It is Sabbath morning; you have either driven early in the morning or left on Friday evening to spend the night in a hotel. This is common practice for an administrator in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. A new experience has entered our lives; we are now in a different church each week.
When we pastored, we did series of sermons on people, places, and events in the Bible. We would preach through books of the Bible. We were illustration conscious from the day we were taught to be so in homiletics class. Our lives had truly developed a rhythm of sermon preparation. But now, our lives are filled with administration: fixing problems that cannot be fixed at any other level in the church and dealing with personnel issues that arise. Committees after committees now subtly drain our time of sermon preparation. What used to take 20 hours a week is now reduced either to recycling an old sermon on Friday night or putting together a devotional thought that is, hopefully, long enough to be considered a sermon. But nothing can replace the investment of time when it comes to sermon preparation. Anything else I call “sermon lite.”
I have studied Paul as he preached on his missionary journeys. He proclaimed the Word of God in a powerful way. A way that caused a stir in his hearers—sometimes good stirring and sometimes evil stirring, but nevertheless, when people heard Paul, they were changed. He brought people to decisions regarding salvation and church life.
My point in all of this is simple: as administrators, we are responsible for preparing heart-stirring messages and presenting them to our people. But there is so little time; with the issues that I raised above, how can we do that?
I believe what caused Paul’s power was not just what he said but who he had become and the actions of his life. Even if people were skeptical of his testimony—and they were—they were compelled to listen. Pause for a moment. You are a president, executive secretary, or treasurer of a conference. In the members’ eyes, you are someone notable or important to the conference where they elected you, where they chose you. You are a guest speaker, but more than that, a special guest speaker.
I have always imagined the congregation asking three questions of those in leadership: (1) Can we trust you? (2) Do you know where you are going? (3) Can you get us there? We do not just fill empty pulpits on Sabbath morning. We have opportunities to answer these questions and bring hope.
May I suggest a way to deal with this responsibility that might bring peace to our hearts and calm to our spirits? Give your personal testimony everywhere you preach. Do this until you have preached your story in every church in your territory. Tell the congregation who you were and now who you have become. Let them know that you identify with life before Christ. This will help answer the trust question.
In your testimony, you bring answers and build confidence in and throughout your territory, allowing members to know where you are going. They see someone standing before them with the assurance of salvation, with determination to live their lives with the Holy Spirit alongside them. When you humbly share your life story, the congregants begin to understand where this whole spiritual experience will end up. Heaven is a real place, and we can all someday enjoy eternity together. Talking about remaining faithful through life’s disappointments ignites hope in the listeners.
Show your territory that you are a survivalist, surviving with a faith-filled life in a world that fights faith tenaciously every day. Jesus said, “ ‘When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’ ” (Luke 18:8, NIV). Live, preach, and teach, answering that question in every sermon you share, that yes, Jesus will find your faith a surviving faith on that day. Therefore, the listeners’ faith is built up and challenged, and they will believe more wholeheartedly. Because they did not only hear a sermon on that particular Sabbath, they saw a sermon too.