1. I think it was my 7th grade teacher who said to me in a loud, frustrated voice: “Pay attention!” I am still trying to pay attention. How are you at paying attention? Do you pay attention to the quiet people on Sunday morning? Do you pay attention to those who are on the edge in your church family? Do you pay attention to those who are “different?”
It once occurred to me that I was basically talking with the same people every Sunday morning after our church met. I can honestly say that this was not intentional. Each week after our assembly concluded, I seemed to get tied up with the same people again and again. Good people would want to tell me a story (often a long and involved story) about something that happened recently. While I stood there listening to the story, person after person walked out of our building. Quite often these were guests and others who I would like to have met.
Now, if I am standing in an aisle and someone like this begins to tell me a rather long story, I might look that person in the eye and say, “I want to hear this story, but John Smith is about to slip out and he has not been here in six months. I need to speak to him. Will you please excuse me. I will get back to you.” Then, I will walk away to speak to that person.
Now let me make this clear, I am referring here to people I often see several times a week. I am talking about people with whom I have a certain level of comfort and whom I sense would be sympathetic to my intentions. For many churches, the time after an assembly is such a critical time for saying hello to people who are struggling, new people, and others who might not have the confidence to approach and speak.
2. I talked with a young woman the other day who had just invited her minister and his family into their home (for the first time). This minister and his family has been with this church for one year. This young woman and her husband said that they wanted to get to know them and to give them a place to relax and be normal human beings. What a gift!
Our friends Doug and Dereece, gave us a similar gift when we lived and ministered in Florence, Alabama several decades ago. I had no idea, until many years later, just how refreshing it is to have such friends. My daughters have said on numerous occasions: “Dad when you are with them you seem so relaxed.” To have such friends is a gift.
3. A friend of mine is a businessman and serves as an elder in Tyler. I am so encouraged when I am with him. Invariably, he will be reading a new book or will be exploring a new resource. My friend is a lifelong learner. I am so encouraged by people like him.
4. Preaching involves the use of language and specifically, the use of words. Do you ever feel like you wear a few words out? I regularly read several blogs that help me think about words. Three of these are L.L. Barkat, Karen Spears Zacharias, and Scot McKnight. Each of these people is an author of multiple books. They also post on their blogs frequently. Reading these blogs, as well as good books can freshen my language and expand my word bank.