By Chris Hefner
Years ago, the ministerial staff at the church I served at joined a guest preacher for a meal after a revival meeting. He had a good sense of humor and was quite different in personality than our senior pastor.
At dinner, he compared himself to a popular “comedian preacher.” He said, “The difference between him and me is that when I preach, people get saved.” I was quite disappointed with his arrogance.
This man who was supposed to be preaching the Word of God cared more about the public response than he did the hearts of his audience. It came out later that this preacher was living immorally.
I share this anecdote because being a guest preacher is an important privilege. As a pastor who’s experienced the good and bad of guest speakers, here are some things pastors would like guest speakers to know.
1. You’re a guest. Act like one.
The best guests are always gracious and encouraging. Being warm, welcoming, and complementary will go a long way to people hearing you.
Following up on your preaching event with a thank you note is a wonderful way to express your gratitude for the opportunity to speak.
2. Be attentive to time constraints.
We have multiple Sunday morning services, which means we have a built-in time limit of 30 minutes. If you’re given a time limitation, respect it.
Revival meetings may provide you more time flexibility, but if the church is used to hearing someone preach 40 minutes, and you preach for an hour and fifteen minutes, you’re likely to wear out your listeners.
3. Preach the Word, not your agenda.
As a guest, it’s not your job to fix the church to whom you’re preaching. As a matter of fact, pastor, it’s not your job either. God changes and fixes through the power of His Word.
When you preach the Word, you give God an opportunity to work and to correct. God has promised to bless His Word. He hasn’t promised to bless my theological positions.
4. Remember, the pastor has to preach/lead after you leave.
Your credibility comes from the credibility of the pastor who invited you. You’re his guest.
If you preach your agenda, stir up controversy, or preach something inaccurate, you can damage the church rather than encourage the church.
5. Seek the Lord’s direction for what you preach.
I have those favorite sermons and illustrations I like to reuse. I don’t believe anything is wrong with preaching a sermon more than once.
But when you’re a guest, don’t just preach your favorite sermon. Listen to the Lord. He may lead you to preach something someone in the church especially needs to hear.
6. Trust the Holy Spirit.
God uses means (invitations, pleas, sermons, and prayers) to bring people to conviction, repentance, and salvation. But we don’t need to manipulate.
The preacher I referenced in the opening paragraph manipulated listeners at the invitation. Not only did I hear his manipulation, but I counseled with dozens of those who responded, and they weren’t sure why they responded or what they needed.
As a guest, you should give an invitation. It’s right to plead, to pray, and to pursue a response from people. But we need to trust the Holy Spirit to work in hearts. He doesn’t need our manipulation; He requires only our obedience.
7. Don’t worry about the honorarium.
I’ve preached at other places and been generously blessed. I’ve also preached and received nothing. God will take care of your expenses and your needs.
A word to pastors and churches who invite guests— be generous. Your guest is taking time away from family and maybe their ministry to be there with you. Make sure to bless them financially through an honorarium or love offering.
What other things would you like your guests to know when they speak or preach?
CHRIS HEFNER (@chrishefner) is husband to a beautiful wife and fantastic mommy, Jean Hefner, daddy of two little boys, William and Nathan, and senior pastor at Wilkesboro Baptist Church in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. He’s also professor of Western Civilization and Apologetics at Fruitland Baptist Bible College and Ph.D. graduate from the Billy Graham School of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.