Guest Ministries in the Church
The itinerant or guest ministry has a grave responsibility to the pastor and the local church before God. Much of what is said here can also be applied to associate/assistant pastors and other church staff positions. There are definite things that should and should not be done when ministering in someone else’s church. Whether you are a musical, teaching or preaching ministry, etc. there are things that must be observed.
You are in the church to bring blessing to that body of believers and its pastor. Any minister is sent to a local body to build it up, unify it, and equip it under the leadership of that local pastor (Ephesians 4:11-13). If that is not taking place then their purpose for being there is void. Many have ruined their reputation and shut doors of vital ministry by violating certain principles. Remember, it is the pastor who will most likely bring you back in to minister if you are ever invited back again. To face one’s responsibility to the pastor and the church is to build a good reputation, keep open the door to ministry in that local assembly, open up new doors in other churches, strengthen the local church, and build up the kingdom of God. Make no mistake, word will get around about your ministry positively or negatively.
“I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15 NASB).
Always be respectful. The pastor is the one who invited you in to minister and should be shown the utmost respect. Part of your job there is to encourage and support the pastor. You should never do anything that might possibly show disrespect toward him, his wife or family. The Bible says, “Render therefore to all their due: …honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:7 KJ).
Always refer to him as pastor so and so. He is never to be mentioned on a first name basis, especially in front of his people and while on the platform while ministering. Many might think, we are peers and should be able to be on a first name basis. This is probably true in your personal dealings with one another, between the two of you. However, when in front of his flock, you must lift him up in the their eyes.
When the pastor walks to the platform the guest minister should also. Stay there throughout the entire service. It is very disrespectful not to support the entire service. Often the guest wants to arrive when it’s their time to minister and leave when their time is over. This should never take place. You should never leave until the service has been dismissed. The guest should be supportive of all that is taking place. If he/she expects to be listened to, he must also listen to what others have to say, in full support. We still reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7).
Not only should you remain in the service but you should also participate, in full support of all that is being done. Your body language and actions tell everyone whether you are behind the ministry or not. If they are worshiping or praying, then so should you be in full participation. When an offering is being taken you should always be prepared to give in that offering. When the pastor is encouraging the people in a certain direction, you must lend him your complete support. In short, you should be his biggest amen corner.
Never make the pastor or church the bunt of a joke. Often the pastor has been used in a the context of a joke to enhance the message to his personal embarrassment. This should never be done. This does not elevate the pastor and his ministry, but is a show of blatant disrespect. Nothing ever should be said negatively about the pastor, his family, his appearance, or ministry, even in jest. Nothing should be done but that which shows the utmost respect and honor for him and his ministry.
Doctrinal unity. You must present a unified front doctrinally. The guest ministry should never address areas of doctrine that he is in disagreement with the pastor. The Bible says, “Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned”(Romans 16:17 KJV). You are there to support him. Stick with the areas you agree on and not areas of disagreement. The last part of that verse says, “And avoid them.” You can be sure that if you tread in areas that do anything but build and strengthen that body, the pastor, and his position doctrinally, you will be avoided the next time they are considering having a guest in to minister.
Be punctual. Find out what time the pastor needs you to arrive and be there on time or earlier. It is never okay to be fashionably late. There must be time for you to set up any personal equipment or displays. Let the pastor know how much time you need and be there on time. If there is a prayer meeting before the service, make sure you are there in plenty of time for it.
I once had a fairly well known musician in our church and sent someone to the motel to get him. He had ordered food, knowing what time I had said he needed to arrive, and the person had to wait and wait on him. He finally showed up a great deal past the time to pray and still needed time for a sound check and to go over the service with me. He acted as if everything revolved around him, the star. I can’t tell you how much stress and strain this put me under. This should never be done. If you need to arrive or someone is to be there to pick you up at a certain time, be there on time. I know that no matter how good he was and how well he was liked I would never have him back after that.
Time restraints. Always ask how much time has been allotted you and stay within that time structure. Whether it’s twenty minutes or an hour. Stop when your time is up. Our church once shared a service one time with another church. They were to take care of the worship, communion and offering and I was to bring the message. We were at their church and he suggested I should probably keep it within about thirty minutes because of some of the other things that were taking place. I preached and condensed much of what I had to remain within his time restraints. The Lord really moved and we had a great altar time. After the service the pastor said to me, “You didn’t take much time.” I told him he had asked me to stay within that time period and so I did. His reply to me was, “Yes but nobody ever does.” That should never take place. You must always stay within the time frame allotted you.
It is never proper to ask for more time in front of the people while you are ministering. To do so is to upstage the pastor and usurp his authority. This is up to the pastor and he should be the one to take the initiative to let you go longer. Often the pastor is put on the spot by the guest asking him, in front of the entire body, if he could have just a little more time. It is often blamed on the Holy Spirit, declaring, He is moving and not to continue would be to quench what He (the Holy Spirit) wants to accomplish. The pastor is the one who is ultimately in charge of that body and the service so it is up to him if he feels the Lord would have the time extended or not. He must never be put in that position. Always be considerate of him and the time structure the church has established.
Be supportive. I believe, when I am taking part in another man’s ministry, it is my job, above all else, to support him. Jesus said, “If you have not been faithful in that which is another man’s who shall give you that which is your own” (Luke 16:12 KJV). The job of the guest ministry is not only to bring blessing to the body but to back the pastor and support him in everything and every way. This is his responsibility first and foremost.
When I am in someone’s church, I make it my passion to uplift and support that local church’s pastor with all that I have. I do so because I believe it to be the right thing to do and that it is pleasing to the Lord. You don’t know half of what the pastor may be going through and the pressures he is under. He typically has no one to support him and undergird his ministry. God has most probably sent, the guest minister, to be that person.
