YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN A PREACHER
My mind flashed back 25 years to the little home mission church I pastored. The church had so few members that there were few demands on my time. There were no interruptions in my study because the church could not afford a telephone. I would spend hours praying and reading the Bible, especially the Gospels, trying to determine how Jesus would react in various situations so that I could imitate Him. Eventually I came to see the people with whom I interacted as “souls for whom Christ died.”
The community seemed unaffected by my efforts and I felt insignificant both in the church and to society at large. But there were moments. One Summer Sunday evening, I preached a simple sermon on being “Born Again” to about 25 persons. Later as I locked up the church, I paused for a moment and looked up at the moonlit sky. I felt good and clean. I had preached the Gospel, the pure Gospel. At the moment, my life and message seemed tied to eternity.
After two years with no tangible results, however, I concluded that it really didn’t matter who pastored this little church. I should try a profession where I would have more influence on society. I resigned and
returned to graduate school and another profession.
As I was packing my books, one of the boys I had coached in Little League baseball dropped by and asked if I would come and watch him pitch in the play-offs. I told him, “Sure” but we both knew I wouldn’t. Then Buddy drove up in his old pickup truck loaded with all his children. He was wearing my old college sweatshirt. He helped me finish loading my books. We locked the church. I handed Buddy the key, and we stood there for a moment, looking at the ground, avoiding each other’s eyes. As I started the car, Buddy looked at his children, then at me, then at the sky, and asked, “What’ll we do next winter?”
Leaving was harder than I had anticipated. I stopped at a little store, wrote my resignation from both the ministry and the church, and dropped it in the mail.
I’m a lawyer now. The community doesn’t think what I do is insignificant. I have a phone on my credenza with a lot of buttons on it, and it rings all day. When I’m involved in a celebrated trial, TV camera’s follow me down the courthouse steps. That is a heady feeling. I make a great deal more money than I did as a home mission pastor, yet I am sure that I worry more about money now than I did then.
I still manage to read the Bible – about five minutes a day. The law is a jealous mistress. One man who knew me as a pastor remarked one day, “You used to be the nicest guy I ever met.”
There are rewards for excelling as a trial lawyer, but you pay the price. After one brutal criminal trial, a woman juror came up to me, shook her head and said, “You’re the meanest lawyer in town.”
The greatest reward of devoting one’s life to the Christian ministry is what happens to the minister himself. By devoting himself daily to the reading of the Word and service to others, the person becomes more like
Jesus. The principle is: the biggest reward of a man’s labor is not what he get’s for it, but what he becomes by it.
Ministers are, of course, underpaid, and that should be remedied. But when a minister continues to serve despite the lack of financial reward it lends credibility to his message. The television evangelist may be a millionaire, but the measure of any man is what he becomes in the process.
Having been trained as a preacher, I learned to speak for a decision. Once when a trial was going badly, I turned to my co-counsel and said, “Let me sum up. I’ll give an altar call.”
After the passionate oration, when the jury retired to deliberate, the court reporter came up to me and said, “You should have been a preacher!” I walked away from her. She cornered me a second time and insisted, “I’m serious, you should have been a preacher!” Again, without answering, I retreated into the hall. Undaunted, she followed me there and for the third time said, “Really, you should have been a preacher!”
“Yes, ma’am,” I replied softly. “You’re right, I should have been.”
(The above material appeared in a February, 1992 issue of The Pentecostal Messenger.)
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