From the archives:
Back in 1981, while I was still in school in Lubbock, Texas, I received an invitation to preach at a small, country congregation. It was about an hour outside of Abilene. The youngest person in attendance, besides my wife and me, was 58 AND she told me she was there visiting her parents.
We traveled there early Sunday morning. Bible class was to begin was 9:30 a.m. As of 9:25, ours was the only car in the sand and gravel parking lot. As we were about ready to give up on anyone coming, five cars rushed into the parking lot. The brother who was teaching the Bible class started the class by asking, “Who remembers where we got to last week?” I kid you not when I tell you that those in attendance debated for several minutes whether or not the final verses of 2 Corinthians 8 had been covered. The teacher (who thought he covered them) finally gave up. He read the verses and made a couple of comments. Then exclaimed, “There! Now are you happy?”
The song leader this morning was an 86 year-old-man. He was so kind. It was one of my first preaching appointments, but he made me feel like a champion. I don’t remember what we sang. I just remember that the tempo was slow and the accent was that unmistakable Texas tahwaaaang. As I began preaching, he settled in on the front pew for his nap. Although he didn’t snore, his breathing was loud, long and steady. There was no doubt about it. He was asleep.
Even though it was hard not to be distracted, I preached my lesson. The song leader sat with his head down, body comfortably slumped in the front pew. When I made my last point, I gently tapped on the pulpit as I spoke. He didn’t budge. I raised my voice and summarized my main points and dropped my Bible on the pulpit. He didn’t budge. I then shouted my summary and slammed my Bible down hard on the pulpit. He didn’t budge. Finally, I concluded it might just be up to me to lead the invitation song. I stepped out of the pulpit and offered an invitation. At the very instant that I said while we stand and sing, he came to life and started the invitation song right on cue.
When the closing prayer was prayed the brethren made a beeline for the door. The brother who taught the Bible class handed me a small envelope as he went by. Then he stood at the back door near the light switch waiting for my wife and me to collect our things so that we could be on our way. When we stepped outside his car and ours were all that remained in the parking lot. He thanked me and said the brethren really liked me and they would have me back real soon.
As my wife and I were driving down the road I handed her the envelope and asked her to see what was in it. We hoped there would be enough to cover our expenses and buy lunch on our way home. When she opened it she just said, “Wow!” The check it contained was five times more than most congregations paid for fill-in preacher students. We were astounded.
The next day I asked one of my mentors if it was right to accept such an exorbitant amount of money for preaching just one sermon. He explained to me that these brethren didn’t invite me because they wanted to hear me preach. They had me there because they wanted to bless my life and ministry. He said that I should cash check and be grateful. I did. We were and are grateful for the way God’s children blessed us in ministry for more than thirty-five years.
I’m not sure if this little church is still hanging on. But fond memories of their love for God and willingness to be used by Him to bless others lingers still in my memory.
May God help us all look for similar ways to be a blessing in the lives of others.
© Bill Williams
September 5, 2016