Learn to Think Ahead

By Dennis Wiggs

The young preacher may move too quickly. With a desire to please, make a good impression, and accomplish everything thrust upon him, the young preacher may act first and think later. Let me illustrate.

Pulpit Lights

The ceiling was low, the sanctuary lighting poor. A deacon suggested that a different type of lighting would improve the dimly lit pulpit area. With my encouragement he brought ceiling lights, charged the bill to the church, and installed two lights. Although he was quite proud of his electrical ability, I quickly saw that the job was not adequate.

So, he installed two more lights. That was also insufficient. By this time, the other deacons and treasurer were asking questions. The deacon who had installed the lights insisted that the church needed to revamp all sanctuary lighting. I had to calla meeting. The other deacons kindly rebuked me about installing lights without seeking their counsel.

Young preacher, there is a good lesson here. Be careful about making changes without seeking the counsel and approval of a governing body, whether the deacons, church board, or congregation. Better to preach “in the dark’ than to keep the church “in the dark” over building improvements.

Laughing Pews

Think as you preach, too. I was preaching from the book of Jonah at a mission church. The hand-made pews sat on a cement floor and were not secured. My wife was expecting a child. On the same pew sat another, rather plump church member.

Arms waving, voice raised, I was plowing through the excitement of Jonah being swallowed by the large fish. The congregation listened intently until I blurted out, “Jonah was in a whale of a belly.” My wife began to laugh, shaking all over. The large lady on the same row got in the act, laughing and shaking until the unbolted pew rumbled like a freight train.

The rest of the congregation, who might not have heard my blunder, began to stare at the two ladies who had begun laughing uncontrollably. Brother, you can’t preach with an uproar like that. Best to close the message, pray, and go home.

Let me suggest, young preacher, think before you speak. We older ministers have an excuse. Our brains are tired.

“Where’s Audra?”

Count the children before you leave church. Dr. Robert Picirilli had preached excellent messages that week at our church. After the Sunday evening service, he was scheduled to catch a plane at the airport, 20 minutes away. Rushing out after the final service, Dr. Picirilli, my wife and children loaded up our small vehicle and headed toward the airport. We dropped our guest speaker off at the terminal, and as I pulled away from the curb, one of the children asked, “Where’s Audra?”

She wasn’t in the car! I sped back to the church, praying that our fourth child had not been kidnapped, been left in the parking lot, or run out into the road. The 20-minute drive seemed like an eternity. We arrived at the church to find no vehicles in the parking lot. Church lights off. Where was our beautiful two-year old, blonde daughter?

I rushed into the church. There she stood in the aisle, rubbing her eyes. She had fallen asleep on the pew. “Thank You, Lord!” Young preacher, count the kids before you drive away.

Borrowed Baptistry

Praise the Lord for those who trust Christ as Savior! Excitement permeated the services as we made plans to baptize several new converts. The church did not have a baptistry. No creek or river was available. I requested permission to use the baptistry of a church 30 minutes away. The pastor consented, promising to turn on the water heater on Sunday morning. He even said I could use his waders.

With that in mind, I assured the candidates that the water would be warm. That Sunday afternoon several cars traveled to the church whose pastor had promised warm water to baptize the excited converts.

When I stepped into the water, it seemed cool to me, even through the waders. When the first lady came down the steps, you should have seen her eyes when her feet touched the waters of that unheated baptistry. The pastor had forgotten to turn on the heater.

Later, she said, “Pastor, if that was heated water, I would hate to feel unheated water!” Young preacher, call ahead, make sure the pastor has not forgotten his promise. Play it safe. All these experiences may seem funny now. Let me assure you they were not comical as I I lived through them! Better to think ahead. You will save yourself a lot of difficult predicaments.

About the Writer:Dennis Wiggs retired in 2004 after many years in ministry.

Adapted from Contact magazine, October 1998.