Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Brothers. . . We Must Preach The Word. . .

I really wish that I could preach! I know that it is perhaps a very selfish desire but I would love to be able to preach the Word! This is not a new desire that I have, in fact I can remember leaving the chapel services at Texas Bible College (’89-’92) with the whole-hearted desire to be able to not only preach the Word but to master the word. I had mentors at that school who were preachers. During my tenure there, J. R. Ensey was the President. A. B. Keating was the dean of students and Kelsey Griffin and David Hunt routinely pounded on us in class and chapel about the importance of preaching the literal, God-breathed Word. These men were not my only motivators either. I had the opportunity to work with some of the greatest minds in medicine in Houston at the Texas Medical Center. Their passion for the progress of medicine was like pouring gas on the fire that raged inside of me to labor for the Kingdom.

Brothers. . . We Must Preach The Word. . . . .

The instructions of these godly men took root deep within my spirit and I have continued to have a passion about preaching. Over the years, I have worked steadily at building a library that contains a little over 3000 volumes and I intend on continuing to acquire more as funds allow. J. T. Pugh once said, “If you are going to be a great preacher then you are going to have to be a great reader.” Furthermore, I literally have thousands of cassette tapes that I continually use to strengthen what few talents that God has given to me. I have traveled to far places to speak with men about preaching and the necessity of a focused power from the pulpit.

Brothers. . . We Must Preach The Word. . . .

My study can sometimes be a very frustrating place to work in because I cannot see the fruit of my labors (which I think is the way that God generally intends it to be). On the other hand, the study can be a place that the holy breath of God fills and empowers my heart and spirit for the task at hand. I read about one of the old Puritans who wrote in the flyleaf of every book he purchased: Thou art a minister of the Word; Mind thy business. What a challenge to those who handle the Word in our times!

Brothers. . . We Must Preach The Word. . . . .

Because of the impact of A. B. Keating on my life, I believe in verse-by-verse exposition of the Word. Because of the impact of J. R. Ensey on my life, I believe that your message needs to be put together well and have no loose ends hanging. But because of the impact of Kelsey Griffin on my life, I believe in notes. Not just a few notes but copious, detailed, intense notes. So with the accumulation of all of my sermon notes over the years, I decided that I need an outlet for them. Since I am not on the conference circuit, I thought that maybe these notes could be beneficial to another weary laborer somewhere in the world.

Brothers. . . We Must Preach The Word. . . . .

It was with that thought that I started posted my notes on SermonCentral.com. I did have a much smaller motive in that I wanted their Powerpoint background slides. To be eligible for this one would need at least forty sermons on the site to get them free. So I started uploading and it wasn’t long before I started getting e-mails from different places around the country saying the notes had been a blessing to them. Oddly enough, I posted a message on Hell and in just a matter of weeks that message rose to the “Top Ten” messages on Hell. That was a little surprising to me because I thought that very few really preached on the matter of Hell.

Brothers. . . We Must Preach The Word. . . . .

However, I was totally stunned to get a phone call on the Thursday night before the New Year this past December (2006). I was sitting at my desk when the phone rang. I looked over and saw the caller id giving a Houston, Texas area code exchange but I did not recognize the name. I answered and the man on the other end asked if I was Philip Harrelson. I answered that I was. He then asked me if I was the same Philip Harrelson who posted notes on SermonCentral and I stated that I was. Immediately, I thought that I have not given an illustration its proper credit and he was calling me to take care of this matter. That thought could have not been more wrong! He then asked me if these notes were the actual sermon notes that I used to preach to the church here in Dothan to which I told him that they were. He then made a very startling statement to me. He said, “If you quite preaching these kinds of messages in your church, you will kill it!”

Brothers. . . We Must Preach The Word. . . . .

I was almost speechless when this man told me this. I then asked him who he was. He told me that he was credentialed with a large “Pentecostal” organization and had been in the ministry for almost 50 years. He currently is pastoring a church but he told me that he longs for the days that revival would come back to them. He told me that he had been an evangelist for 10 years back in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s. He related that his run on the field had brought him into a lot of “dead churches” as he termed it. He told me that he longed for the days when the old glory might return to their churches. He felt that affluence, materialism, and a loss of holiness had devastated these churches. He told me that until there was a real return to sacrifice, prayer, commitment and revival that very little would ever come about in these churches. He said that these places had become nothing more than social clubs.

Brothers. . . We Must Preach The Word. . . . .

