March 4, 2024

Preaching on Sunday

Say Your Prayers

As some of you know, I occasionally fill in the pulpit for my church when the pastor’s away.  For the last four or five years I’ve also filled the pulpit in a small church in a nearby town when their pastor1 takes vacation.  I did this back around Memorial Day, and I was asked to do it again this weekend.

I was looking through some of the sermon material that I used only a few months ago (and blogged), and I was figuring that if I ran out of time I would recycle2.

Well, it’s interesting filling in for pastors, and it’s even more challenging when the pastor decides that he’s not going on vacation after all.  Which is what I found out Wednesday night.

It’s not that I feel I have to impress him.  It’s not that I feel that I’m a heretic.  It’s just that there’s added pressure of preaching in front of a guy that I’ve never heard preach, and I’ve never read his doctrinal statement.

So, pray for me this Sunday as I go down and speak in this church and meet their new pastor, and that I would have wisdom about whether to recycle, or whether God has a different message, especially for them, that He’d like me to deliver.

And if my head cold could go away before then…

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  1. They’re now on their third pastor since I’ve started doing this, so I’ve outlasted them! []
  2. Don’t look at me like that.  This is something that many fill-in preachers do! []

11 thoughts on “Preaching on Sunday

  1. Will do! My daughter has to preach in four different churches EVERY Sunday – one of them in a foreign language. Well, foreign to her. She has six parishes in all. But I know that once (at least) she felt the Holy Spirit prompting her to preach quite spontaneously on a different subject to the one she’d lined up. I’m sure He’ll do the same for you if necessary.

    Mel Menzies, Author of: A Painful Post Mortem

  2. I’m not sure I really understand what you’re saying here?

    So, my question is… if I don’t believe the Bible supports women in the ministry, who gave this man’s daughter the words to say? Or, to ask it a different way, if she attributes the call of the Holy Spirit to a natural phenomenon, what does that say about others that do the same?

    I don’t want to start trading Bible verses. But may I suggest, gently, that you read Romans 14:4. In love, Mel (female)

  3. @Mel Menzies: If you’re referring to my question posed over at Midnight Musings, I’m asking an open question: Which is it? Is my belief wrong, or is it not the Holy Spirit. Either a Pastor has to be “the husband of one wife” or he doesn’t. Unless I’m totally off my rocker and misread the part about your daughter being a pastor.

    I’m sorry for calling you a “man”. I’ll fix it.

  4. Dear MinTheGap,

    I think, in the interest of unity in the Spirit, and the sort of witness we present to the world, we have to accept that on this earth there will be differences in our understanding of Scripture. God, after all, is a mystery too profound for our understanding. He says of himself that his thoughts are higher than his.

    Years and years ago, I wrote a letter in a CofE newspaper about the cold-shoulder I had received from fellow Christians over my divorce. I was quite a young Christian at the time – in age and maturity – and it hurt to see the love and support I received from non-Christians compared to the lack in my brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Some of the replies I received condemned me for the divorce I didn’t want and never asked for. Most praised me for bringing into the open the secrets they dared not speak of. One reply was particularly clarifying. It was from a lady missionary, and she said: We can sin in secret and we can sin in the open. But thank God that he is more merciful, understanding and forgiving than others who call themselves His.

    Neither of us, I suspect, is sinning in the eyes of God for the difference in our understanding. We come as children. The only sin would be if either of us were to judge ourselves more highly than the other.

    I respect your understanding of Scripture. I hope you can respect mine, and my daughters (which underwent a profound change when she became a Vicar!!) There is no doubt that the work she is doing in her parishes is bringing the Word of God in a new and living way to those in her care. And that, surely, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, we are called to pray for the work of those whose ministry we may not understand. May I ask you to pray for my daughter as I did for you.

  5. @Mel Menzies: I am open to accept that there will be differences on different passages of Scripture, but I have yet to be pointed to one passage that accepts or promotes the idea that a woman should be in the pastorate. Romans 14 is fine for saying that there will be difference of opinion (those who could eat meat offered to idols vs. those that could not and those the would respect the ritual calendar and those that would not, etc.) but these are areas that the Bible is silent. I do not believe it is silent when it comes to the role of the pastor as set forth in Timothy and Titus.

