Stepping up to the Pulpit
You know my heart for Spain. It’s always special to minister there. During my most recent visit, a group of seminary students were wrapping up their very first preaching course. They were eager! . . . especially because first-year students have to wait until their second semester before they can start actually preaching. They spend their first semester learning to study the Bible and acquire other basics. But their appetite for preaching is being whetted every Wednesday and Friday in chapel. That’s when they sit under the ministry of student-preachers who are ahead of them in school. As the first-semester students learn from observing their fellow-students, they are anxious to be up there in the pulpit themselves! This is where I met Pedro . . . and honestly, I had my doubts about this young man. Pedro is one of three brothers from Spain’s heartland. His two older brothers have finished seminary already. Miguel, brother number two, is in Fort Worth Texas finishing a master’s degree and heading into the Ph.D. program. A few years ago, Miguel invited me to preach in his home church. . . . I remember him letting me know a week ahead of time that his teenage brother Pedro would be attending—quite a breakthrough, since Pedro was a resolute unbeliever, the only “holdout” in his entire family! Miguel knew that I would present the Gospel as part of my message and that I would give an invitation. Finally the moment came. I preached as the Lord gave me words. The invitation was given, and the first to respond was Miguel’s youngest brother Pedro! It was beautiful to see them embracing for several minutes, crying tears of joy over what was happening! Now fast-forward a few years: Here was Pedro at our seminary in Madrid, following in the steps of his two older brothers. He was excited to learn to preach. He went through the class, and like each student, he would have to preach a sermon in chapel in order to pass. I half expected a disaster. A few moments before chapel, I reviewed his sermon with him. Out of sympathy, I tried to tell him what he needed to do to at least get a passing grade. But I can’t say I believed he was “getting” it! Then—the shock. Pedro stepped up to the pulpit and, with beautiful serenity, proceeded to expound the Word from I Corinthians 12. He was excellent! Even third- and fourth-year students who struggle to bring everything together for a decent message could not believe their eyes. No nerves! A clear purpose! He was true to the text, and he was totally relevant! Pedro was one of only two students in the entire class to receive a perfect score. The other students flocked around him after chapel. Some wanted to congratulate him— but others wanted him to teach tStepping up to the Pulpithem how he had prepared for such a message! After everyone had preached, Pedro asked a favor: Would I share with the class the outline and message I had preached the day he got saved? It was a great honor to do so. It was a thrill to know that through the “foolishness of preaching,” Pedro was now saved, safely in the family of God—and eager to pass it on! This is what Jesus had in mind all along! And this is what you are helping to accomplish as you send eager disciples who are called by God to go! God says, “How will they go unless they are sent?” You have answered the question—you have sent them! And not in just one special case. Pedro is the third in just one family. But hundreds have been trained and sent through your faithfulness and generosity—more than 500 in Spain alone!