I was not raised in a preacher's home and although my parents were very godly and faithful, I was not exposed to the "conference" circuit as many are now (I grew up in the seventies and eighties). Therefore the bulk of my exposure to preaching came from my pastor and to the usual campmeetings and youth camps that we went to during the summer. Preaching in the seventies and eighties was just coming of age among the Pentecostals and there were only a few that would be deemed as heavy-hitters during the period of time.
I will never forget the first message that I heard David Fuller preach. It was in February 1988 when he preached a message entitled "The Marks of the Cross." I was entirely and totally taken in by this message. He preached about the description of living a cross-centered life and how that it would literally "mark" your actions, thoughts, desires, visions, and ambitions. What I remember most was his command of the pulpit. He was obviously very well prepared and he did not need the response from the audience. He simply preached what the Spirit had laid out for him to convey.
This was a year and a half prior to me going to Bible College so I was very unaware of homiletics, hermeneutics, exegetics, and all the other -etics that preachers learn about in an academic setting. Once I had cleared the runway from Bible College, I literally became a student of this man's preaching. I scoured the earth and mostly by honest gains, I bought, bartered, and horse-swapped for every single message of David Fuller that I could find.
The following were some of those that I managed to obtain:
- Born and Bred in a Briarpatch
- The Master Key of Prayer
- The Second Altar
- The Father's Blessing
- The Master Craftsman
- Why Sin Is So Expensive
- The Blessing of Frustrated Desire
- A Prospector or Merchant Man?
- The Rear of the Flock
- Building to Survive
- Spiritual Eclipse
- The Glory of Going On
- The Greatest Gift
During those sessions, he taught a study, "The Blessing of Frustrated Desire," on the life of David. I knew that when school started back in the fall that I was going to have to do a long Bible study for a class entitled Biblical Seminar. This paper would have to meet a 2500 word requirement along with footnotes and all of that stuff that used to make good term papers. So this Bible study locked me in on my choice of topics. I wrote a study on the life of David and only managed to get to the point in his life that he was about to take the throne after Saul and Jonathon's deaths. When the smoke cleared, I had managed to write a paper that was close to 30,000 words. I still have it and may share it someday.
About five years later, I was reading through Alan Redpath's book, The Making of a Man of God and found the sentence, "the blessing of frustrated desire." It was not a chapter title but simply a line on the upper left page about 3/4's of the way through the book. At that point, I again realized how wide ranging that David Fuller's mind was and how that out of a single sentences he would develop great messages.
To say I literally became a student of David Fuller's messages and methods is not an understatement. Any preacher who is worth his salt is and will be a disciplined reader and it was very obvious that David Fuller was a reader. I would listen to him preach and then I would go a seminary library the following week that is nearby and spend hours rifling through book after book after book. It took me about eight months or so to begin to understand the trend of his studies. Finally, I begin to key on a few of these authors that had helped him.
I discovered some of his "sweet" spots and much of the material that I believe (this can only be an opinion since I have never had the opportunity to spend time with him and ask) that he used was material that was old. Not only was it old, it was also very meaty. Sometimes a paragraph of this material was enough to get you going. I absolutely believe in the necessity of diligent and daily study.
Also in the "chase," I greatly benefited my own life by finding authors that I still resort to. During this period of my ministry, I developed an intense love for many of the Puritans from days gone by. Thomas Watson, Thomas Boston, Alexander Whyte, and Thomas Manton have all richly helped me. They were master preachers and could preach on heaven and hell like none can today. They also were great investigators in the area of sin, it's consequences, and it's origin. But despite these main three issues that they preached about, very few have the ability to preach like they do on prayer and the value of the Word of God. Thomas Manton has over 100 sermons from Psalm 119. Muse through those a few times and you will get your wagon loaded about the power of the Word of God.
The Occasion: Because of the Times, 1995. This venue of BOTT was the greatest venue of which I heard David Fuller preach. Although, I generally benefitted from all of the messages that I heard there none quite motivated me to offer holy sweat, discipline, and desire to preach like the messages of David Fuller. Some of his messages at BOTT: Revelation for a Holy Generation, When the Lord of the Temple Arrives, The Point of Origin, The Marks of the Cross, The Glory of Going On, and others. You can get them from White Steeple.
The Man: David Fuller. Not only was he a great preacher and great student, this man was an orator. I can remember him preaching at BOTT with 3000 in attendance and while he was preaching you could have heard a pin drop on the carpet. This speaks of the vast ability that he had with words.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet a man who had spent time at Atlanta West in the old days. I probably asked him way too many questions about Fuller's preaching techniques but he obliged me and really helped a lot in gaining some insight into his method.
He (Fuller) said that preaching generally came out of "moods." Some day you are high, some days in the middle, and some days in the depths. He would work on messages every single day and this allowed him to put some feeling into what he was preaching.
He had a large board room table in a room that was attached to his office. At that table there were eight chairs. At six of those spots, there would be six sets of books (usually a stack of at least three, sometimes more, other times less) and all would have an accompanying legal pad. He would come in during the morning, pray, and then go and begin working on a message. He would spend time with this message until lunch. He would then leave for lunch (1-1 1/2 hours) and then would return and go to a different message and work on it for the rest of the afternoon.
I was told that frequently he would violate homiletic rules by getting an illustration first and then creating a message that would surround the illustration. His illustrations came primarily from two sources, daily newspapers and periodicals. I have to confess that were numerous of his illustrations that I would incorporate in some of my own messages. The reason that I did this was because his illustrations were of such power that they would almost literally reach out and take you by the collar and shake you.
This friend of mine also told me that he had seen (he was at Atlanta West for eight months prior to going to another point of ministry) some of the greatest preachers in the world come to this church and scatter watermelon seeds from "Dan to Beersheba" because they were too intimidated by this pulpit. I feel sure that many could relate to this situation.
This man also told me that it was nothing for him to preach on Sundays and then during the Sunday night message some thought would cross his mind and he would do something with that thought. I was told that he would pray with folks, shake their hands, and secure the building and then hole up in his study for hours on end deep into the heart of the night putting another message together.
The Message: Wounds That Never Heal. This message was his swan song (to the UPCI) but no one knew it. In my mind, I can still hear the opening illustration about the California redwood that fell one quiet spring morning in the forest.
For the first five minutes of that message, the audience is totally quiet, almost on the edge of their seats (I know that mentally I was). He then begin to progress on about the terrible and treacherous role that bitterness will take in a man's life.
It hinders revival. It chokes our relationships. It literally squeezes the life out of our spirits. He would preach about Absalom and Ahithophel. He would move on and point by point he would urge us to let go of the things that were hindering true apostolic ministry in our lives.
Somewhere along the way, a wound never healed. . . . . .
This is another message that I have taken extensive notes on but I am not placing them in this blog because for you to listen to this message would be of great benefit to you.
Maybe some who would like to post comments (within reason and etiquette) can share some more things about this message and others that he preached.