Continuing with this series on the discipline of study, I am going to share with you some thoughts and observations from another friend of mine. I have known Jason Calhoun for at least 15 years maybe longer. He and I became acquainted through my very good friend Paul Jacks who I attended Bible College with 20 years ago. At the time that I met him, he was involved in the ministry as an evangelist of which he did for 10 years.
Jason Calhoun began actively preaching at the age of 17 and was placed into youth ministry at 18. When he turned 19, he began actively evangelizing often preaching two revivals a week. He would be at one church from Thursday through the weekend and then would pick up at another church as soon as that revival concluded sometimes preaching as much as 32 times during a 30 day period. He told me that during these times that life taught him the importance of understanding the ministry as a marathon and not just a sprint. It takes time for certain dreams to be accomplished but given time, effort, and discipline the process will fulfill itself and dreams have a way of fulfilling themselves.
He was raised in the church by faithful parents. His father served in roles as assistant pastor before finally being in the role as a pastor. In the early years, his father had been a business owner who was willing to take a risk if he thought that God was in the plan. On one occasion, the family moved from the mid-West to Hawaii to start a business. Jason’s father ended up there with a successful business venture and fulfilling the role as an assistant pastor before serving as a pastor in Hawaii. Jason mentioned that both of his parents were very hard workers when it came to the Kingdom of God and their willingness to persevere and sacrifice precluded for him to clearly understand the power that comes from persistence in seeing things accomplished and built up. His dad would often say, “If god is in it, we can do it!”
When he left home at 19 as an evangelist, he quickly understood that with every calling that there comes a measure of equipping from God. However, the equipping process will often be accompanied by a certain measure of pain. This principle came to bear for him in Santa Rosa, New Mexico just off of I-40 when a propane tank malfunctioned and an explosion set his fifth-wheel trailer on fire and he lost everything except for the clothes on his back. At the time, his wife was not travelling with him and she managed to round him up a suit from the Salvation Army and some borrowed shoes from a grandfather for him to wear. He commenced on the trail as an evangelist and it took a bit for him to recharge his budget to buy some more clothes so he was reduced to wearing this single uniform of clothes for a number of days.
The deep blow came shortly after his beginning but fortuitously he came to a revival at Riverbank, California. It was there that having lost everything he had that God began that plan that either makes or breaks ministries. He related to me that many nights after the services were over that he would go back into the sanctuary of the church and spend long hours in prayer during the night. The prayer was more about brokenness and the shaping of a preacher’s soul than they were about doing the “big” things for God. But he also related that during this time of deep feeling and rending of heart there came an anointing into his life that still to this day has remained a constant source of strength for him. Even now when he goes back to that church in Riverbank, a lot of nostalgia accompanies him.
During that time of consecrating prayer, he would prayer with a sense of fervor for God to place him into contact with good men who could mentor him as a young evangelist. He was not disappointed with the outcome of that prayer because during that time, God paved the way for him to come into contact with four men who had the ability to shape his life.
Jerry Green -- He demonstrated a lot of faith and always had a positive approach to life. He appeared to never have a “down” time in his life and ministry always believing the best would turn out.
Steve McMullen -- This man demonstrated a pastor who prayed. He prayed much for the saints in his church and for an atmosphere of the Spirit to continually work in the church. Throughout his travels as an evangelist, he found no other pastor to pray more than did Brother McMullen.
Tim Copeland -- Being a former evangelist, he influenced him as a soul-winner and a man given to evangelism. He taught home Bible studies and his Saturday’s (all day) were given to visiting and seeing people in an effort to get them to come to church.
Phil White -- Brother White sort of took him in as a younger brother. He learned much about character from him and the importance of sticking to principles and not violating or compromising your calling for a political advantage. Jason told me that he has never met a man who has the uncanny ability to provide leadership to a church with the eye on the future. He always looks at the impact of a decision for where it is going to lead the church 20 years from now.
As for his peers in his life, they have had the ability to influence and help him. His closest friend is Ben Weeks and they are frequently on the phone discussing aspects of Scripture and angles on sermons. Shannon Stanley is another friend who lives in nearby Bossier City, Louisiana. Jonathon Stringfellow was a former evangelist who preached in the church in Texarkana a number of times. Steve Pixler is a pastor and close friend who has encouraged him more than anyone to lean toward expository teaching. I round out the crowd although I am a latecomer having reconnected with Jason about 3 years ago.
As with all of the former men I have blogged about, Jason also listens to preaching via MP3 and sometimes even cassette tape (remember those?). He told me that he enjoys listening to older preachers who tell of the difficulties of life that God has helped them to overcome. The following men are those whom he regularly listens to now.
J. T. Pugh -- This is perhaps his favorite preacher. He told me about the greatest sermon in his mind that Brother Pugh ever preached. It is a message entitled “Don’t Fool with a Fool.” It was preached at the POA in Alexandria, Louisiana quite some time back. It is a sermon about Nabal who almost destroyed David. Saul could not destroy David with all of his hate-motivated actions but Nabal and his recklessness of a fool almost entrapped David.
Charles Grisham -- Jason told me that more than anything he appreciated Brother Grisham’s ability to love truth and preach it with a good spirit and attitude. This is challenging to do for those who have strong conservative leanings but Brother Grisham always seemed very real, genuine, and concerned.
O. C. Marler -- The two messages that stand out from Brother Marler are “Living in Troas” and “Walking in the Rainbow.”
J. W. Harrell -- From both of our thoughts, Brother Harrell in Bridge City, Texas is going to have a huge reward for his impact on the life of many a preacher. Two sermons that stand out are “A Perceived Slight” and “A Thief Called Familiarity.”
Jack Hyles -- This is his favorite from a non-Pentecostal standpoint.
