I was in the unenviable position of having a father who was a traveling minister (he still is). This meant that he was away for long stretches of time, on the road, traveling, going to church after church, in conference after conference, spending so much time away from his family. Don’t think I didn’t notice, dad. But that’s just the way it was, and he is quite an inspirational speaker, don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen his process, how he goes about preparing sermons, and it’s a wonder to behold. I’ve also seen those same sermons delivered, in churches, in tents, in prisons, and in fields and pavilions throughout this country, and it’s also something special. But being him, and being his son are two completely different things, something too many people failed to remember.
When I would travel with my dad, which happened more and more as I got a bit older, I would always be introduced to everyone and their mothers as the next big preacher. I would shake their hands, they would pat me on the head (which I detested), and they would proclaim me the second coming of Jehosophat. I would nod along, laugh when instructed, and proceed to sit in my place of honor at the front of the church so I could listen to another one of my dad’s sermons while everyone around me looked at me to see my reactions. It was so strange, such a surreal time anytime I went with him. And I wore my special suit for the occasion. It was bright white, the better to call attention to myself, but also easier for people to recognize me. When we would go “on tour” I think they honestly passed on this knowledge from church to church. It was almost like we were celebrities, and while I liked it, I did not like the expectations that came with it.
“It wasn’t enough to just be me.”
That’s where the disconnect really began. At first I found it interesting and was even honored by the attention, but once they all started saying I was going to be a great preacher too I started to honestly think about it. And I realized I didn’t want to be a preacher. I didn’t want to stand in that pulpit and speak the words of God from on high. I wasn’t that guy, but how can one person stand against legions who are certain of that fact? I couldn’t, or at least I felt like I couldn’t. So I let myself get swept along with the tide, I let them believe I was the second coming, and I got tangled up in youth church, in theology courses, until I finally said “enough!” It took me long enough, and while I realized that being a preacher was a noble profession, it was also a calling, and I wasn’t called that way, even though so many people believed it to be the case. When I finally shut it down, I know I disappointed so many people, but I realized by then I am not my father, nor do I want to be, so it was okay.
And amazingly enough, the church still has some solid young preachers who really know how to sermonize. I don’t think I’m missed.