I came to seminary from a secular job and volunteer positions in my large church with no preaching experience. Soon, I was offered an opportunity to preach in a small town in the Mississippi Delta, the ‘Fust’ Baptist church thereof.
With some effort I cobbled together a sermon of a sort on Isaiah 40, I think, and headed down on the Lord’s Day to the church. The church had a nice looking brick structure in the middle of town. A Sunday school class was in progress when I arrived, one of the men of the church teaching a couple of kids on the steps of the pulpit platform.
Worship was for maybe a dozen folks. There was a little music. I belted out a twelve minute sermon. The service was over. I was handed an envelope with the honorarium and we left.
A few things stand out about this particular Lord’s Day almost a half century ago:
- That was my first sermon preached in a church from a pulpit.
- The twelve minute sermon is still, I think, is a personal best (or worst). I can’t recall running out of tether any quicker. No one complained.
- The honorarium was the equivalent of about $300 in today’s dollars. I was working for $5/hr during seminary. The honorarium was a week and an half’s pay, for twelve minutes. I like the math. We weren’t poor but that was a nice surprise.
I didn’t see another white face in that town other than the small group in that church. Sometime that morning one of the members volunteered that if the church ever disbanded, their deed specified that the church property would be given to the nearest Baptist church. Guess what? The nearest church was an African-American Baptist church. The handful of the faithful at the venerable Fust Baptist would drive from farms outside of town to that church building on Sunday and were doggone sure to keep their church alive. And, there was always a steady stream of seminary students who needed a place to preach and this church was happy to accommodate them.
According to folks who have heard almost all of my preaching, that wasn’t the last time I was overpaid…but who keeps score?
I can’t find the church today, so I presume it gave up the ghost later.
On the Lord’s Day, wherever you are, you do the best you can with what you have…for the Lord.
Have a great Lord’s Day.