Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 6, 1969
NUMBER 43, PAGE 6-8a

The Try-Out

T. F. McNabb (Chaplain, U. S. Army)

The gospel minister saw that the bus in which he was riding was approaching the large city where he was to speak the next day. It would be another 20 minutes before the bus would reach the downtown station, so he leaned back in his seat and thought about his sermon for tomorrow morning. The Church of Christ at the Prestigious Heights section had written him to come for a try-out sermon. They were out of a minister and had invited him to come and speak with the idea of considering him for their regular minister.

The minister had only recently returned from Togoland, where he had spent more than twenty years preaching the gospel. Forty some churches had been established. The work had been settled on a very substantial basis, many had heard the word preached, and numerous ones had been baptized. Ill health had forced him to return to America and leave his beloved work and the Christians he had learned to love so well. Besides this, his teen-age sons would soon be in college, and he had to make some preparations for them. He had hopes of preaching for a congregation where he might be needed, and now this call had come to try-out for this large city church. Large or small, it would make little difference to him, but since this one had written to him first, he decided to respond.

And now the bus was pulling into the city bus station. After getting his luggage, the ex-missionary opened his wallet and found the telephone number of the elder who had written. Contacting the elder, the minister was told that he should call one of the leading women of the church, Mrs. Bigmoose. She always entertained the visiting preachers, he said. Besides, since she was the leading financial support of the church, it was important that the minister make a good impression on her. The elder could hardly think of making a selection for a preacher without Mrs. Bigmoose's blessing.

The minister jotted down Mrs. Bigmoose's telephone number, hung up, and dialed again.

"Hello? Is this Mrs. Bigmoose?"

"Yes, this is Mrs. Bigmoose!"

"How do you do, Mrs. Bigmoose, this is David Lipscomb III, returned missionary from Togoland, in Africa, I..."


"David Lipscomb III, returned missionary from Togoland."

"Oooh, Yeesss! Why, Mr. Lipscomb, it's sooo good to hear your voice. I have read so much about your marvelous work in Togoland through the years. In fact, one time I sent you an offering to support your marvelous effort, I was so impressed. I believe it was $5.00. Nothing like sacrificing for the Lord, you know. How marvelous to hear your voice! I can hardly believe it!"

"Well, one of the elders told me to call you. He said, the..."

"Oh, yes, the visiting preachers trying out for churches always stay with me. Oh, but something dreadfully awful has happened. I would love so much to have you stay at my home, but my little Chee-wee is sick with a sniffing cold. Chee-wee — that's my little poodle — has been under the weather, and I wouldn't want you to catch his cold. That would never do. And besides, I am so upset about it all. But I will be at the church tomorrow morning to hear you speak. I wouldn't miss it for anything. My, I cannot (get) over the marvelous work you have done in Togoland. You see, I have always been interested in African missions. I'll be seeing you. Good-bye."

The preacher finally found a reasonably priced hotel room, registered and checked in. He would spend the night resting and working on his sermon for tomorrow.

At the Sunday morning worship service, one of the elders announced that it was the congregation's privilege to hear a missionary of the gospel from Togoland who had been 20 years in that country. He was being considered for their new preacher. The congregation settled back to listen, and to size up this new try-out. Members of the Pulpit Committee were at their places in the congregation ready to take notes, and Mrs. Bigmoose was sitting in her usual place, white-gloved and with fan in hand. Her diamond studded necklace and earrings sparkled brightly from the light coming through the stained glass windows. The Pulpit Committee members were seated strategically where they could see the expressions on Mrs. Bigmoose's face during the sermon, for this was the all-important clue as to whether or not the speaker would be selected as their minister.

The missionary announced his sermon, "The Simplicity of the Gospel." He told about how the Gospel was the need for all men to hear: how when it was preached even by those with little education, the people listened, believed and were baptized. At one point in his sermon he loosened his tie and unbuttoned his shirt collar. He had been preaching for years in the hot jungles of Africa with open sport shirts, and he had not yet gotten used to starched white shirts, buttoned up. At this gesture, some of the Pulpit Committee members noticed a shocked expression come over the face of Mrs. Big-moose. A frown appeared on her forehead, and her mouth dropped wide open! They knew this meant disapproval, for Mrs. Bigmoose expected the ministers in their pulpit to behave themselves like gentlemen. Oh, why, did he have to do this displeasing and uncouth act of unbuttoning his shirt collar!

