Minister's Study

Ministering, writing, and wrestling in a land flowing with sweet tea and deep-fried food

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Preachers' fellowship

On Monday, the South-Eastern North Carolina Baptist Fellowship had its meeting at Bible Baptist Church.

Now, for those who don't know many preachers, or who have never seen preachers get together for fellowship, this might be imagined as a reserved, restrained gathering, with all fun being checked at the door. Or depending upon your preaching acquaintance, and since a good bit of the time was spent preaching to each other, perhaps the time would have seemed angry -- lots of furious shouting about hellfire and how bad some group or another is.

Those are all so far from the truth it's hard to describe the distance.

Preachers have fun. Probably sometimes too much fun. Counting church members and family, but mostly consisting of preachers, we had a solid 80 people in the church. And the auditorium rang with laughter when it wasn't echoing with amens. Get a few preachers together of like faith and practice, and you've got a recipe for a riot -- the fun sort. Maybe it's because we're forced into such restraint before our congregations normally (and rightfully so -- a preacher must be blameless, always striving not to give offense with word or deed, unless it be from the truth which he speaks, and even then, the offense had better be unavoidable). Maybe we're this much fun all the time, and no one notices. But some of the craziest groups I've ever seen in action were made up of preachers.

Not to say that we were out of control; there was a sense of dignity to all the proceedings. But that didn't stop the joy and enjoyment at all.

The other thing I think is neat about preachers' gatherings like this is the astonishing array of backgrounds men enter the ministry from. You meet some amazing people. One man was a WWII veteran, who spent three and a half years in Europe, notably fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. He still had all of his faculties, as best as I could tell. We heard from a missionary to Romania (for those of you who are Dracula fans, he lived on Strada Transylvania), who used to be concert musician, I think. Now he lives close to the border, ministering to Hungarians, Romanians, and Gypsies. One preacher called himself a walking miracle -- after his body was literally shattered in a wreck, the best doctors in the state told him he'd never walk again, or really have good use of any of his body, I think. But he walked, and now he's going back to the hospital where he was treated to play the piano (he's also a composer) and preach -- at their invitation, I believe. Our last preacher was an ex-biker drug addict, now transformed and preaching the gospel that changed him. With LOTS of enthusiasm. When he got up, I marvelled at how athletic he looked -- he had the kind of build that usually comes from running a few miles every day, and spending hours in a weight room every week. Then I saw him preach, and realized that was quite likely all the exercise he needed!

Just like everybody, we've got our weaknesses over which to weap, our in-jokes over which to laugh. But most of all, we've got our Lord. And that's reason enough for joy.


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