I Wanna Preach Like That

August 29, 2013

I have heard many preachers in the three or four decades that I have been listening. More than once I have looked with awe and said something to the effect of “I wanna preach like that.”

 I heard a great expositor preach with the strength of a firm grasp on the text and thought that I wanna preach like that. I heard a dynamic evangelist preach with the strength of passion and urgency and thought I wanna preach like that. I heard a gentleBillie Sunday pastoral messenger who just oozed love for his audience with his message and thought I wanna preach like that. And I tried to do all of the above.

 Then one day, I let someone tell me that I preach too long because there was a vote some 30 years ago that said we should always get out by noon. So I preached shorter even though I didn’t wanna preach like that.

 I let someone tell me that I should just tell the story rather than simply exegete the passage. So I started telling stories. I did pretty well with that one. I might wanna preach like that.

 One man said I preach too fast, so I slowed down. Then someone else said I preach too slowly, so I sped things up a bit. One man said don’t alliterate, another said always do. Use plenty of visuals on the screen. Never use the screen. Stand still. Move around a lot. Go verse by verse. Preach topically. Wear a tie and suit. Wear jeans and a tee shirt. Always give an invitation. Never ask anyone to come to the front. I am not sure if I wanna preach like that or not.

 I think it is time for me to preach the way God made me to preach. That is how I wanna preach. With whatever fire or passion, whatever tools or timetables, whatever clothes or calls, I must preach like God made ME. No show, no phony time tables, no imitations of other preachers. Just the me that God made. After all, like one of those preachers said once, “I make a great me, but I make a terrible somebody else.”

 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, (Ephesians 4:11-12 NKJV)

See You SONday!

Pictured above – Billy Sunday circa 1912

(c) SF Gallagher 2013

 

 

That Nerdy Kid With Glasses

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I remember listening to some of the men who were, if only for a time, mentors to a young preacher named Steve. I recall that they could pull a Bible reference out of their heads and make it flow right into the conversation, complete with where it was found, chapter, verse, and everything. I wished I could do that so freely. Now I can. When did that happen?

Now I am well over 40 years old and I find myself saying some very wise things on a few occasions. Profound things in fact come right out of my mouth. I am amazed and wonder who is that person that is controlling my verbiage. I am amazed by that because, truth be known, I still feel like that nerdy kid with glasses that I was all the way through my teens.

I really was too. I never really fit anywhere. I was not the smartest kid in the class – ever. I was not the most athletic – in fact probably the worst. My fashion choices were never quite up to date and my car was never cool. My glasses were too big for my face and they were never pushed up all the way. I had greasy hair and zits no matter how often I washed.  My values were high and I lived them – most of the time anyway and always in public. I always went to Sunday School and even Wednesday evening prayer meeting with the old people, and liked it. I was a nerdy kid then, and now I still feel the nerdyness and the kid too all too often.

I am a father of three. I am supposed to be a grown up. I am a pastor. I am supposed to have some wisdom. I have a college degree – two in fact. I am supposed to have knowledge. Not only these things, but I am over forty years old and I am supposed to act like and feel like it. Sometimes I do and then wonder who I am.

My point is not that as we get older and have more responsibilities, that we should never do or even feel young things. This we should do, often and with some amount of abandon. But, we should also recognize that every young, perhaps nerdy kid needs someone in whom they can see something valuable. If I am not that guy for at least one person younger in years and ministry than I, then it must be that I have missed the importance of those men to me in my more nerdy and youthful days.

I hope I never lose that nerdy kid. After all, he is me. But I owe it to Jerry and Ernie and Jack and Dick and Randy and James and Henry and a couple or eight dozen more men, that I be that man for some nerdy kid with glasses. Perhaps I can say to some young man that which Paul said to Timothy. At least I pray that I can.

Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. (2 Timothy 1:13-14 NKJV)

See You SONday!

(c) SF Gallagher 2013

When the Dark Glass Is Broken

There are a lot of things that we either only think we know or we simply just don’t know. We will know these things “When the Dark Glass is Broken.”

alice02Like Alice, we shall step through that looking glass and know a reality full of familiar things with the surprising turn of realities and truths that will make a complete picture even though it is not precisely what we might expect.

The Bible is full of truth. In fact it is the source for nothing other than truth. But mixing with that truth, there is the human mind, full of pride and overestimated intelligence with a desire to explore and explain that truth.  For the most part, the human intellect does a pretty good job of things here. But there are those points of interest which have historically divided and defined different faith groups. The trouble is that we let these points draw lines in the sand that we dare not even approach even though most are each very close to that line and are not as far apart as we seem to think.

We put on the garment of our denominations or of our disdain for them. We carry the torch of the historical stances taken by our fathers in the faith. And we fight tooth and nail over all those details on which we claim clarity and just can’t accept that there may be another point of view. We refuse to believe that even though that person is wrong – totally and absolutely wrong – that there may be some merit to their arguments. Simply, we believe that we have a monopoly on truth and any other claim is a personal affront to our space and ability to think. We are fools in that regard; haughty, vain, prideful, absolute fools.  But, one truth transcends all those pre-millennial, arminianistic, lapsarian, Baptist points of view.  That is that people are going to hell every day while we argue over things that can wait.

I am not opposed to deeply searching truth. I am not opposed to discussions around the truth to further hone our knowledge of our God and His word. But I am opposed to the kind of determined battle that we use as an excuse not to share the reality of Christ with the world. The problem is not that we think and discuss – we should do that. The problem is that we let the things that we argue over keep the world from hearing about the love of Jesus and the glory of Heaven. We are so wrought up in the details that we forget the story line to which all those details belong. We miss the forest for the trees. Redemption’s story is lost in the fray, and people stay lost because they have not heard, and they have not heard because we did not tell. We have failed in that regard, even though we can recount all the details of what we think is truth.

