Friday, April 10, 2009

The Discipline of Study -- Doug White


On my behalf, I must confess that speaking with these men about their particular patterns of study has been a tremendous blessing to me. In addition, much motivation has come from them to me as I have discovered some of the methods and means by which they go about compiling their work.

Today is no different. I was tremendously blessed and inspired to spend some time with Pastor Douglas White of Abundant Life Church in Silsbee, Texas. He has been preaching for 29 years. In the neighborhood of eight years he was an evangelist and has now been the pastor in Silsbee for 20 years having just celebrated that anniversary.

Brother White came from a difficult home life one that was marked with alcohol abuse by a father who often made life very miserable for the whole family. Brother White’s testimony of mental, verbal, and physical abuse at the hands of a drunken father and the overcoming grace of God through all of it is an incredible testimony. He received the Holy Ghost and was baptized in Jesus Name in a church in southern Indiana and it was not long as a teen that he began to feel the stirrings of a call to preach.

After about six months, he hit the field as an evangelist. Even to this day, he feels that primary calling of his life has been that of an evangelist. He did admit that there were times that this may have hampered the pastoral work but apparently not enough that the folks in Silsbee thought otherwise because he and they have hung in there for a little over twenty years. Although Brother White preaches a number of conferences and camps around the country every year he expressed to me that the thing he enjoys most is going into a local church as an evangelist and strengthening the things that remain and then reaching out to the lost.

His early influences were primarily that of two men, both of which were pastors. Hiram Brock pastored a church that ran in attendance 450-475 where Brother White came in out of the world. One of the heart-rending things to Brother White even to this day, is the fact this man who was formerly one of the town’s drunks collapsed in moral failure ending his ministry.

When I asked him about the influences on his life as a young preacher there were three names that he mentioned.

Morris Golder -- Bishop Golder was the former superintendent of the Pentecostals Assemblies of the World (PAW). He would drive many miles to hear this man preach before he passed away. Bishop Golder also had a radio broadcast that came on every Sunday morning at 8:30 and if he was near Indianapolis, he would try to tune in to hear him preach. His messages were marked by being very Word driven and there wasn’t an ounce of sensationalism to them at all. When I asked him if there were any messages that stood out to him, he indicated “Ye Are the Salt of the Earth,” “The Interval Between,” “Viewing Creation through Re-Creation,” and “True Repentance.” “True Repentance” dealt with the attitude of simply a person being sorry for their mistakes and the more transforming side of actively seeking a change of heart and direction.

Marshall Taylor -- He is a PAW evangelist who received the Spirit when he was in prison and is still preaching today although apparently at an advanced age in life.
(Both of these men are still men that Brother White listens to preach on a regular basis. Although Golder is no longer alive there are several of his messages on Faithbuilder.us. He mentioned just getting in a set of CD’s by Marshall Taylor.)

Rex Johnson -- Back in the early ‘80’s is when Pastor Rex Johnson had his biggest impact on Brother White. He explained to me that when Rex Johnson appeared on the scene as the national youth president that there were many who had begin to press against active and passionate worship. It was a time when “dignity” was being stressed among Pentecostal churches. Brother White said that Brother Johnson came out with such passionate preaching and he stressed the importance of heart-felt worship in our churches that Brother White gravitated toward the style of Brother Johnson.

Mark Hanby -- He mentioned his early messages from the ‘70’s that really stood out to him and were very beneficial.

O. R. Fauss -- He had a high level of influence on him simply because of his conviction style preaching. (More about Brother Fauss later.)

As for men who influence him now, he mentioned a couple of men.

Paul Mooney -- He expressed the thing about Brother Mooney is that he is a very ardent supporter with an unshakeable devotion to Apostolic doctrine.

Larry Booker -- He has a great admiration for the mind of this man and feels like that he is a brilliant thinker among the Apostolic brethren in our times.

Scott Graham
-- Brother Graham is his closest friend and they talk very frequently about preaching and messages that are in progress.

