“Don’t be mad at the preacher. He didn’t know what you did before he preached that sermon.”— Source unknown but good advice to keep in mind.
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Talking with friends last week when the topic of preachers came up got me thinking about them. Many of them individuals with rare dedication. Deserving, to use the words of an old song, extra stars in their crowns.
While the Bible mentions nothing of stars or crowns as a heavenly reward, the song lyrics suggest special appreciation here on earth for each other’s deeds.
God love those who preach the Bible, especially those who keep ministering to a faithful few every Sunday in small congregations. Even where they know that passing the plate twice and singing one more chorus of “Count Your Blessings” wouldn’t muster enough money to get the parson’s pay above poverty level.
Preachers I grew up listening to in those small churches would fearlessly cite book, chapter, and verse when outlining the straight and narrow. You could even feel the heat as they described the consequences of failing to follow it.
They were also always ready to help someone when needed and could be found at the church building most any time of the day. That was because there was always something that needed doing there, like emptying trash, changing light bulbs, or knocking down wasp nests. Ridding the building of wasps and other varmints also ensured fewer interruptions Sunday morning in the middle of extolling the virtues of living by God’s word.
One third generation preacher whose sermons I remember sitting through as a kid still sticks in my mind. “I don’t think my grandfather would have cared for big-time television preachers,” he said. “Or extending a toll-free number for sending money instead of extending an invitation to obey God’s will. He didn’t even like preachers who used notes when preaching. He thought they ought to ‘get it straight from the Lord. Politicians, not preachers, use notes,’ he would say.”
I thought about him years later as an adult when hearing the late Lewis Grizzard, author, newspaper columnist, and humorous speaker address what he called “big time television” preachers.
Grizzard wanted to know, and I’ve been curious to hear as well, “How do they find time to be a real preacher visiting the sick, marrying people, and preaching funerals. With all the traveling to foreign countries, speaking out on national political issues, appearances on talk shows, and having a vision that tells them how to raise a few million bucks with an 800 number for donations while keeping the regular long-distance toll number for prayers … when do they find time to work on their Sunday sermons?
“Who mows the grass around their church building. And if one of their following has a problem like losing his job, his wife leaving and his trailer burning all in one week? When does he find time to talk to the poor soul?”
Growing up, attending church with my mother every week was mandatory. She wasn’t one to preach much about right and wrong. I was never given a curfew or told I couldn’t attend a hot rod race or music concert Saturday night. Even when I came in at 2 or 3 a.m., there was no lecture about late hours. But one thing was without question; it was understood that I would be up, dressed, “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” and ready to attend Sunday morning church services with her.
I thank my lucky stars for her and miss her every day. Even with her direction, I still encountered a few close calls with temptation and dodged more than one bullet in my life, figuratively speaking.
We moved a lot until I was in the fifth grade. Everywhere we worshiped, the preacher didn’t drive a new car, and a new suit was a special occasion.
But he always had time for anyone with questions, including one 12-year-old I remember well. When asked about a sermon subject where things didn’t exactly add up, he took the time to give me an adult answer, not just, “you got to have faith, son.”
He was available when the community needed him, whether they were a church member or not, including pleas for answers, comfort, or fried chicken.
Years have gone by. He no doubt went to his reward years ago. But it’s a safe bet he never traveled to foreign countries and never delivered a sermon to a crowd of more 100 people. I’m confident he never ended a sermon with a toll-free number for donations. But hopefully, he was able buy a new suit.
I pray that for every electronic preacher with a mega church, thousands more are still tackling the devil head-on by preaching to small congregations against long odds and unknowingly stepping on toes every week. Many of them praying for just one more new face in the pews to replace the two for which he preached funerals last month.
Many of these “old-time” preachers have gone to their own reward after a lifetime of spreading the word in church buildings so small that you could hear every word while sitting on the back without a sound system.
Let’s hope they never discovered that television preachers use notes.
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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune, the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, the Alpine Avalanche, and the Fort Stockton Pioneer, , and The Monitor in Naples.
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One thought on “Dedication deserving special appreciation”
Leon I still reverently remember the old preacher that stood on the corner in Mt. Pleasant. Every week He preach the gospel to any and all that passed by.