By Sherman Haywood Cox on Oct 24, 2012
You've heard the call and you're ready to respond, but what do you do while waiting for the opportunity to preach?
You have been called to preach, but it seems that your opportunities to preach are slim to none. You see your other associate colleagues who have more invitations than they can even fill and yet you have only preached twice in the last year. You are beginning to wonder if the call is real. You also might be allowing envy to cause you to talk about other preachers who are getting invitations.
It can be frustrating, but we must take some active steps to make this season of waiting valuable and profitable. If you find yourself waiting for your opportunity, I would encourage you to do the following important things:
1. Reevaluate Your Call
During times of downtime you can really look at your call. Ask help from God and others. What is the call that you have on your life? Maybe you are called to preach, but maybe you are called to another ministry. God has a “you formed” ministry that God created you to fulfill. Make sure that you are not fighting against your real ministry while trying to fit into the mold of what you think ministry should be. Remember, your gift makes room for your ministry. I ain’t saying you ain’t called if you don’t have any invitations, but I am saying that now is a good time to make sure that you are operating in your call.
2. Prepare Your Sermons Anyhow
You know you can prepare a sermon even if you do not have an engagement. When I was a young preacher, the older ministers used to tell me to always have a sermon in my Bible. And let me tell you, I have used that sermon on occasion. I have showed up to worship service and ended up preaching when I did not know I was to preach.
This is especially true for seminary students. When I was at Vanderbilt Divinity School, one of my classmates told me that he showed up to a worship service one Sunday morning. The pastor recognized him as a Vanderbilt Divinity Student and brought him to the back room (a common occurrence when we visit churches). The pastor told him that he was going to put him on the program and to come up on the rostrum with him. My classmate told me that they passed the morning scripture. And he was not brought forward. They then moved to the morning prayer, and the pastor still didn’t call him. The service continued …and then the pastor got up and introduced my classmate as the morning preacher. Now I don’t think that was a good thing, nor do I think pastors should do that, but my point is that my classmate was prepared. Would you be?
Senior pastors get sick the day before preaching; are you ready to step in? Senior pastors have to leave town on business; are you ready to step in? Be ready, be prepared at all times.
3. Fight Bitterness and Envy
The dark side of waiting to preach is that preachers can lash out at other preachers or they work behind the scenes to overturn another preacher. Envy is natural in the world, but it is not the way of the Kingdom of God.
If you embrace envy or bitterness in your spirit you will not be an effective preacher when your time comes, and you will be sowing seeds of discord in between those times. Remember it is the enemy that is the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10) and not you.
4. Fulfill Your Role and Sit Down
I did a seminar on the associate minister and the worship service. In that seminar, I gave a simple rule for associates to follow when called upon to read the morning scripture or offer the morning prayer. That simple rule is to “fulfill your role and sit down.”
By that, I mean don’t take it upon yourself to freelance and add to the service that which is not there. We all have seen associates who think that it has been too long since they preached, so they decide to turn the morning scripture into a sermon.
When two or three associates do that, we end up with a lengthy service, three or four different sermons, and none of them necessarily works toward the theme that the worship planner has created. What you don’t realize is that your additions to the service do not help you get a spot and in many ways will work against it. The more you abuse the service by additions that do not necessarily promote or support it, the less likely worship leaders will make use of you in the future.
5. Fulfill the Assignments You Do Have
This is two-phased. First, when the senior pastor gives you an assignment, fulfill it with all of your might, whether that assignment is visiting a sick member or doing some church business at the bank. Remember that the church has a lot of things that must be done. If you see the toilet paper is about to run out in the bathroom, go tell the deacon about it. If you see a tear in the carpet, let the pastor know. If you are at the hospital visiting someone else and you find out that Sister Betty is there as well, go visit her.
Let me also say that as a minister, your calling is to the world. As an ordained minister you will find ways to bless those around you as well. Your calling and ministry are more than just fulfilling functions at church, but you are an ambassador of the coming kingdom where you are right now. And that is a 24-hours-a-day , seven-day-a-week job. Yes, your ministry is about more than preaching. And if you fulfill that ministry, it will enrich even your preaching ministry.
God has called you to ministry. Don’t sabotage that ministry by allowing bitterness to overtake you. In short, you will have the opportunity to minister this week; be ready for it. Yes, it can be frustrating to wait for the preaching opportunities, but if your mind is on preparation and fulfilling current ministry opportunities, this time of waiting can be helpful and fruitful.
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