Wednesday, August 29, 2012

God Loves Local Preachers Too!

Five whole years with the Board of Examiners and I was finally and proudly ordained a Local Elder in the AME Church.  I was finally a colleague with my fellow preachers and qualified to consecrate the sacred elements of The Lord’s Supper.  I was elated and humbled at the responsibility that God had placed in my not so worthy hands.  I realize the magnitude of the office, the sacred trust and the huge responsibility of delivering God’s Word. 

My decision to become a local was a conversation that was strictly between me and God.  I have heard from many Itinerant Elders that had they been my supervising pastor at the time of my calling, they would have changed my mind as if I didn't know how to make a sound decision for myself.  As if I didn't know that my secular job is the one that pays my bills, keeps a roof over my head and feeds me and my children.  As if I would be considered "beneath" those that have degrees and are itinerant.  As if God's decision for me was not the right one.  Changed my mind? Changed God’s mind? To hear that is mind-blowing to me. Can I not lead the lost to Christ as a local preacher? Can I not teach or pray with people as a local preacher?  Can I not do what the Board of Examiners trained me to do as a local preacher?  Do I not pay the same amount for the psychological exam and be background checked as an itinerant?  Am I not called "Reverend" just like an itinerant? Do I not answer the same roll call at conferences like an itinerant? Am I not held accountable by the same Book of Discipline as my itinerant brothers and sisters?  Most importantly, can I not do what God called me to do as a local preacher just like an itinerant?  The answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes! 

I prepare my sermons by much prayer and supplication and I study rigorously the Word of God every day.  I help out my supervising pastor whenever she/he needs it.  I have held whole services by myself.  I have visited the sick and presided over meetings in the supervising pastor’s absence.  I have counseled and prayed with members and non-members alike.  I have married couples, buried the dead and baptized new believers. I have held the hands of the broken-hearted and I have been awaken in the middle of the night from a member that needs to talk or to have prayer. 

Local preachers are a valuable asset to any church.  As a matter of fact, the local ministry was an integral piece of the Methodist ministry when Charles and John Wesley came to America to preach and set up circuit churches.  It was hard for the itinerant to get to many churches from week to week so they installed “local” preachers for those circuits to take care of the charge while the itinerant was traveling. We stand as a “middle man” between the shepherd of the church and the congregants.  We take on the tasks that few people want.  We are secretaries, armor bearers, Church School teachers, choir directors, program chairpersons and any thing else that the supervising pastor might need us to be.  Most of all we are preachers of God’s Word. We are important. Perhaps one day, someone in leadership will have the fore-sight to include local participation at our District and Annual Conferences.

Itinerants travel anywhere in their respective districts and locals are usually called on to “supply”.  However, the ministry is the same.  I am proud to be a preacher of God.  I am proud to be an ordained Local Elder of the oldest black denomination of these United States of America.  I may not be “seminary” trained, but I am trained nonetheless.  I was “called out” and “set apart” just like my itinerant colleagues.  When I have to give account of my life before God, it will not matter if I was an itinerant or a local and it will not matter to God if I have a MDiv (Masters of Divinity) or not behind my name.  What will matter to God is if I had obeyed His calling for me.

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad Jesus did not have to have a MDiv behind his name! What is important is that God is served! Advanced degrees do not guarantee any measure of success. I would rather have clergy that is Holy Ghost filled over clergy that is highly educated! Praise God!