Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Sunday, May 29

Spiritual Gifts and Practice

I have something that is more of a personal reflection I want to share today. Greek will be back next week.

I am in Bowling Greek visiting my folks. My son Hayden was missing playing golf with his grandpa, and I had a free air ticket; so we flew here for the weekend.

I wanted to show Hayden where I lived during high school and college, so we drove all over Bowling Green (KY, not Ohio). I was especially excited to visit my old church. This was a church in a poorer side of town where I had spent several years teaching Sunday School and just doing life with the people. It is an important place in my spiritual journey as it was the first place I reached outside of my comfort zone to serve rather than be served.

I couldn’t even remember the name of the church — it has been 38 years — but when my dad drove by I recognized it instantly. I’ve got to tell you, it was weird walking up the steps to the front of the church. Memories came flooding back, memories I hadn’t thought of in years.

One was of my grandma Mounce. Even though she was in her 70’s, she used to come every Sunday and teach a Sunday School class as well, until one Sunday she was refused communion because she had not been baptized in that church building. (Their ecclesiology was really messed up.) She told me that she had never been refused communion; it really hurt her.

But the absolutely strangest memory, and one that I had totally forgotten, was that this is where I first preached. I had been in a Campus Crusade for Christ meeting where we were all challenged to say “Yes” to new challenges, especially speaking challenges. I had committed myself to doing so, and a few days later the pastor asked if I could help out.

I was terrified. Stand up in front of people! What was God thinking?

I still remember that Sunday. I wore this long sleeved gold and white shirt with a gold colored sleeveless sweater. (Does that date this story or what?) I remember preaching, rivers of sweat poured down my back and sides, and being glad that the baggy shirt and sweater combination wouldn’t show how nervous I was.

And when I got down I said to myself, “If there is one thing I now know, it is that God has not gifted or called me to speak in public!”

As I stood on the front steps today of Mount Zion Church 38 years later, I know how wrong I was. I love to preach and teach; it is my gifting and calling. But just because you are called and gifted doesn’t mean you don’t have a lot of hard work ahead of you. For me, it was finishing college, a MA and PhD, and then years or teaching in college and seminary, and preaching hundreds and hundreds of sermons.

If you are just starting out, if you think you are called and gifted to pulpit ministry, or a teaching ministry, please understand that the call and gifting are not sufficient. Gifts and calling have to be nurtured, developed, practiced. So be patient. Don’t think you necessarily made a vocational mistake just because you are struggling with term papers, taking finals, or delivering what in your mind was the worse sermon ever preached. These are the fires we get to walk through in order to learn and to grow.

Did you think that being a herald of the king would be easy?