Some thirty years ago I knew a man who aspired to be a preacher. For all the wrong reasons. His character and work ethic was sub-par, to say the least; what he saw in preaching was people listening in rapt attention to what he had to say. It was about respect and power, neither of which he had due to the choices he made in daily life. Although he actually had potential as a speaker, integrity, or rather, the lack of it, sealed his fate.
In our denomination, not just anyone can become a pastor. Our system is far from perfect; we've ordained people who never should occupy a pulpit, but there are some safeguards. Everyone feeling called to pastoral ministry has that call tested numerous times along the way, beginning with the local church. The people who best know the potential pastor must confirm his or her call. Without that confirmation, the calling is a non-event. In the case of this gentleman, the local church refused to confirm his calling, thus saving the church as a whole from a great deal of misery.
I thought about this today after preaching for pastor Joe this morning. It felt good to again present God's Word to his people, but it was still a terrifying experience. As any even halfway decent pastor can attest, handling the Word of life is not a lightweight responsibility. It's not an ego trip where people hang on every word; they just don't do that. I prepare as best as I can, reading, praying, writing and re-writing, then reading and praying some more. Anyone with a bit of chutzpah can get up in front of people with a pep talk, especially when the crowd is generally favorable, but we're in the serious business of presenting the Good News of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. Even after it's all over, I review and rehearse, wondering to myself if I said all that needed to be said, if I was clear and compelling, and especially if I presented the Good News instead of mere good advice, but ultimately, I have to place it all in God's hands.
All that to say this: I am honored and grateful to have once more been given the opportunity to present the Scriptures to our Park church people, but I am equally glad it's over for now.