SBC Life Articles

Calling All Passengers (or Pastors)

When a hunter in Kentucky had his cap shot right off of the top of his head during deer season, he made a hunting suit from black and white awning cloth. The first time he wore it he was shot! At the inquest, the judge told the other hunter that he was not being charged; but it did seem strange to him that he had shot a hunter dressed in black and white stripes. How could anyone mistake him for a deer? The hunter then replied that he didn't mistake him for a deer at all; he thought he was a zebra. That's life. Just when you think you have it all under control, someone shoots you for the wrong reason.

I have been shot with criticism and rejection by other people but what is tough is when you get fried in your own grease – when you shoot yourself in the foot. Let me explain.

I was flying into Albuquerque for Saturday night church with a connection in El Paso. When our flight arrived in El Paso, the monitor showed that my connecting flight was delayed, so I got out my Bible and used that time to put the finishing touches on the sermon. I did glance up to see that the flight was delayed again. I must have been pretty preoccupied with the sermon. I didn't pay attention to the fact that there were two flights on the board and I was looking at the wrong flight.

Thinking I still had plenty of time, I returned to studying. Thirty minutes later I checked the board more carefully and realized that Albuquerque was not on the board at all (not a good sign when you are flying). I ran to the counter and asked what had happened to the Albuquerque flight. The lady told me that it had just taken off and if I looked out the window, I could watch it fly away.

I had that awful sinking feeling. In the past, I'd been delayed due to cancelled flights, mechanical problems, and even when a crew didn't show up. I'd never missed a flight due to stupidity. The lady told me they had announced the flight several times and actually called my name over the loudspeaker twice. I could not believe it. This really is a simple process. You find the city, you find the gate, you look at the time, and you get on the plane. There is no one to blame. The pilot was not a deacon trying to make me look bad. I know it wasn't personal. The airlines will leave anyone who doesn't get on the plane. I then asked her when the next flight departed for Albuquerque. It was five hours later.

With a bruised ego, I realized I had to call a staff member to tell him the pastor's IQ score came back negative. I sat in the El Paso airport all afternoon. By the way, if you get a chance to do that, I would pass it up. I decided to skip the two-hour trip to beautiful and historic Juarez. I sat there all afternoon knowing I had the ticket and the power to do what God had called me to do, and yet I missed it. I missed it not because I was doing bad things. I wasn't hanging around the golf shop lusting after a new driver. I wasn't eating donuts in the coffee shop. I was reading my Bible. With a loudspeaker in my ear calling my name, I kept on reading my Bible.

It makes me wonder if what happened to me at the airport also happens in my spiritual life. We spend time reading the Word of God but don't listen to the voice of God. We get so comfortable in the waiting room we don't move to the living room. Maybe we need to interact with God in a different way. We read about Him and we talk to Him, but we might want to concentrate more on listening to Him.

Not long after my airport incident I felt that God was leading me to leave the pastorate to speak full time. I listened, I obeyed, and, symbolically, I got on the plane. One month later September 11 happened. Planes were grounded, and conventions and outside speakers were cancelled. I admit at the time I wondered whether it was God speaking or Mexican food. Sometimes late at night it is hard to tell who is trying to get my attention. As I look back over the past five years of the flight of personal ministry, I have discovered that real security is getting on the plane and taking the risk because He is everywhere. As a matter of fact, I seem to hear Him better during the turbulence of 25,000 feet. I guess it's because I am close to the home office.

By the way, it was my missing the plane that allowed another young staff member to preach in big church for his first time. My mess-up became his miracle. Security is knowing that God speaks to and through other people besides me, which means instead of worrying for five hours in the El Paso airport, I should have bought a donut and gone to the golf shop.

    About the Author

  • Charles Lowery