts the grieving and heals the broken in the context of community. It builds bridges to seekers and offers truth to the confused. It provides resources for those in need and opens its arms to the forgotten, the downtrodden, the disillusioned. It breaks the chains of affections, frees the oppressed, and offers belonging to the marginalized of the world. Whatever the capacity for human suffering, the church has greater capacity for healing and wholeness…. No other organization on the earth is like the church. Nothing even comes close.” (from Courageous Leadership, 23).
These words aptly describe the organization whose leader and spokesperson is a gospel preacher. Every congregation under the preaching of any pastor has the potential to embody the reality described by Rev. Hybels. This is the challenge and glory of the preaching vocation.
I take this quote from the weekly column of a preacher and leader worthy of emulation, David Emery, pastor of Middletown Christian Church in Louisville. This church is a Founding Partner of the Academy of Preachers and currently host institution for our administrative center.
I send this quote out to young preachers everywhere. The pastors whose writing sent it my way (Bill Hybels, David Emery) are preachers of influence and significance; their preaching is making a difference in the world; they should inspire every young preacher in America.
Thank you Bill Hybels. Thank you David Emery.