14 July, 2024

Leading Through Preaching

by | 13 June, 2024 | 0 comments

By Chris Philbeck

I’m writing this at the beginning of a new year. For many people a new year marks the opportunity for new beginnings. It’s a time when many make resolutions like losing weight, getting out of debt, or ending a bad habit.  

The beginning of 2024 is significant for me because it marks an ending. I began full-time vocational ministry in May 1980, and I intend to retire from it on June 30, 2024.  

When I graduated from Bible college in 1980, all I wanted to do was be a preacher. Because I was young and inexperienced, I spent a year-and-a-half as a youth pastor, but in 1982 I got the opportunity to be involved in a new church plant. I spent 11 years with that church, followed by almost 10 years in a turnaround church, and I’ll complete a little over 23 years in my current church. God has been so good to me.  


Because of my deep love for the church, I want to finish well. So, I have been very thoughtful and prayerful about my preaching calendar as I conclude this ministry. I’m starting the year with a message series called, “Love Your Church.” I pray it will not only help my church family better understand the Lord’s vision for the church but also love it more than ever. In planning this series, I am reminded of the critical nature of preaching when it comes to leading.  

In his book, Great Leader, Great Teacher, Gary Bredfeldt wrote, “The most powerful leaders among us are the teachers among us.” I love that statement because it affirms the truth that pastors lead through their preaching. That means the sermons we preach not only can provide the opportunity for spiritual growth, but also can lead your church to wherever you believe God is leading.  

Charles V. Bryant provided a great picture of this in his book Rediscovering the Charismata. He noted the Greek word proistemi is used eight times to describe biblical leadership in the New Testament, primarily in Paul’s instruction to Timothy and Titus. The word means “to preside over” or “to be a protector or guardian.” In the book, Bryant used the word to paint the picture of “a seaman on the bow, in front of the others to point out the destination and ways and means of reaching the port.” In other words, the leader is the one who sets direction and inspires others to follow.   

As I think about this leadership truth related to the “Love Your Church” series, I understand that sharing New Testament teachings about the church along with my personal experience with church can be life-changing. That is because sermons can teach, inspire, and motivate. One of my favorite scriptural references to the church appears in Paul’s farewell message to the Ephesian elders, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).  


Teaching people that Jesus loves the church so much he was willing to die for her, along with real stories of how God uses the church to change the world, can only help to inspire and motivate genuine followers of Christ to love the church more. As a result, they will embrace the privilege of belonging, gathering, caring, serving, and witnessing to the world around them.  

Over the years as I have prepared my annual preaching calendar, I always try to find a balance between expositional preaching and topical preaching, because there is value to both.  

Expositional preaching is focused on the explanation of the text with application to modern lives. It takes the time to look at each verse in the context of the entire book so we can have a full understanding of everything God wants us to know.  

Topical preaching takes selected Scriptures to explain and instruct on specific topics, again, with an application to modern life. Because a key rule of biblical interpretation is to interpret the Bible with the Bible, topical preaching needs to include multiple passages when covering a specific topic. But regardless of which method you choose, preaching will always be one of the strongest applications of our leadership.  

As a young church planter (in my 20s), I attended a “How to Break Through the 200 Barrier” conference. Presenters included Carl George, C. Peter Wagner, and John Maxwell. It’s the best conference I’ve ever attended. It was there I first heard Maxwell say, “Leadership is influence.” When we lead through our preaching, we wield great influence.  

Consider Joshua 24, when the Israelites had taken possession of most of Canaan and were settled in the land. That’s when Joshua called the people together and told them, 

“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15). 

The people replied, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods!” (v. 16). And then they said, “We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God” (v. 18) 

Joshua was leading through preaching. He was wielding leadership influence through the proclamation of his words and the witness of his life. Let’s follow that example. 

Chris Philbeck plans to retire as senior pastor of Mount Pleasant Christian Church in Greenwood, Indiana, at the end of June 2024. He has been in ministry since 1980 and has had the privilege of planting a new church, leading a turnaround church, and now leading a megachurch.  


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