At the time, it was a new luxury car. It was a car that I could only dream of owning. The owner was a wealthy man in our small church. I was a newly married, young preacher. That morning, as I walked out of our church building, I could see him already sitting behind the wheel of his parked car, puffing on a big cigar.
As I walked by his car, I waved to him. His window slowly came down. He glared at me and sternly said, “Let’s don’t talk about race anymore!”
That morning I had preached a sermon and at some point had said something about race and the way we treat one another. As I recall, I spoke regarding the way we as Christians are called to treat others, regardless of ethnic group.
Apparently this man did not like what I said. This was a new experience for me. I had never had someone immediately snap at me like this regarding what was just said in a sermon. I responded by saying something like, “I was just applying the message of the text that I was preaching this morning.”
I thought about his remark throughout the day. I knew he was used to having his way. I also knew that he gave more money on Sunday morning than anyone else and that our small church was impacted by his gift. I reflected on what I had said in the sermon and genuinely believed that what I said was appropriate.
On one level his comment was about race but it actually was about much more. His comment forced me to reflect on why I preached and why I did any kind of ministry in the first place.
On that day, I was far from home. I had graduated from the University of North Texas. I worked for company for a time before moving to another state. I wasn’t certain that I wanted to “be a preacher.” Yet, I had agree a few months earlier, for the first time, to serve as the minister of this church in this small town. It seemed like one way I could serve God. However, I had no sense that I would serve in this kind of role for decades.
That was an important day for me. The man’s remark forced me to grapple with what I was doing and why I was serving in this role.
The following are take-aways for me from that day:
- Ministry is not a career where one is trying to advance and basically do what is good for one’s own well being.
- It is critical to know whom I am called to please, even when it means the displeasure of others.
- The focus of ministry is not whether or not I am a “success,” the focus is on the message of the Gospel which is why I do what I do.
- Being overly focused on what others think about me will only create an unhealthy self-consciousness instead of robust God-consciousness.