Over 35 years ago, I felt the call of God upon my life to preach. In those early days, I did not get a lot of opportunities to share God’s word on Sunday mornings. Instead, I shared His word on my radio program on KSLR-AM in San Antonio, Texas.
Occasionally I would receive invitations to preach in different churches around the Alamo City by listeners of my broadcast. As the Air Force had decided to send me to England, my pastor had given me a pulpit opportunity the last Sunday evening I was in town. Before heading overseas, I headed to a Bible conference in hometown Fort Worth which was cut short by a severe winter storm.
On the Sunday after the conference ended early, my wife and I decided to visit a church in Fort Worth. The sign on the church door read “Services Canceled Due to Inclement Weather.” I was so disappointed as I loved hearing Pastor Jim Hylton preach. As we drove from the building, I determined to find another church to attend. Within a few minutes, we found ourselves driving past a church often seen in my pre-Air Force days.
When we walked in to the sanctuary, there was a small group of people sitting in the front watching a church missions’ video. When it ended, I stood to leave somewhat embarrassed for being so late for a service and only catching the tail end of a video. As we turned, the pastor walked up to us and asked us to stay because the worship service was about to begin. He astounded me as he said, “I see you have your Bible; do you want to preach?”
I had not said anything about being involved in ministry. I was wearing a suit, so perhaps he thought only a preacher would be wearing a suit on a Sunday night. I told him I would be happy to share with the congregation. He then looked at my wife and asked, “Do you play the piano?” She smiled and politely shook her head to his stereotypical assumption that since she was a preacher’s wife, obviously she must play the piano.
When he began to introduce me to preach, as I made my way up to the platform, he said to my wife, “Sister, would you like to testify?” I quickened my pace because I knew it was an embarrassing moment as she was not one to speak in a public setting. Again, he seemed to have a paradigm that preacher’s wives must be willing to “testify” at a moment’s notice.
As I opened my sermon notes from preaching in San Antonio the week before, I enjoyed preaching to the congregation that had turned up even in inclement winter weather. At the end of the service, a little old lady pressed $10 into my hand wanting to help me with my radio ministry I had referenced in my sermon.
I drove away amazed that I had driven into a parking lot as a church visitor, yet was driving away as the evening’s guest speaker. I was a young minister when this occurred, but it certainly showed me that God will open doors when there’s a strong desire to minister His word.
That pastor had been in ministry for 40 years. I am sure he didn’t let “just anyone” preach from his pulpit. But, in this case he made an exception. I hope my message was a blessing to people in his congregation. That pastor likely never realized the tremendous blessing he gave this young preacher as he placed his trust in me … a man he had never met.
Tony “T-Bar” Barnes is a 28-year veteran of the Marine Corps and Air Force. He is a retired from the Department of Veteran Affairs and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.