Lifestyles of the Poor & the Famous: The Truth About Traveling Preachers
Jets, fast cars, nice clothes and Jesus are sometimes the pictures that come to your head when you think about itinerant preachers. These glam gospel peddlers who swindle emotions from weak people for a living. I have had my own speculations as well. However, not all preachers are TV preachers, in fact, most are not.
I spent a week with Pastor Christian Allan. A NJ preacher/pastor who is a large influence in the Latin American Church. Taking a back seat and praying to step out of my bias, as he is also my pastor, he gave me a glance at the inner workings of itinerant preaching.
I did my very best to chronicle my conversations with every person of influence I encountered on this trip while keeping an honest lens. These are the daily logs:
Day 1 (Sunday):
Not only was my flight delayed 5 hours but if I had bags checked I would have never gotten into Orlando on the day I intended to. Meeting Pastor Chris in Orlando after a squished uncomfortable flight was not so bad but I am taking into account the redundancy of which one must fly for a living. The excitement, I’m sure, must leave quickly.
Day 2 (Monday):
We woke up late (around 10:00 am) and Pastor has to preach late on Monday night. He has already been preaching every day for four days straight somewhere in orlando and this is his first “day off”.
It’s been a relaxed day so far. We are going to meet up with some people and spend some time with them since he was in the area. This is a courtesy for a traveling preacher. Whenever you’re in someone’s state, you try and visit them. Or at least a phone call.
As I chomp down on my delicious Perkins breakfast Pastor takes a personal call with his sister. I can’t help but think about how lonely times must get when he’s on the road alone. Balancing family and traveling is never easy but is a first priority dropping everything to take every family phone call.
The phone rang again before breakfast ended and I realized the serendipitous nature of the way people intertwine through phone calls and meetings is unbelievable. He knew her, who used to babysit him, and so on and so on. We were off to meet up with an old friend before I could finish my eggs. (by the way, they need to open up some Perkin’s in Jersey)
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how God works but as I talked to the Youth pastor of one of the churches, I was reminded of Gods sovereignty in placing people together for his greater glory. He’s setting up relationships to effect huge masses of people in the most organic way possible.
As we had a conversation in the Orlando mall Gap, he explained the struggles of being a preacher with a wife and kids, traveling 4 hours, then getting paid $100 for a service. “The guys at the top would never come to my church because we don’t have the money, but If we did I would rather take that money and invest it in the community.” He had a crazy good point. It would be relatively simple (not easy) to raise up the money to bring T.D Jakes to scream at people in my church. But, wouldn’t it be more constructive to use that money in another way? I was beginning to see the heart behind these young preachers and I was beginning to like it.
I spent some time with a well known area pastor and preacher of a congregation of about 400 people. Apostle Angel. A tall slender man with endless charisma and wisdom.
“Honestly, theres times I’ve gotten paid 30 bux for speaking somewhere. But when you see people getting saved and lives changed it ($30) doesn’t really effect me.”
He tells me in his stern voice. After going on to tell me about the inner workings of hiring a big named preacher, which involves contracts, 30 pages of requirements and minimum payments he humbly states
“We’re not all like that. The best preachers I know, the powerful ones, aren’t rich and they can’t get the exposure they need because they refuse to charge like the big guys.”
But that’s the world we live in i guess. If you’re good enough to charge for preaching the Christian message, then shouldn’t you not want to charge?
Although we were in sunny Orlando, less than 20 minutes from the happiest place on earth, the words that kept coming out of Pastors mouth were “this is work”. When we got back In the car to make way for the Monday night service Pastor calmly and thoughtfully said to me:
“Nobody should be able to take credit for God’s grace and favor.”
“I’m watching what God is doing just like everyone else.”
I didn’t quite know what he meant at the moment but as the service went on it became clear. He didn’t want people looking at HIS gifts when he was up there preaching, he wanted them looking at the God that gave him his gift. He wanted nothing more than God to change their lives and not be dependent on a simple preacher man.
Day 3 (Tuesday Morning):
And I’m starting to feel the effects of being on the road, mini tooth paste, mini shampoo, late for meetings, late for running errands. To keep a spiritual demeanor in the midst of a rigorous schedule and genuine connections with people you see once in a while must be exhausting but I know the same God as Pastor and if there’s one thing God is, He is a God of rest and peace. I’ve seen Pastor retreat to prayer countless times since I’ve been with him and for good reason. Every time things get a little rough, he secludes himself and prays…better than getting a beer I guess.
Art Aguilera is a well known singer/songwriter, worshipper, and worship leader of the church who will host the conference we are here for. Pastor had been in constant communication with him since we arrived and as soon as we got into Miami (after a four hour car ride) we met with him. We rushed over to Miami International to meet David Truino. A global preaching and singing sensation who hosts tens of thousands of people at his events. Although I didn’t get much face time with him, since he had a flight to catch Art was asked to pose for a picture with a lovely lady. She said she was a fan. Two pictures, photo credit yours truly, and a selfie later the boys were back to business. Talking about what the Lord was doing in their lives and what was next in their nations.
I sat sipping my caramel mocciato(venti, cuz duh.) and watched these three young pioneers of the faith edify each other with no cameras, no stage, no crowd, at an airport Starbucks all with one thing on their mind. The people who’s lives will be changed for the better if they just sacrifice a little more. It was the truth about traveling preachers. Every second of their day is filled with a desire for God’s presence, a hunger to see the world be effected by the love that is Jesus. To make the world better. They prayed for each other, spoke words of life over each other and Pastor told David somethings that blew his mind!
