The Preacher’s Work Week – Part 1

Hebrews 10:25

Sunday Morning

As good dedicated Baptists do, we had services three times a week. On Sunday morning, there was Sunday School, then worship. On Sunday night, there were discipleship classes, then another worship service. On Wednesday night, there were missions oriented activities and prayer meeting. Although larger churches had choir practice on Wednesday, the churches I grew up in had no choir because then there would be no congregation. Here’s how each of these events looked close-up.

Sunday School

Sunday School was the time when young boys and girls were, against their will, dressed up in their Sunday best. For the boys this meant starched black slacks, starched white shirts, bow ties or neck ties, black socks, and spit-polished black shoes. The girls were adorned with modest dresses, white ankle socks, and patent black shoes. Have you ever tried to play Red-Rover in Sunday clothes? Well, it ain’t easy. We antsy young’uns listened for 45 minutes to whatever old codger – who had been shamed into teaching by his wife – agonizingly reading word-for-word the lesson from the Sunday School quarterly (issued four times a year).  He ended with, “Now think about those things.” Then we ended with a prayer.


Sunday morning worship was the big guns, the pinnacle of the week.  I could always sense a slight nervous energy in the air. I’m not sure why, because the service was fairly predictable. After the welcome and announcements, there was the Scripture reading. Our little country churches were informal enough that anyone could chime in during the announcements.  This included a recitation of the week’s events, which rarely varied, and prayer requests. I dreaded that part because it seemed to take forever, and my breakfast was already playing out. I didn’t care about Fred’s mother’s second cousin’s husband’s gall stones. I was hungry!

One of the deacons led the singing (no paid song leaders); three hymns, verses 1, 2, and 4. Even though we had a printed bulletin with the song titles and number in the hymnal, they were announced, each one twice, “Hymn number 412, ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers, number 412.” I never really knew why we skipped the third verse of every hymn. I speculated that third verses were reserved for less evangelical groups, like the Methodists, Lutherans, and Presbyterians.

A few of the other men would take the offering, passing the plate, trying to strike that delicate balance of looking at you in a way that made you want to pitch in your folding money without drawing attention to the fact that they didn’t. I mean, if you take up the offering, that’s contribution enough, right? These offering takers were often viewed as Deacons-in-training. If you could be trusted with the offering, you could be considered as a potential Deacon (Luke 16:11).  One day, I will expound more on the Capital D Deacons. We don’t have time here and now.

Then came the Special Music. These were the original stars of  contemporary Christian music. That’s where you got your start. Special Music pre-dates The Voice, American Idol, and even karaoke. My sister began singing the Special Music early on.  My dad’s favorite request of her was “The King is Coming” by Bill Gaither.  I was glad when Pennye sang because the others, quite frankly, just weren’t very good. No matter, though. Whoever sang earned a throaty “Amen” from the deacons.

Next, the sermon. My daddy was a fine blend of teacher / preacher. He could expound on the Scripture and seamlessly shift into fire-and-brimstone. Daddy spent hours in his study, hammering away at a sermon, carefully selecting the Scripture passage and just the right words to convey its full meaning. When he preached, he never needed electronic amplification. He had a way of waking up the crowd when he sensed they were drifting into thoughts of football, fishing, or the roast in the oven. On one Sunday, he pounded the pulpit; “There are lost people all around you going to hell, and you don’t give a damn!  Right now, more of you are concerned about the fact that I said, ‘damn’ than you are about those lost people!” Another time he announced he was going to preach from the Sears and Roebuck catalog because no one cared to bring their Bible to church, so they wouldn’t know the difference. The most scathing sermons, however, were those that included the 10 second silent pause for effect, followed by the words, “Wesley…go sit with your mother!” Oh, the shame, the guilt, the depth of remorse is unspeakable.

Once the congregation was sufficiently under conviction, then came the invitation; “Just as I Am,” or “Living for Jesus” or “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.” The struggling mourners would walk to the front of the church to get saved. If they were already saved, they would rededicate their life. If they were saved and rededicated, they would just kneel and pray. I was always most impressed with the praying kneelers. They were certainly the most spiritual.

Finally, the benediction, offered by another of the men. I could finally loosen my tie, eat Sunday dinner, and watch the Dallas Cowboys whip up on their foe of the week. My next post will reveal my favorite service, Sunday night.

Published in: on September 14, 2017 at 9:43 am  Leave a Comment  

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