Question: Many years ago when I worked for a small local church and got in a car accident and was facing a lengthy recovery. The church board had to meet to decide if I was to be paid and for how long. It was a scary time. Thankfully, they stood with me in my hour of need, but they could just as easily have gone a different way. So here is a topic not thought about often in the small church: how much “sick leave” or “recovery time” should the pastor have and who pays the pulpit supply while he/she recovers?
Dave: The number one job of the church board should be to take care of the pastor. In a perfect world I would expect the board to continue to pay the pastor during his recovery no matter how long it takes. Notice I said, “in a perfect world?” In many churches the pastor is regarded as an employee of the church. In churches such as this there can often be little honor and respect given to the pastor. Let me say it again, the first job of the church board is to take care of the pastor.
Similarly, pulpit supply should always be paid by the church.
I know one pastor who’s church had a policy that the pastor could only be out of the pulpit two times a year. Any more than that and the pastor would have to pay for pulpit fill out of their own pocket. On one occasion the pastor’s mother in law was having cancer surgery out of state. As one would imagine, the pastor and his family wanted to be with mom for this scary event. Unfortunately the pastor had already used up his ‘time out of the pulpit’ and was told he would have to pay for pulpit fill himself. I think this is criminal. The pastor left church.
Question: When and where does evangelism occur? In the pulpit? Should we preach to the lost or edify the saints? Can you do both at the same time? If you are doing verse-by-verse exegetical preaching, does evangelism fit in there?
Dave: I don’t believe our preaching should ‘focus’ on the lost, but our preaching should be ‘aware’ of the lost who might be sitting out there listening to us. This means we try to stay away from words that will have little meaning to unbelievers and go out of our way to explain things that are clear to us, but confusing to them.
When I was pastoring most of my sermons were verse-by-verse, exegetical sermons. If the passage lent itself to the gospel message I taught that. If not, I did not try to squeeze in the gospel in an unnatural way. Usually at the end of each message I briefly explained the gospel (regardless if it came out in the sermon or not) and gave people an opportunity to respond.
Having said all that, let’s not forget that it’s our people who are called to be ‘salt and light’ in their world. We need to be training and equipping our members to be an influence for Jesus in the lives of their friends, relatives, neighbors, and co-workers. I believe that our preaching and teaching are great tools for evangelism but our people are better tools.