The missionary went on to say that the Word of God was the power of God unto salvation. He mentioned that even though he only had a ninth grade education — had to quit school to help support his widowed mother — yet somehow many had heard the Word for the first time through his preaching, simple as it was.

At this, Mrs. Bigmoose frowned again, raised her fan in front of her face, and slowly shook her head. The Pulpit Committee members looking on, did not misread her on this. They knew she expected education and refinement in the preacher at her church. Imagine someone filling the pulpit in Prestigious Heights church with only a ninth grade education! Horrors!

When the sermon was over, the Lord's table had been served, a hymn had been sung, and the closing prayer given, one of the elders announced that the Pulpit Committee would meet in a room at the back of the auditorium. The others in the congregation might want to shake hands with the visiting preacher. If so, they could feel free to do so at this time.

As the ex-missionary stood at the vestibule, Mrs. Bigmoose soon came along.

"Oh, Brother Lipscomb, how kind of you to speak for us today. I know you have made a wonderful talk, but I am sorry, I hardly heard a word of it. You see, I was thinking about my poor Chee-wee, whom I mentioned to you yesterday over the telephone as having a bad cold. Well, when I left this morning, poor Chee-wee whimpered so pitifully, I was almost tempted to stay home; but then, knowing this was your trial sermon, I just had to come. I would love to invite you home for dinner, but poor Chee-wee is still no better, and I'd still be afraid you might catch his cold. Be sure to pray for my Chee-wee. Good-bye, and thanks again for talking to us today."

When all the congregation had filed out, one of the elders came back and handed the speaker a check. The elder said the check was not as much as they would like to give, he was sorry to say, but the church had just completed a $150,000 youth center annex and it had almost wrecked their budget as far as having anything left over to pay the visiting preachers. The elder said someone from the church would be writing him in a couple of weeks or so to let him know their outcome on the selection of a preacher.

The ex-missionary walked out to the corner bus stop, found that he did have a quarter for the fare downtown to his hotel. He looked at the check, and saw it was for $10.00. Well, that would be enough to pay his hotel bill for the previous night. But he had nothing left to return to his home base. Oh, well, as soon as he checked out of the hotel, he would telephone his wife to wire the money.

As he waited in the Western Union for the Money Order, the missionary seemed very tired, very much in need of rest. On the bus taking him to his home, he once again mentally reviewed his 20 years service in Africa, and wished his health were such that he could return.

In about two weeks, as the preacher was preparing to go to his morning work (for he had now taken a job in a local service station, as he had to support his family), a letter arrived from the city where he had preached. To his surprise it was not from one of the elders, but from Mrs. Bigmoose. Opening the letter hastily, he read:

"Dear Brother Lipscomb: One of the elders asked me to write you to let you know the results of our — I mean their decision on a minister for our church. While they thought you made a good little talk the day you were here, and said some good things, yet they felt the church needed a younger man to work with our young people and to reach the people in this city. So last Sunday a young man, only 22 years of age, just graduated from ACC (Alexander Campbell College), came to preach for us. We were just all carried away with his pulpit mannerisms and his message, so relevant for our times. You see, he has a degree in Human Relations, and knows so well how to get along with people. Last Sunday he preached on the subject, "Maintain a Live Faith -- Reach for the Moon." Next Sunday he is preaching on, "Don't Let Life Get You Down - Hitch Your Wagon to a Star." And you know with all this talk nowadays about space and people thinking about all that, this is really catching on. Besides that, on Wednesday nights he is beginning a series of studies on "How to Make Everybody Like You." We can hardly wait to hear this series. We are beginning him on a salary of $10,000 a year, with preacher's home, car, and expenses in addition. In fact, I feel the Lord is leading me to pay $5,000 on his salary, and the elders are so happy about this. Since you must be getting your family settled, I am enclosing $2.00 to help. Oh, yes, thank you for your prayers for little Chee-wee. You will be glad to know he is better and scampering about all over the house. The Vet's bill was $167.16, but it was well worth it to have poor Chee-wee back in health. Sincerely, Sister Big-moose."

As the ex-missionary put the letter in his pocket and made his way down to the service station, he found himself making melody in his heart.

As he raised the first car on the grease rack, he felt little disappointment in not having "made" the minister's position at the Prestigious Heights church. In fact, he felt very good. And he felt very close to a lowly Carpenter who walked the dusty shores of this earth nearly 2,000 years ago, and who, like himself, had no college degree in Human Relations.

— US. Army Student Detachment, Texas Medical Center, Houston, Texas 77025