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Sermon Excerpt: A New Future is Possible, 1 Sam. 1:4-10, Rev. Thomas Hall


I’ve always longed for America’s favorite bumper sticker. It teases me at long traffic lights, stares up at me at railroad crossings, and haunts me in grocery store parking lots. "This driver is the proud parent of an honor student at _________ High School." Neither I nor my parents have ever had the need to invest in such marketing. The best we could do would be maybe, "Less-than-impressed parents of a C+ student." No matter. I wouldn’t even know where you’d get those pre-printed stickers. Do they automatically come in the mail along with junior’s straight A report card? Maybe they have a black market out there for parents and students who want the crown but not the cross; who want the sticker but not the aggravation.

I find that same kind of thing in the ministry too. We don’t exactly advertise on our bumpers: "Proud pastor of Huge Mainline Church That Raised $500 at the Church Bazaar" or anything like that. Just wouldn’t be in good taste. It would so long it would conceal the bumper. But I was recently at a ministerium when the conversation took an interesting turn. "Yeah," the host pastor announced. "We’re running three services-we’re bursting at the seams." Well, truth be known, the only seams the rest of us were bursting was around our waist.

"So," the clergy host continued, "how many are you running in your church?" "Not fair!" I wanted to yell, but chose not to. I am a church planter; my congregation is just beginning. In fact, we meet in a tavern and we haven’t even had our first bazaar yet. Half-jesting, but truthfully, I said, "We’ve almost got enough to form a full volleyball team." Wouldn’t that look great on the bumper sticker-"Proud pastor of a volleyball team-sized church." It’ll be awhile before we ever show up around the clergy bumper sticker crowd.

That’s the point. We don’t want to hang around the proud parents and success-story churches and pastors when we’re not doing well. Especially when we find ourselves at the opposite ends of the achievement continuum.... Subscribers: click here for the full manuscript