“Thanks,” said the preacher. “What is this for?”
“Oh,” said the little girl, “mom says you are the poorest preacher she has ever heard.”
Some preachers, when they are out of the pulpit for a Sunday, will purposely get the worst preacher in the world to fill in for them. That way, when the regular preacher returns, folk will be glad to have him back.
All the rage in the young NFL season was about the replacement referees. The real refs were on strike for better retirement, and so in their place, the league hired some replacement refs. Well, like the bad preacher who fills in for the absent preacher, the replacement refs were horrible. It all came to a head in the recent Monday night game between Green Bay and Seattle that ended on a controversial play. After that game, the NFL quickly reached an agreement with the “real” refs, and they are back on the job.
Tom Brady, quarterback of the New England Patriots, said, and I paraphrase: “I don’t comment on officiating. It is my job to play.”
Well said, Tom, but parishioners are not quite so kind.
“Preacher, how in the world did you allow that jack-leg preacher take the pulpit in your absence? I fell asleep before he got the Bible open.”
This whole replacement minister notion got me to thinking about two local ministers who were in bad accidents recently. Allen Howard, pastor at Bethany Christian, and Marc Limbaugh, pastor at Christ Fellowship, have long recoveries ahead of them, and they and their churches need our prayers. Both are really fine men and ministers and are beloved by their congregations.
There will be replacement ministers filling in for Allen and Marc Sunday after Sunday. I’m not a betting man, but I would wager that the replacement ministers will do a great job. I’m also betting the good folk in the pews at Bethany Christian and Christ Fellowship will take the Tom Brady approach: “I don’t comment on the officials (ministers); my job is to play (worship and serve).”
So, if you ever wonder if bad things happen to good people, then you have your answer. That notion, by the way, should have been laid to rest 2,000 years ago on a cross.
Bad things, by extension, happen to good churches. Both churches will be without their pastors for months. These will be difficult times with lots of challenges, I am sure. If it is true, and I think it is, that suffering makes us stronger and better, then Bethany Christian and Christ Fellowship will come out of this with an even stronger and better ministry to each other and to our community. Hopefully, Allen and Marc will some day return to the pulpit and preach and minister to congregations made stronger through trials.
The Apostle Paul knew a thing or two or three about suffering, and because he did he penned the magnificent verse, “All things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
That verse does not say that all that happens is good, nor does it say that God sends the bad or that God “lays it on us.” It does mean that God is at work to bring good out of every circumstance, every fall, every accident and illness that comes our way. He penned those words for me and you and for Allen and Marc and for my church and every church. Amen.
Davis is pastor of the First Baptist Church in Carrollton.