Top Ten Sermons -- # 3 - - The Tipping Point -- Joe Patterson

What I shall write about this sermon and it's impact will be greatly understated because there is no way to describe the impact of this single message but thousands of others that this man has preached. This message was one that forced me to look at the "back trail" that Louis L'Amour often wrote about in his classic westerns. By looking at the "back trail" you have a much clearer understanding of where you have come from and a certainty of where you will be if you continue to travel.

Rick Wyser once told me a story about a newspaper columnist who had a reader to write about how boring that preaching was. For the next several weeks, the debate raged in this daily newspaper. There were some who believed that preaching was outdated, benign, and a bore. They argued that beside that, they could not even remember what they had heard the pastor preach last week. There were others who hotly and passionately contested this idea about how crucial that preaching was not only to their lives but to society as a whole.

Finally, a man wrote in and said, "Dear Sir, I have been married for 40 years and over the course of that time, my wife has cooked for me 43,830 meals. For the life of me,
I can't remember what she cooked last Sunday either. But this one thing I do know, all of those meals have contributed to my general health and wellbeing. I have this one thing to say about preaching the Word of God, I cannot remember what the pastor preached six months ago either but it has helped me to grow in grace, knowledge, and relationship with God. Therefore, I am saying the preaching is much more important than what we give it credit for." This ended the debate!

My life has been altered so much by the preaching of Joe Patterson. Sometimes, we (the Church as a whole) gets a little starry-eyed when we hear the tremendous preachers use their very gifted talents in conference, youth camps, and other types of venues. But the fact of the matter is this: Joe Patterson is going to be the man who ultimately is going to guide me along the path to heaven. This concept places a very high value and responsibility on the shoulders of any pastor.

Bro. Patterson has watched me grow up. He was preaching the night I got the Holy Ghost on June 9, 1974. He was the man who baptized me on June 16, 1974. He was the man who gave me his daughter on August 28, 1986. He was the man who sent me off to Bible College in August, 1989. He was the man who signed my general licensure application in March 1992. He was the man who signed my ordination application in January 2005. I have served him as assistant pastor from 1992 to 2000. I served with him as co-pastor from 2000 until 2006. I became pastor of the United Pentecostal Church in January 2006 and he now serves with me as the Bishop. He is almost exactly 30 years older than I am.

I was ordained officially on June 16, 2005. Curiously, he was baptizing me on the exact same day 31 years earlier. I will never believe that this is a coincidence. . . . I see it as an act of God, the very plan of God for my life. Wherever you may be, don't let the blue days get you down, if you are in the will of God, serve faithfully and fearlessly and in the course of time, God will work the details of your life out!

The Occasion: January 12, 2003, Sunday PM, United Pentecostal Church, Dothan, Alabama.

The Preacher: Joe Patterson. As I get older, my admiration for Bro. Patterson only grows. He is one of the most selfless men that I have ever met. In the last few months, I have become aware of even more details that demonstrate this great quality. The Kingdom of God is his whole life. He has always been very highly involved in Foreign Missions, both in giving and working with our missionairies. Such was the impact of his life, that there are two current missionaries on the field and one who was on the field for 10 years. Michael Patterson, his son, is serving in Romania along with his wife Jill. Linda Poitras is serving in Ghana, West Africa with her husband Jim Poitras. Lyna Sully is a former missionary to Nigeria, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast. She and her husband, Craig, are now pastoring in Canada.

Michael Patterson and Lyna Sully both grew up in the church here in Dothan and then went to their respective fields. Linda (Revell) Poitras was a young lady from a little town nearby who came to a rally one night in our church 30 years ago and God called her that night to the mission field.

Bro. Patterson told me one time very early in my ministry to pick out a mentor and follow his leading. Bro. Patterson picked out James Kilgore as his and I think that if you were to look at our missions budget and support of missionaries you would have to agree that he has followed Bro. Kilgore's example. Much of his spirit mirrors very much that of Bro. Kilgore. Although our church does not nearly have the prestige and honor that Life Tabernacle has garnered over the years (in fact our place is not even in the same category), our love for world evangelism has been adequately demonstrated. Only eternity will reveal the impact of what we have done to press the Kingdom into the world.

Bro. Patterson also has always been a student. He has always worked to "feed the sheep" here in Dothan. That example has played over into my own life. I have always had a love for books but he heightened my hunger to read the sorts of things that I read currently. I have put together a sizable library of my own in the last 15 years and his influence has caused me to constantly be in the hunt for new (old) authors and their works.

He allowed me to preach my first sermon here in Dothan in March, 1989. It was not too long after that he gave me the first real "Christian" book that I would read. It was Chuck Swindoll,s book, "Hand Me Another Brick," which is a commentary on the book of Nehemiah. I then progressed on to other writers such as G. H. Morrison, F. B. Meyer, Charles Finney, Joseph Parker, and that started me along the way. I have continued to try to always work hard at disciplined study because I believe that this is one of the most important things that a pastor can do for his flock.

I have mentioned some concerns in a previous post about how that many of the new church growth books are turning pastors into administrators, CEO's, and organ grinders with accompanying monkeys. I am not opposed to growth and revival (in fact we have it here with a packed house and looking a building program nose to nose and eye to eye) but in the long run what happens if we forsake true and real Biblical preaching for the next wave. Solid, absolute, doctrinal and Biblical is a must if we are to keep the church in the image of what the Lord intended. To get a grip that gives the balance of all the church growth stuff, one should read Surprising Insights From the Unchurched by Thom Rainer. It was a real eye-opener for me.

Week in and week out, Bro. Patterson has preached things that have kept me balanced, responsible, praying, reaching, and progressing. We need the conferences, we need the Youth Congresses, the Youth Camps, the Campmeetings, and all of the other things that fall into that category but we desperately need the work of a disciplined, God-fearing, Word-preaching, soul-loving pastor.