We must remember that for now, “We look through a glass darkly.” I am looking forward to the time when we have broken through that glass and this knowing in part business is done. As for me, I am ready to see what is on the other side.

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12 NKJV)

See You SONday!

Standing In The Middle

fc tabAt Falls Creek (that’s church camp here in Oklahoma) in the summer of 2012 we did an exercise with the students. I was with the Jr. High group in the Tabernacle. There were probably about 2,500 to 3,000 people in the place.

We all were to stand and just wait for someone to pray for us before we either prayed for someone else or simply took our seat. There were a few people assigned to start it moving. In the process, I was one of the last standing. It felt somewhat uncomfortable. I was an old guy in a room full of Jr. High kids. This was not FC tab servicereally for me anyhow. I wanted to just sit down, but I also wanted someone to pray for me.

Made me think of lost people living and working and sometimes even playing right in the middle of a bunch of Christians who never get around to telling them about Jesus.

 See You SONday!

(c) SF Gallagher 2013

The 7,000 seat tabernacle at Falls Creek (Top).

Inside with about 6,500 students and sponsors at Falls Creek  (Bottom).

I Like My Suit and Tie

SuitI really do like my suit and tie. It is a style of dress that I am comfortable wearing. But it is traditional, and what most would call formal. I find no real problem there. In fact, in the current trend of trying to become the people we are trying to reach, I find quite a dichotomy in the assumption that those people we are trying to reach want us to be them before they will have a conversation with thus. Perhaps that speaks to our own insecurity or even judgmental pride.

So here I want to assert this. If it is true that we are trying to be real in reaching people, that real means that we are to be who we are too, not try to be who they are. OK, so Paul said he became all things to all men so he might reach some (1 Corinthians 9:22). That much is true. But did he mean that we have to dress in beach wear to reach someone who does not own a pair of dress shoes, much less a tie. Does that mean we have to use profanity while trying to impress people with real life Christianity when we don’t use it in our other conversations? Does it really mean that we must “Be fake” to “Be real?” My brain spins at the thought.

I know people that never wear a long sleeve shirt. They think that if a shirt has more than three buttons it has too many. Their wardrobe only has long pants and socks for cold weather. I think they are weird. I always wear long sleeves. I like long sleeves. I am comfortable in long sleeves, even when I lived in the desert. I always wear socks. I am extremely uncomfortable in sandals and if I were to wear them even in public, I would wear socks. But I do not wear open shoes except at my house. I like big clunky heavy shoes. They are comfortable to me. People who wear flip flops everywhere are weird to me.

Some time ago, my family went on a hike and into a cave on a tour at a state park. There was a woman on the tour in shorts, tank top and flip flops. She walked along the rocky trail and explored the cave in that attire, wearing those flip flops. She was weird in my estimation. It was cool in that cave and the terrain was rough. There was certainly, in my opinion, a better way to dress for that event.

I did have some conversation with that woman. It was not deep. None of the conversation on that tour was. None of us were there for that. But before it was over, she knew that I was a preacher, and that my manner of speech was not the same as hers. But she also knew that I was not sitting in judgment over her. She knew that I was one of those people who live in the same kind of place she does and also enjoyed at least one kind of recreation which she also enjoyed. I think she also knew that I was real. Not real as defined by trying to be her and invade her life and mannerisms. I was real me and she was real her.

Perhaps another illustration will be of benefit here. I have driven eighteen-wheelers to earn part of my family’s living. While driving, even in the summer, I wear long pants and usually wear boots. That is my style and I am comfortable there. Everyone with whom I worked knew that I am a pastor. It is the point of a lot of jocularity in the yard and over the CB on the road. Often they joke that we are the only crew in our business that has a built in chaplain when we respond to fires and other disasters.

There is also the regular “Sorry preacher,” when the off color joke is told or the four letter word is used. I always try to take that opportunity to tell them that I am not offended when they are real. In fact, I am more offended when they try to put on a face for me just because I profess Christ. Then I ask for the respect of their just being themselves and allowing me to be myself. And if I find any offense, I promise that I will not push guilt on them. I think they respect that more than they would if I were to either act like them or ask them to act like me. That is the real in which they can have conversation and share some of life with me and I can share with them.

There are many who will vehemently disagree with me having glowing eyes, gravelly voices and smoke coming out of their ears. They may say that we must be more like the culture we are trying to reach if we are going to reach them. Well, I’ll let them disagree, but I think they are dead wrong. I give people, even lost and worldly people, more credit than that. They can see through that kind of falseness, just like we can see through theirs when they try to be like us.

In case you missed it, the point of this rant is not clothing or language or socks or long sleeve shirts. The point is being real – really real. People are not looking for someone just like them to learn from and live with as much as they are looking for someone who will just relax enough to be transparently real.

When I preach I am going to wear my suit and tie. I happen to like that. When you meet me on the street, you will probably see me in a long sleeve shirt with socks and big clunky shoes at the end of my long pants. That is who I really am and what I really wear. If that is not you, then you do your real thing. That is honest and honorable. People with a brain, which is more of them than we often give credit to, will respond to that. But if you feel you must put on a face and a show to reach someone, all I ask is that you think how you would really feel and what you would really think of that person who puts on a fake face to impress you. I would guess that you would see this as less than honest, and less than real, and would probably not give trust to whatever that person is selling. You’ll probably let him keep his used car. What we as “Christians” have to offer is much more valuable than that?

See You SONday!

© SF Gallagher 2009