Preaching Leadership Series
“Pastoral Preaching: Leading from the Pulpit” (SL#8)
by Lloyd Elder, adapted from SkillTrack® Vol. 5 - Pastoral Preaching,
written by Frank R. Lewis, DMin, and Lloyd Elder, Th.D.

Study Thesis: Pastoral preaching offers one of the most significant, if often neglected, expressions of leadership within the life of the congregation. From the pulpit, the one who proclaims has the opportunity not only to lead in the worship of God but also to set the direction, pace, and spirit of doing work in His kingdom. This study assumption has been pursued through personal experience and research of the findings of others. A theological and practical concept, plan of action, and title has emerged:

Leading from the Pulpit examines and applies pastoral preaching as a key leadership function in guiding the congregation to achieve its kingdom mission. This is presented in four basic tasks: preparing the preacher, developing the message, shaping the sermon, and preaching the Word. (Elder and Lewis)

Study Team: Because he has proven knowledge and practice of pastoral preaching, I invited my pastor, Dr. Frank Lewis, to share this project. We agreed on specific research, application, and writing assignments; our editor, Joyce M. Byrd, assisted me in designing the final document. Frank reviewed and approved the study which has been used widely in seminars and conferences. We want the outcome to be for all of us the same as expressed by the Apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 4:5: “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”

1. Pastoral Preaching

2. Pastoral Preaching - A Bridge Model:

What does the pastoral preacher seek to do time and again, often from the pulpit? We want to suggest an analogy that visualizes the four tasks involved. Although it is a shift in the analogy, leading from the pulpit is like the construction of a bridge. The pastor/preacher is like a prepared workman building one bridge with the intention of spanning the chasm from the preaching text to waiting people.

Leadership begins with the preparation of the pastor/preacher; such preparation is like the weight-bearing foundation and piers sustaining the bridge. Through “hermeneutics”--the work of biblical interpretation--the pastor constructs the biblical message, spanning toward the people. Then through “homiletics”--the task of shaping the sermon--the pastor builds a span from the biblical message toward the sermon for the congregation. “Leading from the pulpit” is expressed in proclamation, or “preaching the Word.”

For Reflection/Assessment/Application: Take a few moments to reflect on how you prepare for preaching. Start with just the big-chunk approach, as we have done in the Bridge Model. Develop your own model for pastoral preaching. Think about the specific need to lead. Where, if at all, do you “get stuck” in sermon preparation? Do you preach with notes but would like to change your style? How many times (approximately) have you preached during your ministry? How many different sermons do you have on file? (By the way, how many “good sermons” have you preached?) This and other articles to be published in the Servant Leaders Library will seek to add support to your best thoughts and efforts. As seen in the graphic, our categories are:

3. Personal Notes about Preaching

Preaching: With appreciation to others and drawing from their wisdom, this series will report with commendation, definitions, and descriptions of preaching. I am continuing to work with this as my definition:

Christian preaching
is the public communication
of biblical truth
fully revealed in Jesus Christ
through redeemed personality,
calling for believing response
and transformed lives
after the pattern of Jesus Christ.--

Leading: “Leading from the pulpit” seeks to cast a vision for and with the congregation by the content, living example, and spirit of the preaching. I must always be considering my practice: “Do I practice what I preach” about preaching leadership; what could I change in my preaching that would make a difference?

  • Hope-filled, not hopeless?
  • Encouraging, not discouraging?
  • Positive, not negative?
  • Motivated by grace, not by guilt?
  • What we may become, not the way things are?

At this time my pastor, Frank Lewis, is preaching a series of five sermons--one on each of five strategic priorities adopted by our congregation for 2007--2010. That's leading from the pulpit.

Pulpit: The message of “leading from the pulpit” is primarily about leading others to see Jesus and to follow Him. As a young pastor/preacher, I often was a guest preacher for those who would risk it. On one such occasion, I first saw the Scripture motto from John 12:21. As I stepped into the pulpit of my beloved pastor, Bill James Bell, there it was--a simple bronze plate that stated the profound and central task of preaching: “Sir, we would see Jesus.”

Leading from the pulpit is one of the greatest privileges given to the individual who has been called by God to preach the gospel. It is a task-oriented function, not an office. Pastoral pulpit leadership is entrusted to the person who stands week after week to proclaim good news. Churches are crying out for prepared, caring, pulpit leaders; our people and the cultures of the world are demanding a renewed kind of pulpit leader. May each one of us continue to develop and renew our preaching/leadership skills to respond to just that plea. We--Lloyd, Frank, and Joyce--trust we are making some contribution toward your challenging task. Let one of the masters of the craft of preaching have the final say:

And who can conceive of any greater motivation for preaching our very best than this: there is at least one person in the sanctuary listening, one person who, because of this sermon, may have a clearer vision, a brighter hope, a deeper faith, a fuller love. That person is the preacher.
Craddock, Preaching, p. 222

© 2006; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership

“An Essay on Strategic Preaching”
--unpublished as of 1998

by William E. Hull, Ph.D., Professor, Samford University; Beeson Divinity School
Formerly pastor of First Baptist Church, Shreveport, Louisiana
Study Abstract prepared by Lloyd Elder

The term “strategic preaching” is used here to describe a fresh approach to pulpit proclamation designed to carry forward the current homiletical emphasis on preaching as a partnership between pulpit and pew.

Three convictions undergird this new thrust:

  1. We begin with the nature of the congregation since the primary task of pastoral preaching is to call forth and guide the people of God. A primary purpose of preaching is to propel the church toward its intended goal.
  2. The primary role of the pastor as leader is to provide the church with direction into the future. At a very practical level, the pulpit is where the pastor is most visible and where a challenging utterance on the life of the church is most appropriate. It is also where the greatest number of members gather with one another on a regular basis.
  3. This means that the sermon must ever function on two fronts. On the one hand, it seeks to stir up a lively hope, to keep faith open to the future, to create a serendipitous environment where divine surprises are both expected and accepted, and to encourage confidence that, through us, God is “making everything new” (Rev. 21:5). On the other hand, it seeks to warn against complacency, to identify those forces that would thwart the forward movement of the people of God, to discover those breakthrough opportunities for advance that must be seized immediately or be forever lost, to urge courageous risk-taking lest the church fall behind the world in the race to shape the future.

In light of these assumptions we may define strategic preaching as “Christian proclamation designed to guide a congregation in the fulfillment of its mission.” It does so both by beckoning the people to claim God’s promises and by guarding them against any distraction that would take their eyes off the prize that awaits at the finish line. On this understanding, the objective of a sermon is to move its hearers from Point A to Point B, from where they are to where they ought to be, from the indicative of what God has already done for us to the imperative of what we must yet do for Him. In uttering a lively word that seeks to set the people in motion, the preacher not only points the way ahead but gets out in front of the congregation where leaders belong, thereby opening up a path which invites others to follow.

Strategic preaching enriches congregational life.

First, it provides clarity and adds urgency to the most basic questions of any group’s existence: Why are we here? Where are we going? How are we going to get there? What will be required to make this venture? Who will commit to join us for the journey?

Second, this approach permits the integration of preaching and program into a unified expression of pastoral leadership.

Third, anchoring the sermon in the total effort of the church to accomplish its mission gives it added purpose and direction.

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