David barely caught his plane and we were on our way back to the church, to set up for the conference after which we could finally check in to the hotel and get some rest.
On our way home Art and I talked about his growing up as a songwriter. Stepping in to the call God had placed on him and how difficult it could be to surrender yourself to God. Everything is fun to talk about when Palm trees are whizzing by.
“I got to a place with God where He told me, ‘You need to die to your dreams and let me fulfill my dream in your life.’ “God sometimes causes things in our life so we have to go back to the drawing board.”
Art tells me in his calm and collective tone. He further explains how much fun it can be going on tour with big names but being away from his family (wife and baby daughter) is the worst part. This seems to be a running thread. I know I miss my family right now. (and I miss taylor ham, egg and cheese)
For the record we spent the night at the church praying and planning the conference with the pastor of the church and some of the young adults. We left back to the hotel at 1 am.
Day 4 (Wednesday):
Pastor Chris let’s me sleep in a bit but by the time we step in the car he is directing his GPS, making phone calls and giving orders. The day was filled with running around the church preparing every facet of this 4 day event. And finally the time was here. Pastor was tired already and hungry but his health was the least of his worries. We prayed with the team who was going to minister and it was game time.
As I listened to Pastor giving foundations of freedom to the 200 or so people who attended I could not help but reflect on all of the prep work that led up to this moment. The relationships that needed to be formed, overcoming being seen as nothing but a young kid even though the words God has given him changed people’s lives forever. It was like a constant build up to this moment.
He mentioned that he was doing all this while in the back of his mind he had the issues of the church. Building repairs, other itinerate preachers who needed to speak to him about his home church schedule, people who needed counseling. Once again I return to my original statement. Remaining in a spiritual mind-state while being on the road must be difficult but we have a God of peace, mercy and hope.
Day one of the event went off without a hitch and people were blow away! This young gun preacher continues to be a sensation.
Day 5 (Thursday):
Three sessions! We had three sessions! I slept on the floor because I’m a gentlemen and we had a small hotel room and the rest of our team came. Our first session was at 9am, or 9:30 latino time. We walked in late of course, ( I personally feel like no itinerate preacher is on time, its just a thing, like a fashionably late thing) and Art is doing his thing. Singing his heart out. Pastor is naturally inclined to take command of the service.
After our first two sessions we got to rest, but in natural tradition, the pastors and leaders offered to take us out to eat. Naturally, we accepted. We made it back to the hotel to rest before the 7:00pm session by 5pm. Just to think we have another two days of this is gruesome. I can never have enough church! But when you step behind the pulpit and see what life is like as the one who is delivering the message, it can become very tiresome(Now I understand why preachers are always late). Pastor, locks himself in his room. Time for prayer.
The night service was explosive, Art is truly a phenomenon. Worship from heaven is in the room and the hundreds of people there are more free than ever, this really feels like church. Not a religious grouping of sequential acts. Each person taking their own understanding of who God is and rejoicing in it. There were no restrictions on time, barriers between the stage and the crowd, the preachers and the people, we were humans calling out to our maker. And He was responding. It was intrinsically divine, purely sacred, a holy taste of heaven on earth. We couldn’t leave until like 1:30am. We just couldn’t. We didn’t want to. Worship was too good. God is too good.
Day 6 (Friday)
“I don’t even feel like I’m in the U.S right now, American money is starting to look weird, I feel strange.”
The exact words Pastor utters as we are leaving the restaurant during our break on day three of the conference. Imagine yourself waking up in a different state every day, in a different country, changing currencies at the airport, speaking spanish in America, hotel room to hotel room. It will catch up with you. This is now more than a week straight Pastor has been preaching multiple times a day. Pouring his heart, soul, mind, body and spirit into his work.
As we return for the last night service of the conference and I listen to the message I begin to think to myself the gospel and a powerful speaker can be the most dangerous weapon combination there is. This seems to be why there have been so many religious wars. When you take a person of influence and put in their hands the most influential weapon of all time, they are virtually unstoppable. However, the defining factor is this persons heart. The more people I meet on this trip, the more I see their hearts of are lined up with the same things. Restoration, love, peace and righteousness.
Ulterior motives creep in here and there but they tend to be exposed quickly. The true gospel lets us confront our brothers and sisters without a need for offense or vengeance. So when ulterior motives like money or fame take place in someones heart they get shouted out.
Day 7 (Saturday)
The conference closed with a bang but afterwards is where you saw the real love. The church’s pastor invited us back to his home where he personally cooked a 3 course meal for us. Complete with Columbian coffee and all served on their finest china I could not have felt any more loved. The peace and comfort of the home was incredible as they shared their culture with us. Food, laughs, jokes, stories of the week, plans for the future, prayers for the family; it was as if we had become a new family in 4 days.
I realized that on top of meeting new people everywhere you went, saying goodbye was another downfall of this line of work. You spend all this time cultivating a beautiful relationship and co-laboring to cause better lives for people and before you know it, it’s time to say goodbye. Time to move on with life and those moments are gone forever.
Saying our goodbyes took forever, but eventually we were off to the airport and within an hour from sitting around a dinner table with the loveliest people I was alone on a plane heading back to reality…Op, there goes gravity.
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