It was a relatively normal Sunday morning... for a while. Praise Team rehearsal at 8 AM. Teach my ABF class at 9 AM. Lead worship at 10:15 AM. We had finished rehearsal and it was ABF class time. I was mingling in my class around 9:10 and Neal Wheeler, one of our pastors, stumbled in the back door of the room. I rushed over to him because there was something obvious wrong. Neal muttered out, "John, I just got sick." Taking several reverse steps I said, "Oh, that's terrible... Oh, wait... you're supposed to preach today... Oh no... I guess I'm preaching today now." I sent Neal home. Poor guy. He was so pale. And poor me. The pressure was on. I told Jeremy, my class assistant that I'd be back in 15 minutes. Running to my office, my mind was racing about what I should speak on. I quickly located sermon notes of a message I used in another location about 2 months ago. I ran the notes up to my screen guy so he could throw together some PowerPoint slides before the service started. I ran back to my ABF and taught my class. Then I went straight to the Worship Center, retrieved my sermon notes from the screen guy, spent 30 seconds on my knees, and then led worship. Never have I been more thankful for a long choir song than on Sunday. I had 7 or 8 minutes to silently review my notes and read my text from the Bible before it was sermon time. I didn't communicate as well as I would want, but it was amazing how God used my meager, last minute message. For whatever reason, it was obvious God was in it. That message, as well as many other archived messages are available to hear at http://www.cantonbaptist.org/.
Later at home, LaVonna and I realized this: when an audience knows that a speaker is thrust into an awkward, under-prepared situation, they listen more intently. An audience like that generally understands the pressure, they're glad they're not in the speaker's shoes, but they want to see what the speaker will say on the spot. The bigger the crowd, the greater the pressure. I kept asking God to keep me focused and not think too much about what I was actually doing.
Life can sometimes make us reach for the panic button. We have to stay God-focused and others-oriented in ministry. Everyone wants to do a good job, but ministry is not about earning another's pat on the back. It's not about "doing a good job." Ministry is about encouraging people to trust God. His word is the key to that influence. Paul told Timothy, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season." (2 Timothy 4:2) We never know when God will thrust us into a key opportunity to speak His truth to another. The next time you're there, don't hit the panic button. Relax, draw strength from God, and let Him use you - as you use His word.