On PreachingIn my book, On Preaching, I recommended several best practices for guest preachers.

I can summarize that chapter in one sentence: As a guest preacher, don’t make a mess for the pastor to clean up when you leave.

I recently got a question about that chapter: I advocate clear, bold, and faithful preaching of the word of God. Yet I recommend guest preachers be careful should not say or address anything controversial in the sermon. Is this a contradiction?

This is a good and fair question. But the answer is obvious for guest preachers who are local pastors: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The key to handling this matter properly is to balance biblical authority and pastoral wisdom.

As a herald of God’s word, you have the right and responsibility to preach the truth. This divine call inevitably requires that you say difficult things at times.

But pastoral wisdom will not allow you to mount the pulpit to “get people straight.” As a local pastor, a shepherd’s heart will force you to be wise about what you say, when you say it, and how you say it. Wisdom leads a caring shepherd to lead his flock, not drive them.

Guest preachers should pray for the same pastoral wisdom.

Sure, you have authority to say what the word of God commands you to say. But you do not have responsibility for that local church. You are only giving a sermon or two and leaving. Don’t leave a mess for the pastors to clean up after you leave.

  • Is there sin that should be confronted?
  • Has some error infiltrated the congregation?
  • Do a stern warning need to be issued?
  • Does a divisive subject need to be addressed?
  • Is there a doctrinal matter that needs clarification?

These are issues for the spiritual leaders of the local congregation to preach and teach. Not you. You are only giving a sermon or two and then leaving. Don’t leave a mess for the pastors to clean up after you leave.

What do you think?