Pastors are not the only ministers who behave badly – sometimes guest speakers do too. I have in the ten years I have been running the Tree of Life Family had guest speakers bring their own buckets and receive their own sneaky little offering, preach messages I told them not to preach, lied about other ministers to gain prominence, used my platform to correct my own ministers! So yes, sometimes they behave badly. Sometimes they are awesome in the pulpit, but outside they are difficult, make awkward requests (I mean utterly beyond the realm of reason) and are rude and ungainly. Now please – I don’t think the majority of guest speakers are like this, but some of you reading this will get invited somewhere at some point, so learn how to behave and make it as easy as possible for your host pastor!
We want you to be like the apostle Paul, a great travelling minister going to churches and bringing life and peace and revelation. We want you to be a blessing to every host pastor you visit, being of aware that you an ambassador of the kingdom of God!
- Respect the church you have been invited to and the pastor who invited you. Say something nice about them – compliment the worship band, the choir, the pastor, the building. Compliment the people for coming. Do not get up there and say “hey, our worship band is bigger than your whole church”, do not criticize anything publicly. Now you have all heard of stories of big name speakers going into a church and saying something like “never sing that song again, it’s not faith, it’s not grace, it’s not good” – you are not them – don’t do that!
- Don’t patronize the host pastor – you are not his spiritual superior, don’t bless him or give him a word unless you have that mentor relationship don’t do that.
- DO NOT (notice the big capitals) invite yourself anywhere! There is nothing more off-putting to pastors than pushy people pushing for their pulpit. If you start off by being pushy, all pastors think you will be pushy when you are there. It is really off-putting.
- Do not go where you think the money is. Do not demand money. Freely you have given, freely give (Matthew 10.8), so do not set a minimum honorarium! You are not a motivational speaker, you are a minister of the gospel.
- Do not misuse your invite. I had a situation a while ago, a minister I knew asked if I would take a mission team from the USA to come to our church for a short-term mission. We have done similar things before with churches and Bible Colleges, but I had zero peace about this, like a scratching inside me. I know how to be led by the Spirit, so I checked it out. Turned out it was a church in the US planning to plant a church in London – and they were going to use this mission trip as a way of meeting our people to invite them to their new church they were planting. That is a hidden agenda, it is abusive, it is disingenuous! Do not be that person! Someone inviting you to their platform is a good thing, they are doing a good thing for you, and you are repaying evil for good which Biblically is something you should not do (Proverbs 17.13).
- Make sure you have permission to:
- Ask for partners. Never ask for partners without the host pastors permission. EVER!
- Plug your para-church organization. For example, a Bible College or a mission trip. Never ever plug those things, putting people to leave a local church for a season, without explicit permission from the pastor.
- Raise an offering. Most pastors will want to raise the offering for you. Never raise an offering without permission.
- It is not wrong to ensure you are treated well, but do it graciously! It is fine to let people know what your expenses will be, especially if you do not know the church. I know visiting speakers who have travelled hundreds of miles, ministered 6 or 7 times in a weekend, and paid for their own hotel and expenses, and got under £100 in offerings. That wasn’t a small church that did that either. It is important to have those discussions up front. As a pastor, I always ask the question “Is there anything that you want to let me know you need when you come”. I like to pay for everything – hotel, food, etc. upfront and in some cases we even give our guest speakers some spending money.
- Now, often if speakers fly from America, and they travel a lot – then they will have airmiles, favourite airlines and also it is often considerably cheaper to book from America. In those cases, I often ask the speaker if it is ok that they book their flights, and we reimburse them. Sometimes we will ask them to find flights and then purchase them.
- Do not self-promote! The pastor has probably spent years building a congregation, feeding them week after week – they wouldn’t exist to have a guest speaker without that pastor! The pastor has no doubt promoted you and been favourable about you. Just being a guest speaker means people have more faith in you, less familiarity, more expectations of your ministry. Do not try and outshine the pastor or put them down for your own ego issues!
- Flow with the conference you have been invited to. Most conferences have a theme – don’t cross it, don’t try and do something different. If you have been invited to do a miracle service, do it and bring some miracles. If you have been asked to teach in a day session, don’t turn it into a miracle service. There is one evangelist I will never invite back because he cannot flow with anyone else or any other service. All the best to him, but I like conferences where we walk in step with each other.
- Do not build relationships with people from the church behind the pastor’s back. That is outrageous. If you are invited to a family of churches, do not build relationships with the other pastors behind the senior pastors back. Treat the invitee as the mayor of that area, do not go there without his permission, do not contact the people from there without his permission.
- Promote the host ministry, not your ministry. Let the Lord promote you! When you have finished preaching and ministering, the church you visited should be better off because of it, not divided, not struggling. The pastor should not have to address your strange teaching or odd behaviour or overly controlling comments If people feel hated, or condemned, you haven’t done your job. You are there to uplift that church.
- You can judge whether you did a good job very easily – if you never get an invite back, you didn’t.
- Finally, invite the people who invite you to your ministry. You are not the only one with revelations! Invite them too!