“ikaw mag-lead ng tagalog service,” i told mark as he sat atop the pile of folded-down tables in the corner of the function hall where our church met.

“opo, kuya,” he answered, “kayo po magpi-preach?”

“hindi… ikaw.”

“ano po?”  mark was visibly taken aback.  “ako po magli-lead, kayo po mag-preach.”

“hindi,” i said, “ikaw mag-preach.  andun ako, makikinig lang.”

“ha?  eh… sige po.”

“training mo yan, wala nyan sa GMA,” i said.  “o, may ten minutes ka pa para mag-prepare.”

+  +  +

“pasensya na po,” mark was saying as he began; “pasensya na po,” he kept saying to his hearers, eight in all.

then he opened his mouth to declare God’s word.

the change in his demeanour was evident.

i cringe whenever a preacher apologizes to his audience about his feeling of inadequacy and unfitness; and mark made me feel that way when he sheepishly apologized to his audience.  but when he started to open God’s word, when he started to preach, he was full of confidence, bold and unafraid; addressing us “in earnest tones and grave, remembering we were the sinners whom jesus came to save.”  he sounded as though he was pleading — he was!

this (i thought) is a good sign that this young man had a gift to preach.

+ + +

obviously, i didn’t expect everything to be perfect and without fault in mark’s impromptu preaching.  there were a couple of things he could improve on.

first, i expected mark to have chosen an evangelistic topic or passage; since the tagalog service is an evangelistic service.  an inexperienced preacher, under the harrowing pressure of being tapped to preach impromptu, obviously falls back to what is familiar to him.  as preachers, evangelistic passages must be our fall back — our hearts and minds must be most familiar with the gospel message.  but mark chose to preach on james 1.19, 20, “my brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak…”

the redeeming thing was this: because it was impromptu, mark’s preaching was not too organized to follow his passage in an expository way along a straight line; he was preaching forgiveness of sins, and the need for God’s grace at all times, here and there in his message.  this (to me) reveals the burden of his heart — to preach the gospel.

secondly, because it is a tagalog service, whose attenders are mainly yayas and non-english speaking folk; the medium of preaching is or ought to be tagalog.  but mark obviously couldn’t help but speak a lot of phrases and expressions in english; totally oblivious.  he must learn to avoid that.

lastly, mark must learn to cite scriptures.  the consciences of our hearers can be bound by nothing less than the truth of God in scriptures.  a preacher must customarily let his hearers open their bibles and turn to texts or passages cited or alluded to; because this is only where faith can hold anchor.  mark didn’t cite scripture (i don’t recall any) in his entire 20-minute message.

at one point, i felt i needed to interject because one lady hearer asked him, “pano ba magalit at hindi magkasala?” when mark told them it ought to be so.  i had to clarify, “eh, hindi lang yun galing kay mark ha, nasa bibliya un,” and asked them to turn to eph.4.26 and explained briefly.

then mark slid back to his natural sheepish, apologizing self.

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