    I’m sorry that you were treated poorly when it came to your divorce. I’m more sorry that you marriage had to end, for that is definitely something that God did not like. He did not like the hurt that you had to endure, or how the situation went down.

    The problem I have is a foundational one, hence why I asked the question on Musings rather than here, for I do want to ponder the implications.

    For example, I am not to judge you or your daughter– neither of which am I doing by asking a question. My question on Musings did not make a judgment, but rather asked a leading question– how to reconcile two different bits of information (That you/your daughter believe the Holy Spirit lead you while you spoke and that I don’t believe women should preach) in the light of God’s Word.

    There’s yet another dimension to this question. The question that you raise in your comments, which is mainly the fact that we see things and do things imperfectly. I believe that the ends cannot justify the means. That your daughter is “doing the work if God” and that “there is fruit of the Holy Spirit” in what she does cannot validate that she’s doing it. It can only say that God is working despite (or in your opinion because of) her work.

    Just as I don’t believe that Christian Rock glorifies God, even if souls come to Christ because of it. I don’t believe music in the Bible is used as an evangelistic tool, but I do believe that God can use even that.

    So, at best, to fit with what I understand, God may be working despite whether your daughter is in the ministry, or I’m wrong about what the Bible says about women ministers. In either case, like those that attacked Paul as not being an apostle but still spread the Gospel, I rejoice that the Gospel of Salvation by Faith Alone is being spread, regardless of the vessel.

    Can I pray for your daughter? I’m uncertain at this point, and I hope you can understand that I’ll consider it.

  6. I do understand your dilemma. As you say, one of us must be wrong. But the difference between us is that I’m at peace about that. Not because I think I’m in the right, but simply because I’m able to accept that there isn’t one human in all the history of the world who can ever claim to have it all right. And – as I said earlier – that’s how the Lord tells us to come to him. As children. Trying, with finite minds, to fathom the unknowable depths of the infinite one. Striving to work out our salvation. Do we do so by answering questions of theology? Or do we do so by bringing the Good News to the lost?

    May I be permitted a little humour here, without causing offence? This may be a gender thing. You know the rhyme: Patience is a virtue, Obtain it if you can; Found seldom in a woman, And never in a man. I’m happy to wait, patiently, until I’m in glory. Then, I promise you, I shall be first in the queue wanting answers to all my questions. But I suspect that then it won’t matter. Because we’ll be so overwhelmed with the glory of the Lord that nothing will matter.

    And since we are already alive in eternity (alive in the Lord, that is) I like to think that I can borrow a little of that overwhelming glory in the here and now. The Bible is full of ambiguities: Solomon and the two women who each claimed that they were the mother; David, adulterer and murderer declared, by God, to be his man; Jonah, running from the job God had for him, but gently led back to where he’d started from. They’re all mysteries.

    As well as gender, age may have something to do with it. Everything was black and white to me when I was younger. Now I see shades of grey. That is not to say that I see sin as graded. But I now know, experientially, that God looks on the heart – but the heart, as far as we are concerned, is deceitful above all things. Only he knows our motives. And it’s our motives on which we will be judged. Does that mean that our actions don’t matter? Of course not. The grace that we’ve been given isn’t a licence for us to sin.

    I have known of ministers of God’s Word whose wives feel sullied because of the pornography under their mattresses. Does the fact that they are men make them right in God’s eyes, just because Scripture says they have to be the husband of one wife? We have to take Scripture in context. And I’m more than prepared to say that I’m only the tea-girl when it comes to knowing what the CEO is doing. Until he takes it upon himself to enlighten me or promote me, I’ll simply go on serving the tea.

    Hey – it’s been good to share a debate. And to do so in unity and love. God bless. And good night for now.

  7. @Mel Menzies: As far as this debate, I choose to err on the side of what I can plainly see, rather than hoping that it might be possible that there is allowable space beyond what I can. That being, since it clearly states a role for the pastor as a man and the pastor’s wife as a woman, and that it would clearly not make sense the other way around, I will have to stand on what I believe regarding the placement of the genders. The same as I don’t question that God did make man first, and then woman, and said that her desire would be to her husband.

