I’m absolutely sure he meant well. He was only trying to prepare me for the sermon of my life. I had just recited a 35-minute inspirational message for the second time that evening. I was content with being ok with it. I was 13 at the time and WWE Smackdown was more of a priority and my Thursday night ritual with my brothers was going to begin without me.
“Do it again,” he said calmly and I, reluctantly, did it one more time.
My dad was sent as a pastor to the small town of Wilmington. We still lived in South Los Angeles. So we would commute there for church about 3 times a week there. My little brothers would sing songs on the way there and sleep on the way back.
Because of his new profession he was now regularly invited to preach at other organizations. It was his duty to bring me along.
My dad could have made a good booking agent for speakers if he really wanted to. One day, I overheard him talking on the phone with the Youth President of our association and my dad told him that I could preach whenever he wanted.
I thought he was crazy! I did a few public speeches in middle school and preached like at Kid’s Church or something but never at an assembly of youth from different churches. Boy, my dad hyped me up so well that the youth leader scheduled me to preach four months out from the event.
Then, after they had confirmed with each other, he approached me and asked, “Would you like to preach?”
“Sure,” I replied.
“Pray, pray, and pray,” was his immediate suggestion (his HARD suggestion). “Pray and read. Tell me what topic you feel would be good and I’ll help you.” I didn’t know what I had just gotten into.
He was a mad scientist and I was his experiment. A month out, we would convene in the lab (my parents’ bedroom) and we would carve up my notes. He was great about letting me think of the thesis and what I felt God would want his church to hear that day. He never questioned it at all. What he was more concerned with was that I presented that message well.
Even though I’m fluent, my Spanish isn’t that good. It was a lot worse then. I would just make up words sometimes. So my dad had to help me script my outline from the one page of notes that I had.
Every word was written down before it was rehearsed. He carefully crafted my script to suit who I was. He wasn’t trying to make me some overly spiritual character like some puppet. He wasn’t trying to pull the strings but he was demanding.
“If you’re going to do something for God, you have to do it right,” he would say. His lectures on why I should be my best has stuck with me ever since. But I didn’t realize it then.
I thought then that he was being too hard on me. I thought that maybe he was wrong about me being smart, or a preacher, or about me being gifted with words. Never could I have imagined that what he did would be the most rewarding thing that I do today.
After countless hours of practice I preached at that youth event at the age of 13. Many people came to me after telling me how awesome it was for the Lord to use someone so young as me in a powerful way. One young man had a huge smile on his face and shared with me how that message inspired him to give up on himself and exercise his faith.
I won’t lie and say that I was humbled. I wasn’t. I loved receiving those compliments. Sometimes, I still struggle with that. Regardless of that, I realized that I only produced what my dad and I had sowed into that message.
I learned that you have to over prepare when preaching because people are depending on a Word that’s applicable for their lives. Sometimes, bad preaching by bad preachers can impact people negatively. I’ve seen it happen.
My dad taught me to be myself and to forget about mimicking what I saw in others. He instilled in me that God would honor my preparation, obedience, and desire to do good if I was sincere and humble. Now, that I have preached hundreds of times, in different cities, states, and countries, I recall the lessons I learned from his coaching.
Those lessons have been validated by many of my colleagues and mentors, people who speak for a living, and they tell me that you must prepare one hour for every minute in your speech. That’s what most professionals do.
The weight of importance is greater for those of us who seek to expand God’s Kingdom. My dad taught me those virtues even if he didn’t always adhere to them himself. He held me accountable growing up to what I would say from a pulpit.
Whenever I speak at a conference, class, church, or at an event, my dad diligently listens to what I say and that means the world to me. My father taught me that reaping what you sow is a fundamental truth.
So I am indebted to him because he sowed into me a desire to pursues a divine calling I never knew I had.
What things do you remember your dad teaching you over and over until you got it right? What lessons are you thankful for? Share in the comments below and I’ll be sure to read each one.
As usual, I encourage calling your dad, or father figure, and to share the positive impact they have had on your life. They deserve to reap that harvest.