(All of these men, except Marshall Taylor have sermons on Faithbuilder that you may listen to and/or download.)

When I asked him about the books that have helped to shape him over the years, I received an interesting response.

The Bible -- As the years roll on in his ministry, he has found that he spends much more time reading Scripture than he did in his earlier years. There is something about the power of Scripture to be able to shape the message a man is about to preach more than any book one might read. He has recently purchased the Reformation Study Bible which is in the English Standard Version. He told me that he has always been a KJV disciple, he has found the RSB to be packed full of good notes scattered throughout.

Clarence Edward Macartney -- He was an old Presbyterian pastor who was very careful about doing character studies in a biographical manner.

Gene Edwards -- All of his early works since the late works have really gone into the “house church” concept. Brother White requires all of the young ministers coming up in his church to read “A Tale of Three Kings” and “The Prisoner in the Third Cell” because they have such value in understanding the importance of anointing and also of suffering. I also highly commend each of these volumes to you as they are some of the most important books I have ever read. Both books are right at 100 pages or so and can be easily read in a short period of time but they contain life lessons that will last forever.

Jewish History -- There is much “fodder” to be gleaned from the right sources. He mentioned one sermon he had preached after he had studied some of the writings of a Jewish rabbinic scholar. The sermon was “The Perpetual Miracle of Pentecost” which dealt with the column of smoke that issued from the Temple and the fact that the shewbread was always kept warm in the Temple.

Brother White tremendously enjoys the simple aspect of preaching. But he has developed a system by which he keeps very meticulous records concerning messages he has preached. He has a MS Excel file that has more than 4500 entries that references Title, Date, and Location where the message was preached. He was encouraged (maybe even almost demanded) by another early pastor named Robert Johnson. He urged Brother White to keep a diary of his preaching material and now he is very glad he heeded that advice. On a side bar when he was speaking about Pastor Johnson he told me how much he loved, honored, and respected this man even to this day although apparently Brother Johnson is in ill-health. He told me that one of the reasons that our generation has being loyal to the ways of God is because they are not loyal to the man of God.

As for the record-keeping another benefit comes from it. A man who keeps good records can almost see the maturity that has taken place in his life. It should be the desire of every preacher to see spiritual maturity taking place in his life and he can track this through the development of his messages.

Brother White mentioned that every preacher has “signature sermons.” These are sermons that are a part of the man’s spirit. It is almost what a man is known for. He can preach these sermons anywhere usually with a good impact simply because those messages expose the heart and soul of that preacher. When I asked him about some of his messages that he thought fell into this category he mentioned two.

“When God Delivers His Darling from the Dogs” is a message about overcoming the flesh and being delivered from self. He preached this because he understood the huge struggle that often comes from the Spirit and the flesh but there comes a time when the Spirit takes the upper hand as spiritual maturity and authority develops in the saint of God. He also told me about “Echoes of My Sermons” which came through the heartaches and pains that a pastor has to endure in working with people who walk away from the church in a backslidden state.

Brother White mentioned some of those high-energy, classic Pentecostal messages that he has gotten some good mileage from over the years. “Who Let the Dogs Out” was a take-off from a rap song several years ago. “Dance Like Nobody’s Watching” was another of those messages that was a roof shaker. He also mentioned “Hell Bent in a Heavenly Place.” I have to admit that has he told me the titles of these my curiosity was piqued and maybe I can find copies of these in MP3 somewhere and upload them to Faithbuilder.

He also mentioned a message that I heard him preach at Alabama Youth Camp several years ago. “Things Feared More than God’s Judgment” was a message about living in the shadow of an awesome God and enjoying the blessings of God but unwilling to make the necessary commitment to live for God. God told Israel that if they would stay close to Him, He would save the nation and their king. Fear only God and yet they did not fear God but rather feared commitment to God and spent their lives living on the fringes and it was spiritual death to them.