As with the earlier blogs concerning study, any preacher worth his salt is going to have good books. As far as commentaries are concerned the “Exploring” series by John Phillips is the primary commentary. However, Jason also related to me that he reads a number of older sermon books by G. H. Morrison, Hubert L. Simpson, T. Dewitt Talmage, Alan Redpath, J. Sidlow Baxter, Clovis Chappell, Harold Kohn, Roy Angell, J. Wallace Hamilton, and Arthur Pink (in bite-sized pieces). As far as pastoral ministry is concerned a book that has been read and revisited numerous times is a classic written by J. H. Jowett entitled “The Preacher: His Life and Work.” I highly recommend all of these authors and they are easily obtained (for the most part) by using the numerous internet sources that feature used books.
As for general books, he tries to set goals and attempts to read at least one book a week. He has collected a fair amount of books by Harold Bell Wright who was a prolific writer of fiction more than 50 years ago. He is probably best known for “The Shepherd of the Hills” and to a lesser degree “The Calling of Dan Mathews.” Other books that HBW has written contain excellent lessons in morality and the power of making good choices are crucial seasons of life.
Other books fall in the genres of biography, the medical field, nature, and war particularly those dealing with leadership during war. He is currently reading the book “Team of Rivals” about the cabinet of Abraham Lincoln. He also mentioned reading books that are about or by Jews, particularly Chiam Potok who gets into the world of Hasidic rabbis and their very rigorous and disciplined training. I was recently exposed to the writings of Potok (The Promise, The Chosen, My Name is Ashur Lev) and was shocked at the intensity of which the author writes and explores areas that had been almost foreign to me.
He also listens to Jim Rohn’s lectures on leadership and personal growth. Malcolm Gladwell’s books concerning sociology have been some good venues also. This is evidence of those who get off the beaten path with their thoughts and ideas.
While he did mention to me that he listens to a various sermons, he has found that he gets far more out of reading than he does listening. When he was an evangelist, he listened to evangelists preach but when he assumed the role of a pastor, he became more interested in building strong and solid people. This will not and cannot happen with the flash-bang preaching that evangelists are often known for. So the role of the pastor has changed his preaching style and content.
Steve Pixler had a big influence on him concerning pastoral preaching. He encouraged Jason to focus in on expository preaching which will benefit the church in the long run. He has found that a lengthy series in 1 Corinthians has been beneficial. When he is finished with this, Jason told me that he is preparing to go into the book of James. There are two particular men that he looks to for direction in this kind and style of preaching have been Crawford Coon and the aforementioned Steve Pixler.
When he was evangelizing the frequency of the preaching often led to physical weariness but a very keen spiritual sensitivity. But as a pastor he discovered that there is much more that goes on in church life than just what occurs in the pulpit. Through exposition of Scripture many issues of church life are dealt with simply as the Scripture unfolds itself in the preaching event. As for the series in 1 Corinthians, marriage, Christian liberties, communion, the resurrection, giving, and headship/authority are all things that have been discovered.
As far as pastoral ministry is concerned, there is a trap that many fall into. It is the busyness of the church and an over-committed schedule. Far too often the ministry is attempted with little regard for God. A pastor who attempts ministry without relationship with God will inevitably find that over the long-haul he will give into burnout, weariness, and mental and spiritual collapse that will lead to disqualification from effective ministry.
As far as a routine, three mornings a week the church has corporate prayer at 6 AM of which he takes part in. Usually after this he spends time reading the Bible and just musing over Scripture. It is often during these times that particular thoughts will leap out and they usually end up becoming sermons. On every Monday, Jason is already looking toward Sunday to get in tune for it. His prayer is “God help me preach tings when we need them.” Timing is everything!
He also has a Moleskin that he carries around to write down things that have struck him from Scripture. I asked him to give me a couple of things that he has written down but has not developed yet. These are the seed thoughts he gave me.
2 Samuel 19 -- Joab could not understand why David was so distraught over Absalom’s death. The threat to the Kingdom was now dead and David’s kingdom was about to find a restoration. The point of the message will be that no matter how big the success or victory may be, if the succeeding generation is destroyed in the process it is all very empty.
2 Samuel 16:5-13 -- Shimei is cursing the king and his response is basically to just let him curse. There are some things in life that you just have to let them curse.
Coming Back To the City -- Upon David’s return back to the city of Jerusalem there were four people who met him. 1) Judah -- Of course the meaning in the name is praise. A king is always going to be worthy of worship. 2) Shimei -- He had a checkered past but now has been forgiven. He was the man who was mistake prone but has been given a second chance. 3) Mephibosheth -- He was the man who had been wounded and was now returning to meet the king. 4) Barzillai -- He was the man who thought he had waited too long. These four will meet the king when he returns; the man who is a worshipper, the man who has been given the second chance, the man who has been wounded, and the man who thought he went too far.
When I asked him to give me one last thought, it put a good exclamation point on all we had talked about. He felt that men in their late 30’s and early 40’s needed to take an active role in the lives of those ministers who are in their 20’s. The tendency of the 35-45 year old crowd is to become self-absorbed in building their own lives and ministries that they do not start looking to contribute until they are in their late 50’s and early 60’s which by then may be too late. Those of us in this age group do have something to give it is just a matter of doing so. We can befriend younger preachers and be a listening ear for them. Give them an opportunity to preach and show kindness to them. Furthermore we can involve them by giving them resources and then asking them what their thoughts on these things are.
All of these thoughts struck home to Jason when he pulled out his cell phone recently and started scanning through about 150 names of men with whom he is friends with and discovered that none of them were less than 30 years in age. These sorts of moments can be epiphany moments for all of us if we will allow them to happen.
Now go thou and do likewise. . . .
The discipline of Study.