He then asked me if I knew Jerry Jones and James Kilgore. I told him that I knew them simply by name. This pastor related that he had numerous cassette tapes of these men and he frequently listened to them. He also told me that he had long ago quit listening to the preaching offered by his denomination because it had no real spiritual life in it. Dead preachers give dead messages!

Brothers. . . We Must Preach The Word. . . . .

We live in an age when the majority shuns the strong Word of God. Our age is highly impressed with how they “feel” about the Word and very little care is given to expectations of the Word of God. Yet, there is a minority who are growing spiritually and their lives and prayers are waxing very strong. Because of those few, our mandate is to preach the Word!

Brothers. . . We Must Preach The Word. . . . .

I conclude with a few quotes from Thom Rainer’s book Surprising Insights from the Unchurched:

Myth # 6: We Must Be Careful in Our Teaching and Preaching So That We Do Not Communicate Deep and Complex Biblical Truths That Will Confuse the Unchurched.

“You know what frustrated me the most when I started visiting churches?” Susan M. asked us. Susan was a lifelong unchurched person living in the Cleveland area until a life crisis prompted her to seek God. She tried to find Him and His truth in the churches she visited. “What really frustrated me was that I had a deep desire to understand the Bible, to hear in-depth preaching and teaching,” she continued. “But most of the preaching was so watered down that it was insulting to my intelligence. I went to one church where the message was on fear. I was eager to hear what the Bible had to say about a subject that described my state of mind.”

But Susan was sorely disappointed with what she heard. “It was more of a pop-psychology message. The biblical view was never explained. Bible texts were hardly mentioned,” she lamented.

One important lesson we learned from the formerly unchurched is that we should never dilute biblical teachings for the sake of the unchurched. Jennifer K., a Minnesota resident, expressed similar sentiments: “You know, I have watched CNBC [a business cable network] for years, since I follow my investments closely,” she said. “I remember the first time I watched the program. They used language that contained some strange phrases, like stock splits, P/E ratio, and NASDAQ. Sometimes they explained them, and other times I had to go to a dictionary or the Internet to learn, but I enjoyed the learning experience.”

Jennifer continued, “Now that I am a Christian and an active church member, I have been telling the pastor and the church staff that meaty teaching and preaching attracts the unchurched. I think they are listening.”

Ninety-one percent of the formerly unchurched indicated that doctrine was an important factor that attracted them to the church. Perhaps equally surprising was the fact that the unchurched were more concerned with doctrine than Christians who had transferred to another church. (p. 45)

Brothers. . . We Must Preach The Word. . . . .

Here is another excerpt from page 54: First, in our research of over four thousand churches across America, we have seen clearly that many congregations are abandoning the biblical model of pastoral ministry. Instead of allowing pastors the necessary time and encouragement to spend time in prayer and in the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4), congregations are demanding time and energy from their pastors for tasks that have little biblical foundation. I fear that as we begin to report the critical role of pastoral leadership in reaching the unchurched, new and unreasonable expectations will be placed on already overburdened pastors. Like the leaders of the Jerusalem church in Acts 6:1-7, if pastors have to meet all the perceived needs and demands of church members, they will have little time to give to their primary calling of preaching and the ministry of the Word.

Brothers. . . We Must Preach The Word. . . . .

7 comments:

Scott Phillips said...

Yet another great post!

Anonymous said...

Awesome post!! It is of a truth that we must Preach The Word!

Jonathan McNair said...

Awesome post!! It is of a truth that we must Preach The Word!

Tim Kelley said...

Philip, you cause conviction to come to my heart. I am contemplating both the art of blogging and posting on Sermon Central. Great words. Thought provoking and very timely. Among the things I appreciated about my time at Texas Bible College, I appreciate most the fact that they instilled in us the importance of preaching the WORD. Blessings, my friend!

. . . . . said...

Tim,

If anybody has a gift for putting good meaty messages together, you fill the bill! I would greatly encourage you to put your notes on SermonCentral. As for blogging, it can be very fulfilling. However, it can be very demanding too! I really think you ought to give it a whirl. Thanks for the comments. . .

james willoughby said...

Philip, my friend...once again you've hit it out of the park. What a powerful post! Thank you for inspiring me again to never quit preaching. And I am in a continuing quest, thanks to you, for ever increasing outlets for my preaching of the precious Truths that we hold. Thanks again.

Sidney Poe said...

Excellent treatment of a motivating need. I appreciate the fact that you acknowledge and thereby reward the teachers and mentors who influenced your ministry. These are worthy men.

God bless,
sp