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Topic: Pride (04/12/04)
TITLE: HOW MANY REALLY GREAT PREACHERS ARE THERE?
By James Snyder
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All I wanted to know was how many really great preachers there were in the world?
Preachers, like everyone else, are susceptible to such flights of vanity. We simply want to do our work as best we can.
For example, in my first church there was an old elder by the name of Elmer. As a young minister, I looked up to him. On my first Sunday, he made a hit with me. As I greeted the people after the service, Elmer shook my hand warmly and said, “Pastor, that was a great sermon. The best I ever heard.”
Imagine how that affected me. I thought I had arrived. An old elder had complimented me on my preaching. I reasoned that he, of all people, knew great preaching when he heard it.
Then about the middle of that week, it really hit me. I was under the gun now. I had preached a great sermon. Brother Elmer, God bless him, had said so.
I had to repeat the feat that coming Sunday. I can tell you now, I was nervous. Anyone, I suppose, can preach one great sermon. But two! In a row!
The fateful Sunday came and I was feeling the pressure. Following the service, as I greeted the people, I kept an eye out for Brother Elmer. Sure enough, he came, shook my hand warmly and said, “Pastor, that was a great sermon. The best I ever heard.”
I had arrived. To preach two great sermons in a row was next to impossible, but I had done it. I had to buy a bigger hat that week, but the extra expense was well worth it.
This went on for weeks. Then we had a Bible college musical team come to our church. We gave the entire service to the young people for a splendid concert. They were wonderful and everyone enjoyed them.
As I greeted the people leaving church that morning, old Brother Elmer grabbed my hand like an old friend and said, “Pastor, that was a great sermon. The best I ever heard.”
I discovered what everyone in the congregation knew, that old Brother Elmer was full of raspberries. (Or, was it raspberry wine?) At any rate, my stock in his compliments fell so low I was forced to sell them.
It was a valuable lesson to learn as a young minister.
Several years later, at a different church, I again stood in line greeting the people leaving the church. In line was young six-year-old Billy.
As I stooped over to shake his hand, Billy looked up into my face and said, “Preacher, when I grow up I want to be rich so I can give lots of money to the church.”
“Well, Billy,” I said patronizingly, “that is wonderful and I’ll pray for you.”
Now, I could have left it right there and all would have been well with the world. But I had to take it one step further, which was one step too many.
“Billy,” I said with a St. Francis of Assisi smile beaming down on him, “why do you want to give money to our church?”
“Because my daddy says, you’re the poorest preacher our church has ever had.” Who said honestly was the best policy?
You would think I would have learned my lesson, but oh, no. History has a way of repeating itself.
Just a few weeks ago, for example, my wife and I were driving home from the Sunday worship service; I was feeling my homiletical oats.
The service was wonderful. The music was stirring and the special music was outstanding. But that was not what was making me feel so good about the worship service. If I say so myself, and I guess I will, the sermon was great.
Everything in my sermon that Sunday flowed quite remarkably. I was even impressed with my delivery.
I went from point to point with the greatest of ease and must say I was in rare form. A preacher knows when things are falling into place.
I felt good about that sermon and I thought I would explode in the car. The problem was, my wife did not even mention my sermon. “It was a nice service,” I plied. “Yea. I guess it was a nice service,” she replied coolly as she looked out her window.
Then she was silent. She did not catch my cue. Now, I could have left it there and luxuriated in my own opinion of my sermon. But did I? Oh, no. I had to ask a question. So with all the coolness I could muster, I asked my dear spouse, “Honey, how many really great preachers are there in the world?”
Let me point out right here that wives (at least the one I married) have not quite mastered the art of dodging difficult questions like their male counterpart. If a wife asks her husband questions such as; “Honey, how old do I look?” Or, “Honey, am I getting fat?” every husband knows that this is the time to play “dodge-ball” for all he is worth.
Maybe wives aren’t into sports like their husbands. A good husband knows when not to give a direct answer to such trick questions.
The silence in the car only prompted me to put the question before her again. “Honey, how many really great preachers are there in the world?”
Without even looking at me she snapped, “Honey, one less than you’re thinking of right now.”
Two verses from the Bible came to my mind just then. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12 KJV). And, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18 KJV).