The student pastor nervously twisted his papers. Across the desk in front of him sat his senior pastor – feet propped up on the corner of a computer desk – reading the student’s sermon notes. In two weeks the young minister would get his first chance behind the pulpit.
The older man looked over his half rimmed glasses and smiled. “You’ve got some moxie here. Definitely, the Lord is going to enjoy listening to your sermons; but son, we need to think just a little. Perhaps this message is a little strong for your first sermon.” The older man handed the papers back to the student.
“Yes, sir. I wanted to give a strong message. Let the congregation know the devil is real and they are doomed without a wholesale change in life.”
“But, putting a ticket to Hades in the bulletin?”
“Yeah, then have an altar call and have everyone bring the ticket down and put it in a box and get a new ticket.”
The older man chuckled. “Well, you have the fire, but bear with me a minute while I tell you the story of a fellow I knew long ago.”
The young man relaxed back in his chair. “Yes, sir.”
“I think this fellow I am about to tell you of was near your age, and like you in his final semester in divinity school.”
“Did he go to Wake?”
The older man swung his feet around under the desk. “Not sure. But, anyway; this young minister was full of the Lord, he was blessed with a silver tongue and loved to preach. And one day his supervising minister gave him the chance to preach. Sure enough, Fire and Brimstone flew from his lips, the congregation was moved. The sermon was discussed for weeks.”
“Wow.” The young minister leaned forward in his chair.
“So, the student went back to seminary and graduated. Except there were no appointments, there were no offers. He finally took a job at a tire store until he was able to get a contract associate’s job in a church outside of his denomination. And at that he was not ever allowed in the pulpit.”
“That hardly seems fair.”
“He didn’t think so either. So, he went to the senior minister of the church to inquire when he might be allowed to preach. The pastor took the young man to the sanctuary and the two sat in a pew. Here’s what he told him. He said, ‘look around this auditorium. Who sits here?’”
“What’d the associate say?”
“Well, he looked around.” The older man made a motion with his hand. “Then the young fellow said, ‘people.’”
“’Right,’ he said. ‘But, more than just people; these are folks who love each other, love the community, love the church, and most importantly love God. When we as ministers go before these wonderful folks we are to bring them the Love of Jesus Christ. Oh, yes there are pulpit pounding times, but until we know each and every person and can love each of these individuals for who they are – God’s children – then we have no right to be standing before them – it is an awesome obligation – one which we cannot take lightly.’”
“The young associate was floored; it finally occurred to him what had happened when he was a student. It was a basic rule of public speaking, in a secular sense. Know your audience.”
“So, did the associate ever get to preach?”
“No, he didn’t; at least not at that church, but a month later the Lord led him to a small congregation. And that small congregation loved him and they grew in their love of the Lord, and he grew as a minister of the people.”
“Is this fellow still preaching today? I would like to hear his message sometime.”
The older minister laughed and walked around the desk. “Bring me a copy of your next draft. I think your revisions will be better. No tickets needed.”
Two weeks later the senior minister introduced the student pastor to the congregation.
The student minister approached the pulpit, adjusted the microphone, and looked out on the gathering. He took a deep breath. “God so loved the world that he gave us, you and me, His only begotten Son. Love so strong. Today, I want to share with you a few minutes about love, God’s love for you and me.”
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