Brett Younger: Letter to the Guest Preacher

Dear Martha,

I am glad you are coming to preach for our congregation and I am excited about getting a break.  You know the old saying, "If the preacher is good, he deserves a Sunday off, and if he's not, the congregation does."  I'm not sure who is looking forward to this weekend the most.

I want to tell you a few things that might be helpful.  I have been the pastor of First Baptist for ten years, so I know them pretty well.  I can already name a couple who are probably going to like you.

I'm not sure what to tell you to wear.  I wear a suit with a white shirt and a blue tie, but that's not going to work.  Pick your favorite outfit and set that aside for your next party.  Then aim somewhere between Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Google Maps will tell you it will take two hours, but the construction is horrible.  Give yourself an extra thirty minutes and don't expect a short line at Dunkin' Donuts.

When you get here, park wherever you want except for the "Reserved for the Pastor" spot.  Sam Myers is upset that there's a spot for me-something about the priesthood of the believer-so he parks there.

The new contemporary service begins at 8:30.  The attendance is less than we hoped.  We talked about cancelling it this week since I'm at the beach, but the worship leader is committed.  Corey Hodges likes to joke, "Not a lot of fifty-year-old drummers with only two months' experience have a gig every week."

The Rebecca/Ruth class wants you to teach Sunday school.  Rebecca and Ruth used to be the two oldest women's classes, but when the Rebeccas started to pass, they combined.  They began working through 1 Timothy last week.  You get chapter two.  Let me know what you do with "Women will be saved through childbearing."  Elaine Von Diest, by the way, doesn't have any children.

The traditional service is at 11:00.  Be prepared to offer the welcome and offertory prayer, because Hank Berry is Deacon of the Week.  If the weather is nice, he may go to the lake.

Any translation of the Bible is fine as long as it is King James or NIV.

The acoustics are terrible so speak up.

Preach whatever God lays on your heart, but skip the hot button issues-health care, gun control, homosexuality, materialism, militarism, ecology, immigration, abortion, world religions, and the unimportance of college sports.

They like sermons about being good neighbors as long as you are talking about their actual neighbors.  I haven't preached from Revelation for a while, so that's an option.  If you preach on stewardship make it clear that I didn't suggest it.

We have never had a woman preach.  Our deacons talked about it a couple of years ago, but the discussion didn't go well, so I dropped it.  I didn't ask permission this time.

Elmer Wilson will probably make a show of walking out when you get up to preach.  He may come to the 8:30 service and then come back for the 11:00 so he can do it twice.  Feel free to make a joke, maybe, "Most people wait until I say something to walk out."

I preach twenty minutes, but go longer and they might appreciate me more.  Carl Myers will fall asleep five minutes into your sermon.  If you see teenagers reading the hymnal, they are texting the person seated next to them.  Dave Breeden takes notes.  If he doesn't have a page of complaints, then you haven't really preached.

After the service is over, walk to the foyer to shake hands.  Most people go out the side doors, so don't take it personal.

Talk is cheap and so is our honorarium, but Earl Scroggins, chair emeritus of the deacons, will take you to lunch.  I'm sorry about this.  Earl loves Waffle House.  I recommend you get something "smothered and covered."

Thank you for preaching for us.  If we both live to tell about it, I may ask you again.

Mentioning these details make this seem less sacred, but I don't mean it that way.  Preaching doesn't always feel holy, but the more I preach the more I believe it is.  Not much is better than getting to say, "This is what I believe God wants us to think about."  Make them laugh.  Make them cry.  Make them feel like the sinners and saints they are.  Even when you hear the ding that signals a text message's arrival, God is at work.

Grace and joy,

Your partner in preaching the Gospel

From Brett's blog, Peculiar Preacher.