This year marks 47 years that I have been a gospel preacher. A kid still in some ways perhaps, but right now I can’t think of any. Maybe that makes me a bit of an old-timer, not necessarily in the class of old-time favorites. It is true that I enjoy preaching more now than ever before, but the strain of working at it has become no less.
After nearly half a century of active preaching I feel as though I am just now learning how to preach. I have never been so tired after a sermon as I am these days, and yet never so fulfilled. If I didn’t feel that I’d have preached the “whole counsel of God” all these years I give it up. That does not mean that I rise to the expectations of my critics. Thankfully I don’t answer to them. With a large collection of sermons over the years I do dip into the archives and reuse one on occasion. Yet, I have never preached the same sermon twice. Continued study always calls for a makeover, either by a little or a lot.
I have never felt adequate to the task of preaching, but by God’s grace I have always felt able. There is no question that I have the best possible preacher’s wife. She has been the wind in my sails for 45 years and has helped me all of my preaching years.
In many years of Bible study, I have changed my mind a few times. Truth is always the same, but as we live we learn. Who was it that said one who does not change his mind is either dead or a fool?
Some preachers can boast of such a rich variety of experiences as to write a book about them. Not me, but I’ve had a few. I have learned from other preachers what to do and what not to do. I have always known that some preachers are their own worst enemies, and will also be yours if you allow them to be.
Anything that a preacher could want to do I have been blessed to do: preach on radio and television, do prison ministry, do missionary work at home and abroad, write articles for papers, write books, edit journals, speak on lectureships, hold gospel meetings, teach classes on Facebook and do local work for over 40 years. It’s all very fulfilling! Being an old kid on the block, podcasts and blogs have eluded me. I know some preachers older than me are quite good at both. I have preached for small congregations by appointment. I have done youth work and failed miserably. I have been an associate preacher and it was just what was needed at the time. Since 1980 I’ve been in full time local work. In the past 41 years I have labored with two congregations. In my present work, of over 31 years, I have seen three and four generations pass before me and come under the sound of my preaching. That fact alone is awe inspiring.
Ernest Hemingway said, “The great thing is to last and get your work done.” Far more important are the words of the great apostle Paul: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). If I had the chance I would do it all over again.