I am a preacher. For 57 years I’ve been a preacher. So I’m used to seeing peoples’ heads droop as I drone on. But in more recent times the number of heads which drooped seemed more than usual. And it was happening even before I began to preach. I thought that someone may have warned the congregation what to expect. So much for my faulty expectations.
Light dawned as to what was really happening, when a couple of weeks ago, I had the exquisite pleasure of actually sitting in a congregation and listening to another preacher.
He was usually a much better contemporary communicator than I could ever be, but he was dealt the same treatment as I had been. When he started to preach many heads went down. It wasn’t the time for corporate prayer. He had mentioned a Bible reference. But these people didn’t have Bibles. They had smart phones with Bible Apps!
I have a smart phone. I’ve never actually bought any sort of cell phone in my life. Younger people offer me theirs when they upgrade to the latest “must have” device. I had mistakenly believed that a phone was a device used only to talk to others at a distance. Having been given one of these smart phones, I was now obliged to become smart myself by entering the App world and download a Bible so I could “get with it”.
That operation was a bit beyond me, but with the help of two more experienced accomplices I finally had access to about 20 editions of the sacred book through my phone. I hoped God didn’t want to phone me, because I doubted there was much room for him to get a word in after all those Bibles were downloaded.
Confidently I arrived at church last week armed with my phone and all its Bibles. My hand hovered nervously over the phone waiting for the preacher to give his first reference. Finally he mentioned the Book of Acts plus chapter and verse. Off I went into a frenzy of phone tapping. Twenty-five minutes later at last I found that reference, just before the benediction was announced.
At the end of service, as I was floundering in a cloud of enfeebled frustration, my grandson Obed suddenly cheerily loomed large. He optimistically announced, “Granddad, I noticed you were trying to use your phone to find Bible references. If you’ll just do it again and again you’ll eventually learn how”
“Thanks for your encouragement Obed”, I gloomily replied.
In the last couple of weeks as I’ve struggled with this new technology I’ve missed much of what the preacher has said. But one thing has stuck. It was a true story told to him first hand by a business acquaintance.
This fellow was sitting with his wife in their church as the Pastor was making a strong case for giving to a particular good cause. As the pastor spoke, this businessman leaned closer to his wife to talk about what should be their gift toward what the pastor was presenting. They agreed it would be $100 000.
But as the pastor was concluding his presentation, he mentioned that the most he expected any would be able to give should be $1000.
What was this couple to do? They wanted to participate, but they also wanted to honour their pastors expectations. They solved the dilemma by giving $10 000. By setting a limit through his own expectations, the Pastor had just “lost ” needlessly $90 000! His assessment on what others may have been able or willing to give, was as bad as mine when I thought that people were dropping off to sleep, when in fact they were reading electronically the Bible references and making notes as I spoke.
Lesson to learn? People are more committed than we preachers give credit for and God is able to move them more mightily than our mini expectations allow, if we get out of the way and allow him to do what only he to do.