I am considering writing a guide for 'Churches Who Use Lay Preachers' as I feel there are some things they should and should not do...
- please do not expect your preacher for next Sunday to have already chosen the hymns on the Monday afternoon before - they are probably still getting over the previous Sabbath!
- please do not wait till after the service, when a dozen of you are standing round chatting with cups of weak tea, to ask loudly "What is your fee?" - because there is no polite answer ["What do you usually give?" sounds grasping "I do it for the joy of serving the Lord" sounds over-spiritual, and anyway a 30mile round trip requires petrol "At XYZ I hear they pay £50 a service" may be true, but sounds rather greedy...] Please sort it out beforehand, and have it ready in an envelope. But actually in 2010, £5 is not really reasonable.
- please put a glass of fresh water in the pulpit [floating dead spiders are worse than live ones]
- please do not ask the preacher [especially on their first visit] to change the acetates on the OHP 'because it is near the pulpit and our regular person is away'
- please do not leave the preacher standing outside in the rain, because the keyholder only turns up 10 minutes before the service and there is no on-site car park.
- please inform the preacher in advance of anything important which impacts on the service [we are all sad today because someone special has just died/we only ever use the KJV and regard newer versions as heresy/the whistling is Ethel's hearing aid, just ignore it/Sidney always falls asleep and snores, it isn't your fault]
- please do not announce in the notices before the service that "X is here today and we are going to invite her to say a few words now, before our visiting preacher Y leads our service" - and then let X speak for 35 minutes
Yes - all these things have actually happened to me over the course of 40+ years of lay preaching [do not try and identify which churches are responsible though] I have to say that the great majority of places where I have taken services have been warm, welcoming and thoughtful [and it is a little bit like Supply Teaching - if it is really bad, I don't have to go back]
I am reminded of the time I went to speak at a Ladies Meeting in 1990. The Secretary met me at the door, and said "Will it be all right if we have a special prayer time just before you speak? We are really concerned about our dear sister Margaret" "Of course" I said "But you will lead that part of the meeting, won't you?" [what else could I say? after all, I didn't know who Dear Sister Margaret was, or why we were praying for her]
I confess that I was utterly gobsmacked once the entreaties and petitions started. These ladies were all interceding on behalf of Mrs Thatcher, begging the Lord to deal with the evil men who were trying to oust her from No 10!
This is an election year, and yes, we should vote responsibly - but I am sure it is not right to use the pulpit for party political purposes!
[btw the logo is from the CARE website]