    Where women missionaries fit, I’m still undecided.

    Lastly, if there’s a man with a problem of pornography– whether pastor or layman– he should be disciplined within the church and reconciled to his wife. He’s in sin.

  8. Sorry. I am a woman, and you know how we like to have the last word 🙂 You said: “The same as I don’t question that God did make man first, and then woman, and said that her desire would be to her husband.”

    Before he said that a woman’s desire would be to her husband (after the Fall) God also said that man was incomplete, and that he needed a helpmeet! Traditionally, the church has interpreted the creation sequence as putting women in an secondary position. However, it could equally well be seen as the opposite. That man was inadequate without her (that’s not my belief, I hasten to add) – hence the militant rising of women in the church. I’m no feminist. My understanding is that both male and female attributes are necessary to demonstrate the image of God. That we’re different. But equal.

    You also said: “I choose to err on the side of what I can plainly see, rather than hoping that it might be possible that there is allowable space beyond what I can. That being, since it clearly states a role for the pastor as a man and the pastor’s wife as a woman, and that it would clearly not make sense the other way around, I will have to stand on what I believe regarding the placement of the genders.”

    I’ve entered into this dialogue with you – certainly not to score points – but simply to do what you said you wanted to do: explore the question. Let me say categorically that there is no argument that I could put up to support women clergy. But equally, I can’t see a counter-argument in the verses you quote. My interpretation is that a person going into ministry should not be divorced and remarried.

    The long and the short of it is that you must believe what you believe and I wouldn’t dream of trying to persuade you to anything else. But I must return to the theme of the mystery of God and ambiguity of his Word. He hates divorce (Mal.). But he accepts that it occurs and, by his grace, brings good out of it. In Timothy (I think, from memory) he says that an elder must keep his family in order. How many elders do you suppose the church would have if we held to the principle of immaculate families? These are ideals. And God deals in reality. Equally, much of the Bible is cultural. (I realise that I tread on dangerous ground here.)

    My point is, MIN, that we live in a fallen world. And as I said yesterday, I believe that it is in the working out of our salvation that God is most interested rather than the sort of academic doctrinal discussion we’re indulging in now – and for which Jesus condemned the Pharisees.

    Working out my salvation meant fifteen years of sticking by a husband whose ‘philandering’ was both emotionally hurtful and physically damaging. It meant thirteen years of standing by a daughter hell-bent on destroying herself through heroin abuse. It meant making tough decisions: do I take the Scripture which tells me to love my daughter to mean that I go on providing for her? Or do I practice tough love and trust God to take care of her when I tell her that although I love her she has to stand alone? (You don’t need to answer those questions. In anguish and tears and much prayer, I made the decisions long ago – and was rewarded by seeing my daughter kick her habit. But I’ve known other, equally faith-filled Christians see their children die following the practice of tough love.) My own daughter died five years later in highly suspicious circumstances. And working out my salvation then meant forgiving those who almost certainly were responsible for her death. Working out my salvation has meant writing of all these things in my latest book: A Painful Post Mortem. Working out my salvation has meant doing so as a novel to protect my family – and writing it for non-Christians under a pen-name instead of the Christian market, in which I was well-known, under my own name under which I could claim bestselling author status.

    Do you see what I’m saying? Livin’ it out ain’t easy! If you had asked my daughter two years ago if she believed in women clergy, she would almost certainly have said no. But God – yes God! – changed her way of thinking. Can any of us dare say that he can’t work outside the box which we, by our interpretation, have constructed around his Word? Ask my daughter now, and she will tell you that she knows she is exactly where she is meant to be in God’s will. And so say any number of people from all over Britain who tell her that they have been praying for a minister like her to take on her particular churches in her particular region for over twenty-five years. Are they all wrong? God works in mysterious ways. We say that without thinking. It’s so simple. But so profound. And that – I think – is probably my last word on the matter.

    I hope and pray, sincerely, that you will have peace on this matter – whatever your belief. God bless.

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