When I was starting out in the ministry, I was anxious for the church to grow and I wanted the town to hear what a fine preacher I was. I looked for opportunities to attract new faces from our small town of Hector, Minnesota.
The local weekly newspaper sold the top two inches above their mast head for advertisement or announcements. For five dollars a week, "I could declare to the town my sermon title."
During the 1960's, the Jehovah Witness's built a new Kingdom Hall in town; the coffee shops buzzed about what they stood for and where this new group came from. In this small, very Lutheran town, anything non-Scandinavian was looked at warily and talked about widely.
It was time to state my case to the town, so I had the paper declare, "I too am a Jehovah's Witness," followed by the time of our Sunday evening service at the Hector Evangelical Free Church.
We had a crowd that night, especially after 24 adults from Kingdom Hall showed up to hear this hot-shot preacher explain his newspaper declaration.
The 24 sat in the back row with their arms crossed across their chest. I took off preaching by declaring that I too was Jehovah's Witness: to his faithfulness, to His grace, to His mercy, to His Salvation, to His kindness, to His love, to His forgiveness.
Our regular worshipers were nervous throughout the service: nervous at the thought of "what am I going to say to the 24 Kingdom Haller's?" and nervous that their new pastor might be flogged and hung out to dry by 24 irate Kingdom Brawlers.
"I became so excited about the topic, I ended the evening by declaring, "Ohhh and next week, part II." There was no part II, but I knew I had seven days to prepare.
Forty years later when I was getting ready to be wheeled into heart surgery, my daughter, Bethany pinned a tag to my gown that said, "Jehovah Jirah " I survived a stroke, the surgery, and my wife's driving. "God is with me."
I am now an 80 year old retired preacher and I don't use the banner in the local newspaper to declare my positions anymore. I do declare it to those who will listen. I do shout it loudly, that my Jehovah does go before me, and I am His witness of His wonderful love and grace in my life.
I am the Director of Vision and Design at Hidden Acres Christian Center (www.hacamps.org) in Central Iowa. I have an M.A. in English Education from Truman State. You may follow my writing at the website listed below. www.hiddenacrescamp.blogspot.com
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