August 21, 2018

Pastoral Nuggets: Free Stars

Brother-Aaron-236x300More years ago now than I care to remember, we had a Labor Day Camp Meeting at the church I was pastoring in West Point, Georgia – Roper Heights Baptist Church.

During the Saturday morning session, Rev. Michael Stiggers of Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in West Point, Georgia shared the following story about his then five-year-old son, who is now a grown young man.

Now, keep in mind that he was only five-years-old, which meant he didn’t have his front teeth. This made it terribly difficult for him to say the word, “three.”  It came out, “free.”

Michael said, “I was sitting at home one day last week when my son came bounding through the door.

Excitedly, he began to shout, ‘Dad!  Dad!’ To which I responded, ‘What?  What?’  He said, ‘Guess what?’ I said, ‘What?’  And he said, ‘I got FREE stars on my paper at school today!’

I said, ‘Don’t you mean you got THREE stars on your paper?’  He said, ‘That’s what I said.’’  I said, ‘No.  You said you got FREE stars.  Listen to the sound of the word son: Th…Th…THREE.’

His little shoulders slumped and his countenance fell.  I asked him, ‘What’s wrong?’  To which he replied, ‘Dad.  I’m trying to tell you about something wonderful that happened to me – and you’re trying to teach me how to talk.’

After a moment of silence I excitedly asked my son, ‘How many stars did you say you got?’  To which he replied, ‘FREE dad!  FREE!’  Then I began to celebrate with him saying, ‘All right!  My boy got FREE starts on his paper!’”

As I listened to his story I began to realize that we church folk are often guilty of the same crime as Rev. Stiggers. We possess the greatest story ever told. The most wonderful thing that could ever happen to someone has happened to us. We have entered into a personal relationship with the Creator of this world. We know Jesus as both Lord and Savior.

Yet, many times the story remains untold because we have become more concerned with how we speak the message than the message we are speaking.

In my seminary training I took a course in Greek. The only thing I really learned in that Greek class was that I didn’t know English grammar. It’s hard to learn a foreign language when you don’t know your own language!

While sitting in class one day the Greek professor asked a question. I have never forgotten the answer.

In fact, that question and answer turned out to be a defining, watershed moment in my life and has helped shape my ministry through the years. He simply asked, “If you want to communicate with someone in America, what language do you speak?” Well, I didn’t know much Greek, but I sure knew the answer to that question!  So, I shot my hand up like a kid in grammar school.

Inside I was saying, “Oooh!  Oooh!  I know the answer. Pick me.  Pick me!”  He said, “Okay.  Mr. McCollough, what’s the answer?” To which I blurted out, (rather proudly I might add) “English.” To which he responded, “No.” Then he proceeded, “Listen carefully to how I framed the question.” He said, “I asked, ‘If you want to COMMUNICATE with someone in America what language do you speak?’”

Then he said, “English is the common language OF the people.  But if you want to COMMUNICATE with someone, you must speak the language that is common TO the people.”

When people hear me preach, I don’t care so much if they leave having heard a “grammatically correct” sermon. What I care about is whether or not I communicated to them that Jesus loves them.

And as you read this column today – I want to communicate the same thing to you. Jesus loves you unconditionally – warts and all.  He really does!

By the way, did I mention to you that I have FREE Stars?  You can have Them too. They are God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And yes, They are THREE and they are FREE!  Hey, the grammar ain’t correct, but the message is!

 

Brother Aaron

 

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