Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Preaching in Another Church

Keith Alderman and I have been friends for thirty-two years now. We’re getting old.

I met Keith in September of 1975 at the beginning of my freshman year at Mercer University. Keith was an upperclassman. We have some other connections. We both attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He served as pastor in Lakeland, GA, which is just a few miles from where I served in Adel, GA. He served as pastor in his home town of Albany, GA, which is just a few miles from Leary, GA, which is the home town of my wife. He now serves as pastor of the Rosemont Heights Baptist Church in Waynesboro, which is just a few miles from where I serve in Augusta.

He also served a church just outside of Montezuma, GA, which I visited a couple of times as a child because my grandfather had a brother there, but trying to make a connection of that is a bit of a stretch.

Keith is on my mind because I will be preaching in his church tonight. Rosemont Heights is having a series of revival services on Wednesday nights in September with a different preacher speaking at each service. I’m looking forward to it.

The assignment set me to thinking about the dynamics that are in play when a pastor preaches in a church other than the one that she or he serves.

When I preach at The Hill, I usually know almost every person in the congregation. Outside of Keith and his wife I will probably know no one in the congregation tonight.

When I preach at The Hill, I have some awareness of the problems, pains, joys, and loves of the people to whom I am talking. Tonight I will know none of that.

When I preach at The Hill, I consciously or unconsciously think about what the long-term effects of what I say might be. Tonight is a one-shot deal. That doesn’t mean I’ll be irresponsible, of course, because I am concerned about the long-term health of any congregation. The dynamic is different nonetheless.

When I preach at The Hill, my sermon is usually a piece of a long-term program of preaching that has been carefully thought out. My message tonight will stand on its own.

Preaching in another church is just different. It’s interesting and it’s exciting and it’s gratifying but it’s different.

I’m always grateful for opportunities to speak to folks that I don’t know. But I’m also grateful for the faithful ones at The Hill who prayerfully listen week after week.

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