As part of the comment-storm late last week following this post, I received the following comment:
I appreciate your posts. I’m glad you have a coworker to study with – does this mean that the congregation there supports 2 preachers? I would like to see an online conversation about why this happens as opposed to supporting one of the preachers to work in a location where the church is small or non-existent and cannot fully support a preacher. Preachers still have opportunities to stay in touch and study together online.
I read this and said to myself, “Blog post topic! Great!” (Seriously—ask me to write about any spiritual subject, and I probably will) The commenter is correct in her surmise—Shawn and I are indeed both fully (abundantly, even!) supported by the Jackson Heights church. It is also true that the elders here could send one of our fully supported selves off to work with the church in Siberia while the other one stayed home to hold the fort (if it comes up, I think Shawn would do well in the Siberian work). Due to the magic of the Internet, he and I could continue to study together, even during his time on the tundra.
However, the elders have chosen not to do this. I don’t know all of their reasons, but as a participant in a two-preacher arrangement, I see all sorts of advantages to it, to wit:
It Imitates a Marked Biblical Pattern. I don’t think that every preaching arrangement in the New Testament involves two preachers, but an awful lot of them do. In Mark 6:7, Jesus sends the Twelve out two by two, and based on Matthew 10:2-4, I think we can even tell who the partners were: Peter and Andrew, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, James and Thaddaeus, Simon and Judas. In Luke 10:1, Jesus sends the 72 out two by two.
In Acts, Paul and Barnabas go on the first missionary journey together. They go to the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 together. Following the council, Judas called Barsabbas and Silas go down to Antioch to encourage the church together. After the Barnabas-Paul split, Barnabas and John Mark travel together, while Paul and Silas embark on the second missionary journey. One might almost say that in the New Testament, workers for the kingdom went with co-workers whenever possible.
Of course, as it is impossible for many churches to have elders, so too it’s impossible for many churches to fully support two workers. However, I think that churches should have elders whenever possible, and there is ample Scriptural support for the notion that preachers should work together whenever possible. If our inspired brethren in the first century (and indeed the Lord Himself) thought that two-preacher arrangements were valuable, who are we to disagree?
It’s Necessary. From the perspective of the ordinary member in the pews, it’s not immediately obvious that there is more work for a preacher to do in a congregation of 250 than there is in a congregation of 75. Don’t both churches require the same two sermons a week?
Well, yes, but that hardly tells the whole story! It’s true that preachers work with churches, but it’s also true that preachers work with people, and 250 people is a whole, whole lot more than 75. There are more questions, more phone calls, more drop-in visitors, more studies, more devotions, more sick and shut-ins, and on and on and on.
What’s more, there are more opportunities. Shawn is one of the hardest-working preachers I’ve ever met, but he told me that during the year and a half he was alone at Jackson Heights, he couldn’t get close to doing everything that he wanted to do. He had to engage in constant spiritual triage—focusing on the work that was essential, as opposed to what was merely good and desirable. Now that I’ve joined him, even though there are two of us, I find myself with far more to do than I ever had when I was working by myself at Joliet.
Different Abilities. Working together also allows preachers to specialize. Contrary to the hopes of many churches that are looking for preachers, there is no one man who is going to be good at every aspect of the work of an evangelist. Every preacher out there is going to gravitate toward certain aspects of the work, which means that the other things that he might do will be emphasized less or outright neglected. By contrast, two preachers working together can complement each other.
For instance, I personally have zero ability as an organizer and an administrator. I am fully capable of announcing a meeting of the evangelism group at the beginning of a sermon and then not attending the meeting 45 minutes later because I have forgotten about it. My head is filled with moonbeams.
Shawn’s head, however, is not filled with moonbeams. He’s a very grounded-in-reality kind of dude. He loves to make the arrangements for men’s weekends, VBS’s and so on. Frankly, I’m delighted to let him handle such matters. It frees me to do the things that I love to do and am best at—things like maintaining the church blog.
Different Personalities. Of course, differences in focus among preachers are due to differences in personality. Different men will approach the work of the gospel in different ways, and they will interact with different people differently. The result can be of great benefit to the church.
For example, in the pulpit, Shawn is a powerful, passionate speaker, and his is a style that lots of people connect with and respond well to. I, on the other hand, am quieter and more reflective, and there are brethren who appreciate that kind of preaching. As a result, when Shawn and I are sharing the pulpit, everybody is going to hear preaching that resonates with them at least part of the time.
The same holds true of our personal interactions, both with members and with outsiders. Shawn and I are close friends, but it is certainly true that of the two of us, I am quirkier and he is more conventional. He will click better with those who are more like he is, and I will click better with those who are more like I am. In consequence, at least one of us is likely to work well with everybody we encounter.
Conclusion. More could be said about this, but I mean to write a blog post, not a novel! From outside, it may seem that two preachers working with the same church is a classic example of redundancy. In reality, though, a two-preacher arrangement offers the potential for much more. I believe that Shawn and I working together offer more benefit for the Lord’s work than we would if we were working separately. May all who are given the opportunity to work together in His name glorify Him!