This weekend I will be gone to a celebration in Cleveland, Ohio. It is the 100th Anniversary of the Romanian Baptist Association of USA and Canada. It is one of those occasions that people from all over the North America are coming to celebrate our history and heritage.
As I was preparing to leave, I was very happy that I have such a vast array of preaching friends that I can invite to preach here when I am gone. I feel safe and secure that while I am gone those who are coming to preach are similar in doctrine to what we hold as a church. I emphasize the similarity in doctrine, because I usually invite preacher whose preaching style is different than mine.
When I look at the people that I have invited to preach over the twenty plus years that I have been here, they fall into four categories.
In the first category are young and older people who get licensed to preach. I had a number of people who preached their first sermon here at Central Baptist Church. It is great joy to invite them 5 years or 10 years later and to see how they are doing and to compare their first sermon with the sermon that they are preaching now.
In the second category, I invite those who are already retired from the preaching ministry. Despite being retired most of them yearn to preach one more sermon. They have ideas which have been shaped in a sermon and they need a place to preach that sermon. Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham said that his father in his nineties still thinks that he will preach one more time. It is fantastic to hear a preacher who is in his/her 80’s preach about the power and the presence of God – while the body is getting weaker, the inner man, the spiritual man is getting stronger!
In the third category I invite people who wherever they go they preach a challenging sermon. These preachers come and by their theological depth, their sensitivity to the spiritual needs of the congregation, their relationship to God leave the congregation desiring a closer walk with God and for greater commitment to the Kingdom of God.
In the fourth category, I invite our denominational leaders. While in the three mentioned categories I am not concerned about denominational positions, when I invite the denominational leaders, I expect them to present the work of the denomination and how we as a denomination are working in the world. This is our larger family and I want our congregation to identify with their global brothers and sisters.
I know that things have gone well when upon my return I am told that I should invite that person again when the opportunity arises. I know that the invited guest was effective when weeks and months later someone reminds me of that preacher or even quotes me from their sermons. Paul writes to the Romans in chapter 10:15 “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”