As a pastor I do not have to worry about how prayers will be answered. I am confident that Jesus can manage the production process without my input. Similarly I do not have to fret about who will answer prayers. I am confident that the Holy Spirit will coordinate personnel connecting those who can best advance the Kingdom of heaven. And best all I am confident that God the Father will manage the heavenly host bring everything together at exactly the right moment.
My part in ministry is sales, telling people about the greatest product in the universe: forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body, and life everlasting!
This week I put my pastoral skills into material sales, selling coupon books to raise funds for a mission project that our congregation supports. In two hours I learned much about ministry as sales. In this practical experience, we had a great product, for a mere $5 the coupon book contained a $10 coupon, an instant 100% profit, plus several other savings opportunities.
Let Some People Go
As much as I might like to talk with everyone who walked past the door where I stood, some people were too wrapped up in their own thoughts to even acknowledge that I had said good afternoon. Their eyes remained focused beyond where I stood. At most they would acknowledge me with a wave of a hand, gesturing for me to stand aside.
I’ve been in those shoes; rushing to accomplish a few errands between appointments. If anyone had even slowed me down, I would have been furthered biased against whatever they might have said.
Someone else might be able to reach those people at a different time with a different approach more suitable to their personality. Let them go.
Make Eye Contact
Before beginning my spiel, as the next person approached, I would look them in the eye and smile. When I could get to the door, I would open it for them.
The written word can communicate much information to many through Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and newsletters, but personal contact conveys more than words. Increasingly I hear that in the not too distant future a few super preachers will present all sermons. These specially gifted and talented individuals will have time and resources to present exceptional media savvy sermons. But I have learned that preaching is best received as a performance art in close communication between the preacher and the congregation. When I preach I watch for changes in body language —arms crossed, smiling, nodding, frowns— and adjust my presentation as I speak.
Making eye contact gave me a few more seconds to deliver the message about what I wanted to sell.
Walk with People
As people walked past where I stood, I did not expect them to instantly stop and listen to me, instead I walked beside them while I told them about the coupon books we were selling.
Walking with people is the essence of ministry. I would like people to believe that I have seen every problem and have all the answers, but I too walk the path of life, struggling with my faith and its intersection with life. My hope is that I will have something to teach from my experiences and that I will learn from the experiences of those I walk alongside.
Walking with people showed them that I was interested in them and opened a possibility for them to be interested in me and what I had to say.
Know Your Product
The first few times I tried to pitch the coupon books I stumbled over my words and could not find the page with the $10 coupon. My first few attempts were unsuccessful.
Every now and then I look at an old sermon (fortunately I have none on tape) and thank the congregations who listened to me and said they appreciated me. Practice has improved my preaching. Reading a few lines of Scripture everyday continues to improve my familiarity with God’s salvation and presence in life.
Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture,
he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.
—Acts 8:35 (NRSV)