the shape of leadership

When a Guest Speaker Does Great

Celebrate ministry success — even when it is someone else’s

Chris Colvin on August 8, 2019

Pastor, I trust you took some time off this summer. And you should have. You definitely earned it. It’s a great idea to step away from preaching a few times each year. The demanding pace of preaching weekly can lead to burnout. Regular breaks are an important part of staying energized in ministry.

When you do take a break from the pulpit for a weekend or longer, you have to hand over the reins to someone you trust. It may be a guest speaker, a traveling minister or another staff member. It’s a big responsibility, and I’m sure you approach the decision with a lot of prayer and wisdom.

To be honest, though, it doesn’t always turn out for the best. The speaker’s style may clash with your congregation. Or the subject matter might not hit the right chord. Worse, you may have to do some damage control if the person said something you disagree with. You may find several emails waiting for you Monday morning.

On the other hand, that guest speaker may have done a great job. Instead of criticisms, you keep hearing compliments. In some ways, this can be the more difficult outcome to handle. What do you do when a guest speaker does great? It may sound like a strange question, but it’s one you need to be ready to answer.

The Natural Response

Perhaps you’ve experienced this situation before. A well-intentioned member of your church reached out to tell you how much they loved last week’s guest speaker. The speaker was funny and insightful and sensitive to the Holy Spirit. It was apparently one of the best sermons of the year.

I wonder whether it’s been a while since you’ve heard that about one of your sermons. How does it make you feel to hear such glowing reviews of someone else’s sermon? Chance are, it triggers a bit of jealousy. And that’s a natural response.

Jealousy has been a part of the human condition since Genesis 4. Cain was so jealous of Abel and his acceptable worship to God that Cain became violent. Throughout the ages, jealousy has led people down destructive paths.

As a leader and speaker, you may be more susceptible to jealousy than the average person. That’s because you devote so much of your time and energy to excellence. Developing your speaking ministry, refining your management processes, narrowing your vision focus, and overseeing others requires you to be out front. So when the compliments you hear about others outweigh your own, it can bruise your ego.

When a guest speaker does well, it means you are laboring shoulder-to-shoulder for God’s kingdom.

Overcoming That Impulse

It’s important to face jealousy head-on. Otherwise, it can linger in the background. Like a weed, if the root remains, it will sprout again. If you find yourself feeling jealous over a guest speaker, here are some specific things you can do to overcome it:

First, remind yourself of your own accomplishments. Hearing a compliment about a guest speaker has a unique sting when the member delivering it hasn’t said nice things about your sermons in quite a while. Congregants sometimes overlook the importance of giving their leaders positive feedback. They may assume regular attendance is enough to communicate their appreciation. But silence can be painful.

Familiarity may not always breed contempt, but it does lead to irregular applause. When you first started as pastor of that church, or when that member first began attending, you may have received a lot of admiration. As time went by, those words became quieter and fewer. That doesn’t mean people don’t like you. It just means they assume you know they like you.

Second, be happy for your guest speaker. Whatever you do, make sure you pass along the compliment. Send an email or a text message as soon as you hear it. Express sincere gratitude for what the speaker did for your church. God moved in that service, and you should recognize it.

Another thing you can recognize is your own skillful selection of that guest speaker. Perhaps your member is giving you a compliment as well. What he or she is really saying is, “Thank you for inviting that speaker, Pastor. You always choose the best guests!”

Take it as a sign that you know your people well.

Finally, keep the door open to future invitations. If your guest speaker did a great job, you likely have someone you can depend on when you need a break. Those compliments are an indication that something clicked. You now have a ministry partner who can connect with your congregation, share the Word of God with them, and help them grow closer to the Lord. There’s never anything wrong with that.

Jealousy will rot relationships. But just as easily, gratitude can launch new ones. Just think about how well it reflects on you when your own people are quick to honor other ministers. Sharing those compliments can be the spark that ignites a new bond of shared ministry opportunities. And that guest speaker may have connections that can open doors for new avenues of ministry in your life.

It can be tough when you haven’t heard a compliment in a while. But God did not call you to the applause of people. He called you to be faithful to His work. Part of that work is joining arms with others who can help you become a better leader.

When a guest speaker does well, it means you are laboring shoulder-to-shoulder for God’s kingdom. Make sure you see it as a positive and never a negative.

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