You can support him personally by encouraging the people to be faithful to him, the services, giving (both in personal gifts to him and to his ministry), their involvement and so on. Be observant. Anything you see or hear that the church is doing or the pastor is challenging them to do or promoting get on the band wagon. Make a note of it and incorporate it into your ministry. I guarantee you will notice the difference in God’s blessing and anointing on all you do. Push his vision and challenge the people to get behind him in it in full support, with all their efforts and energies. Your ministry will be blessed and increased as a result of your efforts.
Mailing lists. A guest ministry should never try and build his ministry and its mailing list off another man’s work. This is just not ethical or proper. Remember, WWJD. Well, Jesus Himself wouldn’t even do this. He sent a very important message through an angel to his servant John (Revelation 1:1) and had John, the Apostle, convey it to the church through the local pastor. In Revelation 1:16 (KJV) John describes his vision of Jesus saying, “And He had in His right hand seven stars,” and in verse twenty declares the stars were the angels or messengers (pastors) of the seven churches. Jesus didn’t even go directly to the people of the churches in this case but sent His word to them through the pastor or messenger of that church. In each letter that follows He says, “unto the angel (messenger or pastor) of the church in …… write.” I believe this makes a strong case for itinerant and evangelistic ministries not to build their mailing list off of fellow minister’s churches and their congregations.
Let’s face it, most mailing lists are put together primarily for the purpose of raising money. When a ministry is invited into a local church by the pastor to bless that body and its ministry and then the guest draws monies from the people that should be going to support the local ministry something is wrong. I believe this to be a very unethical practice. One of Jesus’ main purposes in coming was to build the church and this does just the contrary. It takes away from the church and drains it of much needed support. Money that should be there to keep local ministries going is suddenly not there. You’d be surprised how many cut back on their tithe and offerings to fund these ministries.
Any mailings done by guest ministries to the churches they’ve ministered in should be done through the pastor and church. They could either send a copy of the newsletter to the church for the pastor to let them read or send a bundle for the pastor to give out to his people at his discretion. At the very most, if anything is sent to an individual, it should never be done without the express permission of the pastor and he should never be asked in front of the person but in private.
Receiving offerings on the side. The church has usually arranged with the guest for an honorarium or love offering that has been agreed upon prior to the guest’s arrival. When people have been blessed by an incoming ministry, they will often get him off to the side and give him some extra cash or a check. Often this is done for the attention that is given them. There has usually been an offering taken for him already. They should have given it then, which makes you wonder why they are doing so later. It could be they were struggling with what they should give during the offering and afterwards surrendered to the Spirit’s prompting. In any case, to receive such a gift without the pastor’s knowledge would be unethical and improper.
There are many problems that could arise. It can bring the credibility the guest’s ministry into question for one. Also, many times after giving such a gift the giver will expect a tax receipt at the end of the year. They will often come to the church and request it be added to their end of the year giving record/receipt. This puts the church in a very awkward situation. If they add it to your end of the year contributions receipt, with it not having gone through their books, they are being unethical. If they refuse, tension may arise between the giver and the church and an offense taken.
If you are the giver, the ethical thing to do would be to go to the pastor, usher, or bookkeeper and ask if they could add it to the ministry’s check. If you’re the guest ministry you should take the gift to the pastor and give it to him. This clears up any potential misunderstandings that could take place and gives the pastor added respect for you. Most generally, he will either tell you to keep it or will add it to your check. Either way you have done the ethical and right thing.
Counseling. A guest ministry should never counsel those in another man’s congregation without the express permission or request of the pastor. At best, you have a very limited knowledge of that person, their situation, and what they may be going through. Often people come for counsel to get them to put their okay on something they want to do. Without you knowing their background or what is really going on you may place your okay and blessing on something you shouldn’t. If you had full knowledge of their situation, you might counsel them totally different.
Also, with you being in another man’s church, ministering for him, you must present a unified front. People can often be divisive without even knowing it. If the pastor has counseled them one way and you come along and give them totally different advice you have been divided and confusion has crept in. They later tell the pastor, well, he told me this. It has the potential of bringing difficulty to the pastor, ministry, and the local body. It also can bring much confusion into the life of the person you were attempting to help.
It is always best to refer them to the pastor and whether he would like for you to talk with them. If so he can request it. This keeps lines of communication open, presents a unified front and prevents the devil from getting a foothold in the church or causing a schism between you and the pastor. If he decides you should counsel them, he can at least let you know where he stands and some generalities of their situation so you can minister effectively while maintaining unity in the body and with the pastor.
Personal visits. It is never a good idea to spend personal time with the people in another man’s congregation. Everything should be kept on a professional level. People will frequently want to go out to dinner with you or invite you to their home. This is usually not a good idea unless the pastor is going with you. Often they want to get to know you on a personal level but there are times when they want to get you off alone to voice their opinions on some issue or get you in the middle of something. They might ask you something hypothetical. What do you think about a situation like this, or what would you do if you were in this position? It can often be a trap and will come back to haunt you.
A good thing to do when given an invitation is to say, I’ll ask the pastor to come along with us. Another thing you can say is, Let me check with your pastor. He may have already made plans. At the bare minimum, never go out with someone or to their home unless the pastor is either with you, has suggested it, or you have his permission and blessing.
I’m not referring to when you’re filling in for a pastor, in his absence, and he designates a couple to take you out for a meal, or if he happens to set you up to stay in someone’s home. He knows those he can trust and you are doing so at his suggestion.
Always go through the pastor in all you do. This shows him proper respect, consideration and prevents the devil from getting an occasion against you in anyway. As we saw in Revelation 1, it is always right to go through the messenger. This is what Jesus did.
Next article in this series: Ethics in Ministry: The Church’s Responsibility to Visiting Ministries