I was preaching away from home on a Sunday morning.
Before the service, the pastor asked an associate preacher to lead the offering.
“Can you do that?” he asked, somewhat sternly.
“Just receive the offering. That’s it.”
This back-and-forth went on for several minutes. I didn’t get it… until it happened.
The young preacher rose and said, “It’s offering time.”
Then he added, “Before we receive the offering, let me tell you a story!” He went on to tell several jokes and then fuss at the congregation.
The pastor was as hot as fish grease.
I laughed. But it wasn’t funny.
This is a pulpit sin with big consequences that young, associate preachers tend to commit. It is the sin of taking liberties.
- He is asked to read the scripture. He gets up and gives a call to worship.
- He is asked to pray. He gets up and sings a verse of “Shine On Me.”
- He is asked to welcome the guests. He gets up and introduces himself!
- He is asked to make the announcements. He gets up and gives a sermonette, with text and outline.
- He is asked to lead a song. He gets up and gives a mini-concert.
- He is asked to preach. He gets up and criticizes the leadership or membership. In love, of course.
- He is asked to…
Well, you get the picture.
As a pastor, there are times when I call an “audible” in worship. I get to the line of scrimmage and change the planned order of worship. I view this as part of my responsibility as the worship leader.
However, if it is not your pulpit, you do not have the right or responsibility to call an audible.
Your duty is singular: Do what you have been asked to do. In fact, it’s twofold: Do what you have been asked to do and sit down.
If you do what you are asked, you will not have the time or opportunity to impress the congregation. But you will earn their respect.
Moreover, by doing what you are asked, you increase the odds that you will be asked to serve again. However, a guaranteed way to limit future opportunities is to take liberties in the pulpit.
Remember: To get over what the Lord has put under you, you must get under what the Lord has put over you.
Authority comes through submission.
Do you want more opportunities, ministerial respect, and increased authority?
Just do what you are asked.