Celebrities in the Pews

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I preached at a church one Sabbath while in undergrad and the professor of my preaching class was in attendance. Made me nervous at first, but it went well and he came up and had nice things to say after the sermon. Gave me lots of confidence in that class for the rest of the semester. Zach Payne, pastor, Racine, Wisconsin

My first thought was, "Why am I preaching?" As, I looked out into the audience, there was Angel Rodriguez (retired BRI director), Don Schneider (retired NAD President), and several other retired Division, Union and Conference employees. I just silently prayed and was impressed with, "I asked you to speak, not them." So, I spoke, and I have now become the "pastor" to many of these former "giants." Dennis Austin, pastor, Joshua, Texas

Why would something happen in my head because someone well-known came to visit? The only time I've changed the script was when a large group of refugees from a very different culture one day walked into our church and informed us they had just arrived. I put the topic of the day ("priesthood") to the side and had a simpler message about God's love and being part of God's global family. Lars Dorland, pastor, Haugesund and Sør-Karmøy in Norway

There are Adventist celebrities?  Mark Witas, lead pastor, Sunnyside Portland, Oregon

Iknow the feeling! Happened with Don Schneider once. He came up afterwards and said he was proud of me! Been living on that for 5 years now!  Gary Blanchard, youth director, General Conference

I would say preach your heart out, recognizing Jesus is all that matters. Celebrities are just people too that God uses just like you.  Richard Moller, director of surgical and ambulatory services, Lourdes Health

Before I became a pastor I was scheduled to speak and Little Richard and his entourage came in. They were a great amen corner. Another time just as I got ready to go on the platform I was informed that the religious editor from the state newspaper was in the congregation. She was doing an article on the Adventist church. After the sermon she interviewed me then quoted several parts of my sermon in her article. But the most nervous I got was when I was asked to speak at the oldest Adventist church in Wisconsin and just as I was ready to go on the platform the elder said, "Don't forget, Ellen White spoke from this pulpit." Darry Campbell, pastor, Galax, Wythevile, Floyd, and Christianburg in Virginia

 Well I am glad they got to have a day off today!  Kristy Hodson, interim pastor, Stoneham Memorial Church in Massachusetts 

In my first year of ministry I was asked to officiate a funeral. When I found out that a retired General Conference Vice President would also be on platform, I really got nervous. I told my wife about it, and she laughed, “Oh, I know him. He’s so old and deaf he won’t hear a word you say anyway!” Another time I found myself speaking back-to-back at camp meeting one evening with retired General Conference president Robert Folkenberg. The presentation went so well that the congregation applauded when I finished. After it was all over, my daughter called to see how things had gone. “Well,” I drolled, “They were glad when I was done.” “How do you know,” she pressed. “Because they clapped!” Dan Martella, administrative pastor, Paradise, California

While at the seminary we went home for Christmas vacation and had been asked by the pastor of the church where my wife grew up to preach. Before going up to the platform I was told the GC President was in the congregation. I went to him and offered to let him preach ... he graciously reminded me that if God had given me a message for that day I should be the one to preach...which I did...nervously, but as best as I could. Even “celebrities” need to be fed and want to take a break every so often from being the center of attention. You do what you were called to do, and let them enjoy the break.  Claudio Consuegra, Family Life Ministries director,  North American Division

Even popular people get hungry. Even chefs like to eat food that they didn’t fix. No one wants to eat the same food every meal or even gourmet too many times in a row. We are simply servers for what the Lord has cooked up in our hearts from His Word. Can’t afford to be bothered by what anyone thinks except the Lord. Will Klinke, pastor, Mesquite and Terrell, Texas

I preached in front of two GC vice presidents who are currently in their offices at the GC. I told myself.. they are humans just like all of us, so they deserve to hear God's Word. Plus they insisted that I preach.  Fady Fakhoury, pastor and family ministries coordinator, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon