“Leaving the Pulpit”Categories: M. W. Bassford, Meditations
Next Sunday morning, I will preach my last sermon ever for the Jackson Heights church. I suspect it will be the last sermon that I ever preach, period. Once I move to Texas, I will be a member of the Kleinwood church, which currently has four preachers on staff and one sermon slot each week for all of them to fill. I can think of few things less seemly or helpful to the kingdom than elbowing for a spot in that rotation!
This is a difficult transition for me. I have been preaching the gospel in one capacity or another since late 2004. Like Paul, I have never been among the great speakers of the brotherhood. Anyone who looked to me for soaring oratorical brilliance would have been disappointed.
Typically, the compliments that I have received have been that I made the Bible understandable and clear. I have striven to do so. It's not a very dramatic goal, but I am not a very dramatic person.
Nonetheless, I believe that I have faithfully served the Lord and His church in my preaching, and I have found great fulfillment in doing so. For almost 20 years, I have taken my place before God's people and explained the Scriptures to them as best I knew how. It hasn't always been very good, necessarily, but it has been my best. A man can lay his head on the pillow and be satisfied with that.
No more. Of course, my last sermon is not the last sermon for others. At Jackson Heights, my place will be taken by Clay Gentry, my beloved brother and co-worker. Clay is an excellent speaker and a serious Bible student. I am confident that he will give the brethren there all the spiritual nourishment they need.
So too at Kleinwood. I know all the men from whom I will be learning. I am certain that they will ably proclaim the gospel without any help from me.
My work of preaching is over, but the work of preaching will continue. This is humbling, certainly. God does not need me preaching anymore, but He has never needed me preaching. I have been useful, I think, but I have never been necessary. If I had never existed, the work still would have gone on.
However, in a deeper sense, my own interchangeability as a preacher confirms that I have kept my proper place. If a work falls apart without a man, that shows that the work was about him, not about God. Some preachers in the world have founded mighty megachurches, but typically, once the preacher is gone, the megachurch collapses. I wouldn't want that to be my legacy!
Instead, my legacy will be that for a time, I served something much larger than myself. Preachers come and go, but the word of God is eternal. In years to come, others will replace those who have replaced me, but if the hearts of those replacements are steadfast, they will proclaim the same gospel I did. The earthly memory of any of us will not last long, but our reward will be great.
A man can be satisfied with that too.