Tuesday, April 21, 2009
The Discipline of Study -- John Carroll
I continue our series on the discipline of study with a John Kerryesque sort of statement, “I knew John Carroll before I knew John Carroll.” A number of years ago, a friend of mine told me that I should visit an internet forum that was sort of a discussion ground for a lot of disgruntled Pentecostals who spent much time and energy trying to tear down some of the core doctrines and traditions that have been long held. When I ventured into this very weary land (I quit going very shortly thereafter), I kept noting a person who was commenting who went by the name “Coonskinner.” This “Coonskinner” and one other person (of whom I have since learned his identity also) would have about 50 people piling on with all sorts of rude comments and ridiculous innuendo concerning their defense of the faith. I did my best to post and agree with the “Coonskinner” and his valiant friend but because the forum required a special login and registration (to which I tried to gain but never could), I could never post my remarks in agreement with them.
Years passed and about 3 years ago, I was relating to a friend of mine, Scott Phillips, how that I always agreed with what “Coonskinner” had to say on this other far-out forum. When I told him this, Scott began to laugh heartily and told me that the “Coonskinner” was one of his best friends. It was through that friendship that I came to know a very good man who possesses an excellent spirit. About three years ago, I was introduced to the world of John Carroll and I am a much better man for it having come to pass. He pastors in Salina, Kansas but he hails from Oklahoma.
When John Carroll was eleven years, sitting in a rocking chair in his grandmother’s house, he was reading in the book of Acts, specifically chapter 2, when he heard the audible voice of God. He was told “One day you will be preaching about this!” He was so unnerved by this event that he missed supper that night and although his grandmother was aware that something was amiss, he did not tell her what had happened. It was at this very early and tender age that the seed was planted about the future God had planned for him. He would be 19 before he actually preached his first sermon. He has now been preaching almost 20 years.
As with all of these previous men, there are influencers who marked the direction that his life took in ministry.
Loyd Jones -- The pastor of his formative years was not really a world-class preacher, just a faithful man who watched his flock. However he did provide some excellent advice to him in the early days of his ministry. He told John to give himself to prayers that were marked by consecration and to study. But as to the mechanical aspects of putting sermons, together no advice was offered.
C. A. Nelson -- Brother Nelson was a man who allowed him to preach in the church he pastored. He was a very convicting preacher and this appealed to John. Brother Nelson was a retired District Superintendent for the Oklahoma District when John met him.
O. R. