Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Preaching Priorities

Thanks to my good friends, John Wiegand (Editor of the Praise for the Lord hymnal) and Mark Guy (Minister for the Pleasant View Church of Christ in Pleasanton), I was privileged to take in the Monday evening Giants/Mets game from AT&T Park. It was a perfect end to a perfect weekend!
An unseasonably warm night in the City by the Bay made it ideal for baseball. The Giants won the game 9-3 and we were able to witness history as Giants catcher, Bengie Molina, hit two home runs in the same inning, the first Giant to do so in 30 years.
My first night game experience at AT&T was awesome and the new Hi-Def scoreboard and video boards, obviously installed in anticipation of the All-Star game at the ballpark, are incredible!
I am coming to a place in my life where my preaching priorities are undergoing a radical reorientiation.
It all began with an invitation around Christmas to my mentor, Dale Mannon, to speak at our Spiritual Growth Workshop in the fall. Dale is one of the best preachers I know; a brother of immense sincerity, depth and wisdom. As I pressed Dale for a commitment to be one of our speakers, he shared with me honestly, "Jim, I'd love to come...but not if it means I miss my son's football game on Friday night."
We were able to work the schedule around Dale's commitment to his son and he will be with us, speaking three times on Thursday. He'll catch a flight home to Lubbock, arriving at 3:00 pm allowing him ample time to make his son's game on Friday night.
I wonder sometimes, in the era of celebrity, about the celebrity factor within the church. I wonder about those who, at all cost, seek out invitations to speak as a means of promoting their latest book. I wonder about the heavy PR emphasis on promoting materials in addition to promoting Jesus. I wonder how deeply ingrained the mission of Paul might be among my colleagues today: "We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your servants for Jesus's sake" (2 Corinthians 4.5).
What refreshed me -- and reoriented my priorities -- was Dale's unashamed commitment to his children. Did he want to come to Fresno to participate in our workshop? Absolutely, but not at the expense of teaching his son that his career in ministry meant more to him than the commitment he'd made to his son.
As Mark Guy and I visited at the game on Monday night, he relayed to me an incident when a church was interviewing him for their vacant preaching position. He was asked by the search committee about his commitment to ministry. His reply? "This church will have many ministers long after I'm gone but my children will only have one daddy. I believe my first priority must be to my children."
I respect that. I admire that. And I want to be like that -- not driven by the desire of the next out-of-town speaking opportunity but driven by the desire to be faithful and focused at home.