The Discipline of Study -- Jeff Arnold
I will pick back up with the process in the discipline of study in a few posts. But today, I would like to share some thoughts with you about some men whom I have grown to know and love over the last few years. They are preachers par excellence and have become known for their abilities to strike fire with the Word.
One of those men is Jeff Arnold. Powerful, provoking, sometimes controversial, sometimes misunderstood but always with an ability to form a connection with the congregation to whom he is preaching to. A number of his messages are located on Faithbuilder, a site of multiple MP3’s available to listen on-line or to download. You owe it to yourself to listen to the 27 messages that he did on the life of Abraham called “In the Steps of That Faith.”
A little over three years ago, a window of opportunity opened up for me to become a friend of his. I went down to Gainesville to one of his “studies” although at the time I did not know that was what it was. I was taken there by Pastor J. B. Sims from Foley, Alabama. We ended up staying for 3 hours and when we left, both of us were stunned at what had transpired. In fact, I am convinced that he loaded us with enough insight to last for a good long time.
Brother Sims has known Brother Arnold for a long time and had preached in Gainesville when he was a young minister. Occasionally Brother Arnold would call him and ask him to meet him for lunch and they would spend much time in the Word. That day opened up an avenue for me to begin a friendship with Brother Arnold of which I have gotten so much more out of it than what I have put into it. I just kind of show up and he will fly solo for at least 2 hours but more often than not about 3 hours as we hang out in Sonny’s BBQ in Gainesville just off I-75. Interestingly the conversation is usually one-way (everything pouring out of him onto me) and I am blown away by the ability that Brother Arnold has with the Word. There have been times when he and I both have been howling and at the same time there have been moments when we both in tears in the presence of God sitting in Sonny’s BBQ.
His ability with the Word is remarkable. I think that perhaps sometimes in the presentation of preaching that he is known for, much is missed. When you re-listen to the message you discover an incredible depth that he probes around with in his preaching. During one of these times (I go about every other month), I asked him about his study and he shared with me the habits that he has been working on now for over 40 years. He rarely goes to the church except to pray. He starts the day with 45-60 minutes of prayer and then he launches out to his “study.”
He has about three or four “studies” scattered around Gainesville. He has a small little bag that looked to me more like a tool bag for a set of socket wrenches but instead is crammed full of books and his Bible. He takes this into either Sonny’s BBQ, a little deli sandwich shop on 34th (I think this is the street #), a Mexican restaurant, and another little hole in the wall that I can’t remember the name of. The folks in there all know him and he will get a table in the corner and break out his books and Bible and begin to study. He does this every morning that he is in town and has told me that sometimes he will even go on Saturday’s. He told me one time that he is so caught up with the God and the Word and he cannot understand how that some preachers get bored with preaching and praying. In fact, he told me one time, if anyone wanted to really build a church the only thing necessary was a hunger for God, His Word, and a pulpit. The miracles will take care of themselves if a man will preach the Word.
As he studies, he will write on whatever he can get his hands on. I used to not believe this until I got a glimpse of that little black bag. It had old napkins, scraps of paper, and even what appeared to be old envelopes that had scribbles all over them. He claims this is his “sermon notes.” I am not sure that I totally believe that but I will have to take his word for it. As things come to him while he is studying in the midst of people coming and going from the tables around him, he will write down the thoughts that God impresses on his mind.
I asked him about what kinds of books he read. In years past, he said he would read massive amounts of sermons by various authors that primarily wrote sermon books. He told me that the best books are the old books and that very few modern books really catch his attention. He did tell me when he was a young preacher that he tried to read Spurgeon and after about four or five tries gave it up because Spurgeon did not connect well with him. He said that he is right at home with all those dead guys and loves nothing more than to just read through their material.
