Great Sermon, Preacher?

I came upon a story this past week that I found a bit amusing (and that I shared with St. Andrew).  The story involves a visiting minister who had been invited to preach at a particular congregation.  After a few hymns were sung, the visiting minister went up to the pulpit to preach.  However, the visiting minister's sermon ended up being very long-winded, and he spent almost all the time talking about himself to the near exclusion of the Bible and its application.    

And there's more!  Every time the visiting minister seemed to make a good point during his sermon, a member of the congregation would encourage him on by responding with an enthusiastic “Amen!” or “That’s right preacher!"  But that would only give the visiting preacher the needed fuel to go on preaching.

Well, after a while longer of this, the senior pastor of the church had had enough, and he finally joined in...not by standing up and shouting “Amen!” or “That’s right preacher!” to the visiting minister...but by saying "Amen...Pharaoh."  

Now, the visiting minister didn’t know what to make of this, and after the service concluded and all the people had gone home, he asked the senior pastor what he meant by saying “Amen, Pharaoh” during his sermon.  And the senior pastor replied, "Your sermon was going soooo long…I was trying to tell you to 'let my people go'." (HA!)

Question for you!  How would you characterize the vast majority of today’s preaching?  While there are many sermons today that seem to do a good job in articulating the Word of God and by making it very much applicable to those in attendance...there are also sermons that seem to fall off the tracks.

As the Lord says in Jeremiah 23:28, "...Let him who has My word speak my word faithfully."  

Let us recommit ourselves to faithfully speaking God’s Word.

So...You Want to Be a Chaplain?

I commend individuals who wish to enter into the field of chaplaincy.  In fact, whenever I arrive at a hospital that I haven't been to before, I would usually inquire as to whether or not they have any chaplains on staff.  I also explore whether there is a chapel on the premises, for spiritual care is especially crucial within such an environment.

The decision to explore chaplaincy for myself started back in 2005.  I became a resident CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) student from 2007 to 2008 at Trinity Mother Frances Health System in Tyler, Texas (since renamed) under the supervision of Rev. Robert Grigsby.  Receiving four units of CPE is necessary for anyone pursuing a career in chaplaincy.  As a resident CPE student, you receive a stipend.  However, after the year is completed, there is no placement process or guarantee of a position.  So, you will need to apply for a position.  BUT WAIT...there is more!

Most healthcare chaplaincy positions require you to be a board certified chaplain (though some organizations may, in fact, hire you with the understanding and expectation that you will be certified within a certain time frame).

My journey toward certification was not an easy one.  Presenting myself before the certification committee in Chicago, I did not obtain certification immediately.  I did, however, receive encouragement to continue on in my effort.  And less than a year later (in 2013), I obtained certification after presenting myself before the certification committee again - this time - in Indianapolis.  I confess that I probably would not have made it without the help of a mentor!  I have also been on certification committees reviewing candidates (twice in the Chicago area).  And throughout the process, while sitting with the committee and asking questions to the respective candidates, I became cognizant of my own shortcomings.

Since that time I have mentioned the challenge that some LC-MS ministers face in pursuing a career in chaplaincy.  Part of the challenge has to do with the fact (in my opinion) that we are not effectively trained for such a potential career in chaplaincy.  With that being said, I’m of the mind and opinion that requiring an initial unit of CPE for seminary students would go a long way.

Now, if your goal in being a chaplain is to convert people to the Christian Faith and/or to show that you know your Bible...you've picked the wrong field.  The ministry of a chaplain is different from the ministry of a parish pastor in so many ways.  Instead, some key points to consider in being an effective chaplain is to LISTEN...to show a curious mind in asking questions without hijacking the story of the person or persons whom you are ministering to...and to provide for them appropriate cultural and spiritual accommodation.

An additional encouragement for those seeking a career in chaplaincy is to be grounded in who you are and what (who) you believe in.

If you have any questions about entering the field of chaplaincy in a healthcare setting, feel free to ask me.    

St. Andrew Sermon Series for July 5th - July 19th

The Greatest Enemies of Confession and Absolution