For Preachers Only, Part 2

In the previous “For Preachers Only” post (1/25/23), I shared some wisdom that the late Pastor Bob Kelley set forth in an article entitled “The Greatest Lessons I Have Learned as a Preacher of the Gospel.” (Sword of the Lord, 2/9/07) I would like to share the rest of his lessons in this second installment:

(8) God called us to build people, not ministries or buildings;

(9) Make good friends;

(10) Have fun!  Stay excited!  Laugh!  People ought to want your job!

(11) Die to self, and don’t be all day in doing it!  Rise early and get going!

(12) The best protection against falling into sin is to practice hating it;

(13) Count your blessings—then record them. Don’t rely on your memory to recall all God’s goodness to you;

(14) Say “Thank You” every time and every way you can.  A thankful attitude covers a multitude of sins;

(15) Exercise your faith. A faith that cannot be tested is a faith that cannot be trusted;

(16) Keep your shoes shined; stay neat—first impressions matter;

(17) Never forget the judgment seat of Christ;

(18) Always remember—God can get along just fine without you.

Another word of wisdom to preachers:  A sermon must always be preached with passion. Of John the Baptist it was said, “He was a burning and shining light.” A preacher once asked a famous English actor, “What is the reason for the difference between you and me? You are appearing before crowds night after night with fiction, and the crowds come wherever you go. I am preaching the essential and unchangeable truth, and I am not getting any crowd at all.”  The actor said, “The answer is simple. I can tell you the difference between us. I present fiction as though it were fact; you present fact as though it were fiction.” May we never, as preachers, lose our passion for truth and for the presentation of truth as though it were a life and death matter.

Dr. Monroe Parker shared a story out of his experiences as a preacher of truth when he told of a time that he was preaching in a campaign in Zanesville, Ohio. In his words: “I had planned to preach one night a very profound sermon on ‘The Eschatological Implications of the Theophanies in the Pentateuch.’ The choir sang that old song, Christ Receiveth Sinful Men. The chorus says, ‘Make the message clear and plain.’ When they sang the second stanza and the chorus, ‘Make the message clear and plain,’ I thought, If I do, I’ll have to change my subject. After they had sung the third stanza, I said, Alright, Lord, I shall make it clear and plain. I changed my subject and preached from John 3:16. The Spirit of God moved on the hearts of the people. When I gave the invitation, down the aisle came a large number to accept Christ.”

Finally, I want to share with you what Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., said about preaching with courage, as quoted in Fellowship News (3/17/62):   

“America needs about six months of old-time Hell-fire and damnation preaching: but the trouble is that we do not have rugged preachers to do that kind of preaching. There are very few prophetic voices in the pulpits of America. Preachers have become pretty good executives, and they know how to oil the machinery of their churches; but they have lost the old, rugged, prophetic, knockdown and drag-out preaching that this nation had in its country districts, when the writer was a little boy. The writer does not know in this nation today any preacher who can preach as the old country preachers used to preach when he was a boy. Some of the old country preachers said ‘I seen,’ instead of ‘I have seen,’ or ‘I have saw’ instead of ‘I saw,’ but they had seen, and they meant what they said. They had a vision. They had courage.”

Maybe that Billy Sunday-style, “knockdown and drag-out” preaching would not go over well today in most Bible-loving churches, but at least it would be well if, whenever a preacher stepped into the pulpit to deliver God’s messages, he would have asked God to give to him the courage needed to preach “the whole counsel of God,” without fear and without favor.

The voices that I have quoted in these two posts on preaching are from the past. I know that many preachers receive these “You and God” posts, so if there are some “contemporaries” out there with sound advice you’d care to pass along to your fellow preachers, please feel free to share your thoughts. If I get enough of them, I will do a third post for preachers.  I am sure most of you who labor in the Word from week to week have learned by experience, and from good counsel that older men have shared with you—gems that have given you treasured guidance in your pulpit ministry.

So, while I wait to hear from you, here is a word that I think would be helpful to any preacher today: be sensitive to giving your 21st-century audience too much in one sitting. Dr. Bob Jones, Jr., told me years ago that a preacher should be able to develop his thesis and get the message across in 35 minutes.  Recently, my wife surprised me by pulling up on YouTube a message that I had preached not long ago. My first impulse was to ask her to “change the channel.” Probably, like you, I never have enjoyed listening to or looking at myself speak (preach). But I resisted the impulse and listened and looked.  Listened to my speech patterns, diction, enunciation, gestures, and the whole 10 yards.  It was not pleasant, but it was probably helpful, so I would recommend it to you, preacher friend. Somewhere, about two-thirds through the sermon, I thought to myself, “This must have been a 45-minute ordeal. I surely gave them the whole load that Sunday.”  Well, since you can check a video’s length, down to the second, at the bottom of the screen, I asked Ellen, when the message had concluded, how long I had preached. I was relieved to learn it was a little over 37 minutes!  Sometimes, a message requires a bit more time to deliver; and some older preachers are of the caliber that you wish they’d just preach longer. But those are the exceptions. My advice? K.I.S.S. need not stand for “Keep it Simple Stupid.”  Maybe it should be: “Keep it Shorter, Sir!”

These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thy youth.” (Titus 2:15)

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