I have to admit that this little run of the "top ten" sermons that I have heard in my life has been a very thought-provoking and treasurable experience. I am honored that you are spending time reading through all of this. My highest hope is that if you are a minister that these thoughts provoke you to spend time in the Word and prayer. Only God can help you to bring out the best to the folks that you serve week-in and week-out. The American church (I use that term loosely) is experiencing a dearth of solid preaching and those who are preaching the Word must develop their minds, hearts, and skills to the utmost to preach to this generation.
My second highest hope is that if you are only a "listener" to the preaching week-in and week-out that you pray for your pastor, minister, evangelist, or Bible teacher. Pray that God gives them the words that not only encourage you but convict you and change you. Most often, what we need to hear and want to hear are two different things.
The sixth sermon frankly comes out of my childhood. It was preached sometime in the mid-70's.
The Occasion: Summer of the mid-70's. Time has passed and portions of the details are somewhat fuzzy. Every summer in Montgomery, Alabama, we would always have our Youth Camps and summer Campmeeting. I can remember going to the "campground" as we called it, when there weren't padded pews and air conditioners. We had wooden pews and there were some huge fans that were placed in the windows on both sides of the congregation. They sounded like propellers on an airplane, loud and rattling. Not only did one have to contend with the heat and bugs, there was a steady, dull roar that assualted the ears the entire time.
However, despite the bugs, the heat, the faithful Alabamians would pack themselves into the gym at the old Pike Road School house, aka "the campground." I can remember the two-hour drive up and back to Montgomery during those days and nobody seemed to think anything at all about making the trek to go to "campmeeting."
I remember singing all the "old" stuff. I can remember the "shouting." I can remember the praying. I can remember the preaching. One other great memory that stands out in my mind, was when one of our presbyters caught his false teeth in mid-air and one-handedly shoved those choppers right back in his mouth! He never missed a beat. He wasn't preaching but got a little "preachy" when he was supposed to have been taking up the offering. If it had been caught on video, I am certain that it would have made "Play of the Day." Good hands, no preach!!!
It seems as if it were yesterday that we were driving up to the campground that hot evening and unloading an old Plymouth station-wagon. Suit, ties, grease in our hair (remember this is the '70's), hair-do's a mile high and we all were going to the "meeting." Cassette tapes were the hottest thing on the market then although very few people had them. Eight track tapes were what everyone was listening to but cassettes were starting to replace them. If you had a cassette, you fit into the category of the upwardly mobile.
My dad had just purchased a battery-powered cassette player/recorder and he had a blank Memorex tape ready to go. We strolled in that night and the place was already beginning to fill up. We managed to find a seat about 3/4's of the way back on the left side of the auditorium. My dad had already informed my mother that she was going to have to keep my whiny little brother quiet while he was taping Bro. Spears.
When Bro. Spears got up to preach, my dad started that little black GE recorder and carefully placed it under the pew in front of us. My young brain was totally focused on this new "gadget" of my dad's and I thought that I would pay a lot of attention to the "gadget" and would not have to listen to a boring preacher. Little did I realize that Bro. Spears would preach something that 25-30 years later, I periodically go back over in my mind.
The Location: Montgomery, Alabama. Alabama District United Pentecostal Church Headquarters. Summer (very hot), sometime in the mid-70's.
The Preacher: Curtis Spears, from somewhere in Texas. There are two things that stand out in my mind even until this day about Bro. Spears. First was his size. He was overall a very slight man. Not very tall and very neat in his appearance. Secondly was his hair. It seemed as if his hair was jet black. Amazing what you can find in your "memory box" when you start remembering things.
I saw Bro. Spears two years ago at Because of the Times in Alexandria, Lousiana and related to him what I am writing to you now. I told him that something he preached 25-30 years ago was still living in me. Although, I personally have never preached his thought (though I might someday), it was and still is one of the most important messages that I have ever heard preached.
The Message: The tape has long since been lost. I ran across it a few years ago at my parents house and listened again but time had almost destroyed the quality of the tape and it was difficult to hear. I am even uncertain of the text that Bro. Spears used that night.
The whole emphasis of his message centered around the bride making herself ready for the groom. He begin to preach about the importance of worship, of prayer, of dedication, of holiness, and other commitments that are necessities with our walk with God.
He talked about just being able to make it church because you knew if you could just get there that something good was going to happen. He mentioned that the blessings were fantastic when we found ourselves out in the aisles in great Pentecostal form, worshipping God. He preached how that when the preacher would anoint us with oil and healing would come. He preached about all the "feel-good" things that happen among us Pentecostals. I can remember that people were up and down during the message. The reason that I remember that is because I was concerned about my dad's new "gadget" and how it probably was not designed to endure a Pentecostal campmeeting service.
Then tide of the message started turning. He begin to demonstrate that this was nothing more than "primping" and getting ready for the Groom. He said that the Bride was staying in the closet too long. She was grooming too much! She was making sure that there were no wrinkles in the wedding dress! She was make sure that everything about her was clean! But while she was grooming (worshipping, praying, fellowshipping, etc.) the world around her was going to Hell. He preached about the mentality of just putting enough gas in the tank to make it to the next service. Just enough prayer to stay saved. Just enough holiness to get by. Just enough giving to appease God. Just enough. . . .
I have to add that Bro. Spears did not appear to be too concerned about the self-esteem of those that he was preaching to. He did not seem to be overly concerned about how well the congregation was receiving what he had to say. It was apparent that he had a message from God and was more than willing to tell us what God had conveyed to him.
He then began to attempt to mobilize the Church into getting out of her closet and getting into evangelism. He urged us to knock on doors, to teach Home Bible studies (which none of us knew what he was talking about at the time), and bring someone to Church.
He begin to cry out, "Postpone the wedding!" This phrase came out every minute or so in his message and to this day, I can still hear that cry ringing out from a hot summer night in Alabama's past. "Postpone the wedding, the world is lost! Postpone the wedding, sinners are going to hell! Postpone the wedding, God! Don't let the Rapture take place yet! The world is still lost! Postpone the wedding!" I have to believe that it was during that message that God begin to plant some of the seeds that would grow in my own life. I begin to feel the burden of responsibility to do something to help someone find the way. I can remember a rush of nearly everyone in the entire crowd that night jamming the altars with tears of repentance and commitment. I believe to this day that there were some soul-winners and preachers that came out of that message that night.
It is those sorts of memories and messages that help us to understand that we do indeed have a responsibility to reach our world. I pray that somewhere in your life that you have messages that have stirred you and caused you to make adjustments as you walk the path leading to Heaven.