How Andy Stanley’s Surprise Visit Taught Me Something Important

Have you ever been frustrated that you were frustrated?

Sometimes our frustration is understandable. Sometimes only we can understand our frustration.

But then there are those times when we are frustrated, but we know we shouldn’t be frustrated…which makes us more frustrated! This pretty much describes my experience when my boss, Andy Stanley, recently paid Watermarke Church (the campus location where I lead) a surprise visit.

Just a little background. It’s not normal for Andy to be at Watermarke. We still meet in a school, so our ability to export and broadcast messages to our other church locations is limited. When Andy preaches, everyone needs to hear him, so preaching from Watermarke is not optimal at the moment. But on this particular Sunday, Andy was not preaching, so with his off-Sunday, he decided to pay us a visit – an unannounced visit.

Of course, it’s actually great to have him. We all know how incredible he is as a communicator, but what you might not realize is he is even a better leader and boss. His feedback is priceless and always makes me better. So having his eyes on our service was quite a gift. The only problem was, as I said, he was not preaching. Meaning, someone else was preaching – me. I was closing out a local series, Members Only, and now Andy was sitting in the second row.

Before we finish, let me ask you a question: How would you react if Andy paid YOU a surprise visit to hear you preach?

My first though, I hate to admit, was “Why didn’t he warn me he was coming?” Immediately my mind cycled through more questions. “Why IS he here? Did we do something wrong? Why couldn’t he have surprised me at the 11:00am service (so I had one message under my belt)? Why is he sitting in the second row!?! Will I still have a job after the 9:00am service?”

Without exaggeration, just before I walked to the stage to begin the message, I considered one more question: “Why am I frustrated?”

It was a great reminder for me as a pastor and point leader. Every week I stand on a stage, and it’s tempting to feel I have something to prove. But for me, and maybe others, Andy’s surprise visit reminded me of the most important question I should ask myself:

“Who is this about, REALLY?”

It’s a humbling question. Don’t ask it unless you’re ready to do some personal work. I hate that it took Andy’s visit to remind me that preaching WASN’T about me. It’s about the people who need to hear what God is trying to say through me. About 5 minutes into my message I remembered this truth, and it set me free. And I hope it gave God a cleaner vessel through which to speak.

How’s that for honesty? Now that I went first, can I ask you the same question?

When you lead, who is it about? When you preach, who is it for? If your answer points back to you, like it did for me, I encourage you to capture the thought and do some hard work with your Heavenly Father.

BTW – The message at 11:00am was better. Not because it was my second attempt. Rather, because I was focused on the people in the room more than myself. And that always makes a message better!

  7Comments

  1. Todd Miechiels   •  

    Thank you for keeping it real Gavin. I hate that feeling you described. But thank God for gently teaching us in those moments.

  2. Annette   •  

    I am not a member of your church and have just subscribed to your blog; therefore, this comment from one of your older blogs may seem a bit overdue or “late”. I am leaving a comment because of your question at the end of your message (blog). When you lead, who is it about? When you preach, who is it for? I am not a preacher so I can’t truly answer your second question but I’d like to respond to the first one. When you lead, who is it about? I have had some leadership roles during my life and currently lead a small ladies Bible study. For some of us it takes years to “get it” and that was the case for me. I love Christ and am so grateful for my salvation, but being a child of God is much more than that. I used to spend a lot of time trying to get the message perfect and trying to decide which personal experiences I could share that would make a point relevant to what I was talking about. Before I began leading this Bible study I had a few speaking engagements. My most nervous moment was at a Senior luncheon where I was asked to share my “story”. While I was excited for the opportunity, I agonized over what it was about my testimony that could speak to these Godly men and women who were much wiser than me. After weeks of writing and re-writing my message God spoke to me and said, “Just talk to them about me. Tell them what I did for you, and them tell them what I can and will do for them.” It wasn’t a mighty rushing wind, or even a still small voice that came to me. All I can say is that I heard God say that if I focused on Him and not myself then He would be glorified and I would get a blessing. I still get nervous when I lead but am thankful for this gift because it opens up so many opportunities to share God’s love.

    May God bless your ministry!

  3. Cindi Norris   •  

    I thougt it was an amazing message. Thank you, Gavin

  4. Ann Calloway   •  

    I was at the 5pm. No wonder you commented on the relaxed vibe and that we had no time constaints! Your relatability has always been your greatest strength Gavin.

    • Gavin Adams   •     Author

      Thanks, Ann. I love the 5:00pm service, because it is more intimate and we are not as rushed. Thanks for being a part!

  5. Mark Riggins   •  

    Thanks for sharing your leadership lessons so transparently. I among those benefitting.

  6. Susan Rubin   •  

    I was at the 9am service. I thought it was one of your best sermons ever! You nailed it. I’m not just saying that either!

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