To those of you who are reading this blog and are not a pastor/preacher, I am begging you not to try to turn your pastor into an administrator, CEO, activities coordinator, in other words an errand boy. Pray for those who labor in the Word because we desperately need to hear it. Good solid preaching is hard work, if you don't believe it then try to pull something out of the hat every single week.

While I was researching a little for this post, I pulled out my handy little Mead Compostion Marble Notebook and started flipping through all of the notes that I have taken since 1993. These notes are of the sermons and Bible studies that I have heard. I usually try to take notes on every thing that I hear. Bro. Griffin always said that you can learn from other preachers. Some will give you instruction as what to do and others will example instructions as what you should not do.

Throughout all of these notes, I noticed some names of some very heavy hitters. However, they were scattered sporadically through all of my personal handwritten notes. What I noticed was page after page, where the heading says, date such and such, Bro. Joe Patterson, with a subsequent text and title. He has filled my mind and life with the Word of God. The saints here in Dothan owe so much to him. He has pastored us for 38 years.

A few weeks ago after Bro. Patterson had preached on a Sunday night and we had experienced a wonderful move of the Word and Spirit, I told Terry Mullen (a good man in our church), that I was not going to let Bro. Patterson preach anymore on Sunday nights. Too much preaching like that makes my job harder. I told Bro. Mullen that every day that I live that Bro. Patterson's shoes keep getting bigger and bigger to fill.

Around Alabama and those who are involved with Foreign Missions, pastors, ministers, evangelists, have a very high regard for Bro. Patterson. He is a very great man who has had an incredible impact on my life and a thousand others.

The Message: The Tipping Point, 1 Kings 18:17-21.

We cannot "halt" between two opinions. Webster defines "halt" in this way: to walk with a limp, to discontinue progress, to stand in perplexity, in doubt between altering courses of life.

09/11/01 was a tipping point in American history. We will never be the same again. Our world will never be same again.

This factor of the tipping point holds true for individual lives. There are certain actions in life that will cause us to fall in one direction or another. We all have defining points in our life where huge decisions are made. These decisions place into motion certain actions that carry out forever.

The way that we turn in life will not only affect the day but it will affect our destiny. There are mundane days and it is during those days that we must learn the disciplines of the Spirit. Sunday is not particularly the day of revival. But rather what happens on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. will have an impact on the revival state that we live in.

Elijah's challenge came to Israel in that they could not try to live along the fence. They had to make a decision that day. To serve the God who answered by fire and sever the lesser god of Baal.

Bro. Patterson told a story about a man who prayed several weeks at the altar. He was seeking for the Holy Ghost but there were some issues in his life that the Spirit was convicting him of but he would not let them go. After a long time of praying, he got up and said, "Bro. Patterson it is so hard to die!" The fact of the matter is that he never did die. He walked away from the altar, away from the church, and ultimately away from God.

There have been great commitments made and that is what is necessary in this age.


Anonymous said…
Bro. Harrelson,

Your sentiments and love you expressed for your Father in the Gospel, your pastor made tears come to my eyes. What a wonderful testimony you have, after all these years you are still walking with and following the same man who baptized you.

Thank you for what you are doing here. It may be a labor, but it will reap rewards in your own life and not to mention the people like me who are encouraged, challenged by your passion, love and honour you place on your pastor.

Help us all to follow your example.

Scott Phillips
Anonymous said…
Bro. Harrelson,
Having grown up in the same district, it was extremely insightful to read the wonderful comments regarding Bro. Patterson. He has been faithful in so many ways over the years, especially in his support of missions. As a newly appointed AIMer, we have been blessed by his support. Great men don't plant crops or even trees, they plant and invest in men and women. He has truly fulfilled that designation. Please pass along our regards to him for us. God bless

AIM to Dominican Republic
Anonymous said…
Bro. Harrelson,

What an incredibly refreshing inside look at the heart of a preacher who loves his pastor! Like a previous post commented, your comments brought tears to my eyes as well. Thank you. With so many currents of independence and abuse circulating, it's great to hear about a pure relationship in the way it's meant to be. We are far too lacking in Father/Son relationships in the Gospel and the respective esteem that accompanies such relationships.

My pastor was and is Harold Hoffman. His steady life has been a fixed star in my sky. When I very occasionally hear someone offer a disparaging comment about ministry I have a difficult time relating. This man has been worthy of my esteem and is greatly loved.

Keep the quill sharp and the inkhorn full!

Ron Lichtle
Anonymous said…
Wonderful comments! And so true! I too have been blessed by Bro. Pattrson's ministry and see many values and standards of Bro. Patterson's life reflected in Bro. Harrelson. Keep up the good work, Keeper of the flame!
Anonymous said…
Bro. Harrelson,
If I were to make a top ten list of the greatest sermons I've ever heard preached this would, without a doubt, be the number one choice. Tipping points define our lives and our character. It is in those times of trouble and/or distress that we find out how strong or how weak our faith is. I want to thank you and Bro. Patterson for your leadership and guidance through the years. When you grow up in a church like the church in Dothan, where the spirit of God is so powerful and real, a sense of complacency begins to take hold of your life. Not to say that God is not still God, but you have to know and appreciate the power that you are able to feel each and every time you step foot in that church. You don't necessarily feel that same power in other churches. Bro. Harrelson, you have something special in that church and in that church body. I hold an enormous amount of respect for yourself and Bro. Patterson, and truly enjoy reading your letters. I am an unfinished man. Keep the faith, gaurd the trust and do the work of an evangelist. God bless

Joey Redden

Popular posts from this blog


Characters from Pilgrim's Progress -- Valiant for Truth

Why You Should Have a Prayer Journal