As for his sermon notes, he prepares a full manuscript word-for-word although he does not preach them word-for-word. He does this for two reasons: 1) It is important for future reference should he desire to go back to this message and want to preach it again; 2) He has two sons who are coming along behind him in ministry and he desires for his notes to be useful to them. His detailed notes for the following generation has a way of showing exactly what he believed, why he believed it from Scripture, and how he came to that conclusion. The notes are in a 14-point font and instead of double-spacing he uses a space and half. After 29 years of preaching he has accumulated more than 1,000,000 (one million) pages of notes that are in notebooks and filing cabinets in his study.

Brother White told me that he got on the computer train years ago when they first came out and now he is very thankful he did because they have helped him to arrange, store, and categorize his notes. He has three files of which he works with his preaching. “Sermons Used” is a large file containing in the range of 300-400 messages that he feels were good enough to be used again in another church, youth camp, or conference. He has a “Sermons” file which contains 2000+ messages that are most likely ones that will never be preached again but still can be useful for referring back to for study helps. The last folder is “Sermons In Preparation” and currently in this file he has 82-83 seed thoughts. Some of them are just titles, some are just Scripture references, some are just a bulleted list of points, and some of them may be just a sentence. However, all of them are in constant motion. He told me that a preacher really ought to be preaching 24 hours a day. By that he meant that whenever he is in a bookstore he is constantly scanning for sermon titles, when he is in the hospital for pastoral visitation he is looking for things to weave into his preaching, and other various points of life there are things that will leap out to the ready and spiritual mind.

Brother White carries around a Moleskin and another comb-bound notebook to write down various thoughts during the day. The way he puts a message together when he moves into the gear of putting it together, he generally will start with something he has pulled from the “Sermon Prep” folder. Then he will begin to plug in the rough outline with the major points and then will go back and work in the parts from various Scripture references and illustrative sources whether they are biblical or outside the Bible. He feels the introduction is the most important part of the message as it allows the preacher to pull in the hearer and hold his attention. As he does this, the message takes its shape.

As for study habits, he primarily studies late at night after the day has calmed down. There have been times that he would start messages at 11:30PM and end up working on them through the night to the early morning hours. Also he uses Saturdays to put much steam into Sunday. On Sunday afternoons, he is also very involved in putting the message together. All day on Wednesday he is usually working on the message for the night. He also mentioned to me that he has found that the messages he thought were “duds” and had no usefulness whatsoever that these were sometimes the messages that spoke most to the church.

I conclude with a conversation that he had with O. R. Fauss several years ago at General Conference. He asked Brother Fauss why that there seemed to be a lack of conviction/commitment style preachers in our times. Brother Fauss told him that it took a special man to carry the cross of this kind of ministry. It was usually one of isolation and this kind of preacher had very few real friends. He may have some acquaintances but there would be very few who were willing to desire this. Secondly, Brother Fauss told him that mostly our generation is seeking after the presents of God instead of the presence of God. Although this may have been a play on words, it was an excellent analogy that deserves our attention.

I was tremendously blessed by the conversation that I had with Brother White about preaching and I anticipate that you will have been blessed by his commitment to preaching also.

Have a great weekend. . . . I will wrap up this series next week with two very good men: J. H. Osborne and John Carroll.

The Links:

The discipline of Study

Jeff Arnold

Scott Graham

Ben Weeks

Jason Calhoun

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bro. Harrelson....
Wow! what else can be said... You blog is well-needed in our time and hour. I am a 33 year old minister and this has been such a blessing and insight for my ministry. Keep the blogs coming.. I am a faithful barnabas blog reader and try to check every day for new items.. Thanks for the book recommendations! all that you say and do is read and heeded!
God Bless...
J.Herrera

Anonymous said...

I am a minister in training and I have been in the place where I am working to build my study habits. This blog has been a great wealth of knowledge and direction. I appreciate all the hard work that goes into it. May God richly bless you.

Aaron Witmer