After he spends the morning in one place, he gets up and goes to another “study” which is another restaurant somewhere and again finds another table and goes at it again. I have figured out that he takes somewhat of a topical approach to Scripture but before it is over it has turned into an expositional approach. If you go to Faithbuilder and listen to “Coming Out of a Cave,” “I Will Not Die in My Dilemma,” or “Formula for a Downpour” you will see how that he will take a passage of Scripture and work with the passage for a while and then it will explode in a thousand different directions as he takes NT passages to shed the light on what he is preaching about. Very rarely does he use what we might call outside illustrations or resort to “story-telling.” He just allows Scripture to blow the lid off of whatever he is trying to preach.
One of the times I was with him he leaned up across the table and asked me, “Elder (I find this funny that he calls me this), who is your Jehu?” Not tracking what he was asking, I backtracked a bit and said, “What do you mean who is my ‘Jehu’?” It was then that he unfolded a very powerful concept. He told me that no prophet could kill his Jezebel. He said that all preachers/ministers/prophets will have an enemy sent from Hell that will try to destroy him. He said that the ministry of Jehu was to kill the Jezebel that attacked the prophet, Elijah. A “Jehu” is generally a person who is in the congregation of the church you pastor or a close friend that can pray for you as you do the work of God. No prophet can kill his own Jezebel and therefore the intercessory ministry of a “Jehu” who is usually a prayer warrior is imperative for a minister to have. He told me that every prophet has his Jezebel who is trying to destroy him and he will be like the Apostle Paul in that there is always a nagging thorn of some kind that will be sent to buffet.
These are just two of the many, many examples that he has shared with me during these times that I have met with him. He told me that every person that we meet is usually found somewhere in the Bible and the Spirit has to give us the insight as to how to work with that person. This can only come with prayer and sensitivity to the Holy Ghost but one also has to be familiar enough with Scripture for God to give us the insight as to what is happening in our midst.
When he was a younger man he would listen to George Glass sermons. One time a man told him that George Glass was boring to which he replied that a man had to know a little bit about the Bible to listen to Glass. He mentioned the doctrinal adherence and foundation to which Nathaniel Urshan always preached. He said that no matter when and where you heard Brother Urshan preach, there was no doubt in your mind about where he stood doctrinally. In my own estimation and opinion in our dark days we are seeing a younger set of men returning to this kind of preaching for which I am very thankful for.
Another time when I went to Gainesville, I took my father-in-law, Joe Patterson, and Tim Kelley, pastor in Oakdale, Louisiana, with me. It was in December and after we got through eating, Brother Arnold told me that he had a gift for us. We loaded up and went back to the church and he proceeded to give us every one of the books that he had written. We tried to pay for them but he would not take it. I might add that any CD, tape, or book of Brother Arnold that is sold, the whole proceeds go to Foreign Missions.
His books are really sermons that someone has transcribed and then placed into print. The vast majority of them are actually series of sermons that he preached in Gainesville. I recommend them for that reason. One can take one of these books and turn it into a mid-week series. I would guess that the books on worship are probably the most recognized as I have seen them in numerous conferences and bookstores. As I mentioned earlier, how that he will take a topical approach to something and then turn it into a verse-by-verse study and this is what happened with the series on worship. There are two books that contain close to six-hundred pages of material.
The little book “Five More Minutes” is a compilation of church bulletin inserts that he wrote. In my opinion, this little book can give you some serious mileage if you are willing to sit down with it and study! Every article is what I frequently refer to as a “sermon seed.” They can be expanded and worked into some very good messages. Some of the titles are as follow:
Beyond the Moment
How’s Your Serve?
Division Invites Disaster
Power and Passion Are Partners
My Weakness Can’t Match My Helper
The Real Blessing of the Bad News
The other books are as follow:
Experiencing a Turnaround
Free From Fear
Hell Is Reserved for Idiots
Power Encounters—Two Kingdoms in Conflict
One Wind—Four Directions—One Director
Who Is Jesus?
The Key to Power and Deliverance
All of these books are very good and I am certain that you will find some useful assistance from them. You will also be very encouraged if you will download his sermon title list from the website. They are available in in alphabetical order.
I hope this is something that encourages you to give yourself to the discipline of study for the ministry of the Word.
More to come. . .
Past links about Brother Arnold:
Formula for a Downpour
The Five Year Pass
Refuge From Despair