Column: The picture of a sermon

I don’t remember how old I was when I was no longer eligible for our Sunday morning Children’s Church program, but I do remember that once I was regularly in the sanctuary, I was looking for something to occupy myself during the service.

I tried to pay attention, but when you’re young, your attention span is much like your wallet — full of pretend currency and a little loose change. The struggle was real. There were several things, beyond the fear of a mid-service “walk of shame” to the bathroom and back, that helped me lock in on Sundays.

My saintly grandmother always had Tic Tacs in her purse that she would offer at what seemed like well-timed increments. Sometimes, I would open a hymnal and look at the songs for a while. I had no idea what the musical notes meant, and I had a strong desire to play connect the dots with them.

By the grace of God, I don’t believe I ever put pencil to that particular paper, as such action would have surely resulted in a walk resulting in a whole lot more than shame.

There was, however, paper I was allowed to write on, and that proved to be the most effective method of keeping me both entertained and engaged. My mother was a note-taker and always carried a notebook to church. She would hand me a piece of paper and a pencil, and I was off to the races.

My favorite subject to draw was the pastor while he preached. I would draw a picture of him standing at the pulpit, mouth open, so as to communicate that he was speaking. Then somewhere above his head, I would create a speaking bubble, much like one would find in a comic strip. All the time I was drawing, I would listen to him speaking, doing my best to find a powerful point to make my masterpiece complete.

I have a photocopy of one of those drawings in my files. It was sent to me a few years ago by the pastor in it. Accompanying the drawing were two letters. One had been composed shortly after the drawing was created and the other was current.

Apparently, I had presented my drawing to the pastor following the service that morning. That week, he wrote me a letter thanking me for the drawing and for encouraging him. He also somewhat prophetically stated, “Perhaps the Lord will use you as a pastor someday, as well.”

The second letter congratulated me on the completion of my master’s degree and once again thanked me for the encouragement from so many years ago, which he still had some 20 years later.

It’s amazing how something as small as a child’s picture could encourage not one but two pastors as the encouragement came full circle. The picture itself preached a sermon.

If you were to flip through the pages of my Bible or to look around my office, you would find dozens of drawings, notes and cards from children from my own ministry, past and present. Much like my picture for my pastor 30 years ago, many of the notes I have collected contain images and snippets from messages I have shared.

To many, they may seem like random and worthless scraps and scribbles. They are simple doodles drawn by children trying to pass the time. To me, though, they are acts of grace and encouragements that minister to my heart. They are a glorious sermon through which the Lord preaches to my own heart.

I certainly believe in the value of organized worship services. There is much to be gained and learned by sitting under the teaching of well-trained pastors who spend much time studying the Word of God. I also believe that every follower of Jesus is a minister of the Gospel and a conduit for his grace.

Oftentimes, the small encouragements we offer and the simple acts of service we render compose the most soul-lifting sermons. Many a mini-sermon, prepared by the caring hands of our church’s smallest preachers, adorns the walls of my office both challenging and encouraging me to press on. Perhaps in 30 years, I’ll be sending one back to its maker just as my former pastor sent one back to me.

It’s hard to say what type of an impact a short note of encouragement, a quick text with a verse of Scripture or some other simple act of grace might have on someone. So to paraphrase the Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy, preach early and often, my friends.

The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at Send comments to [email protected].

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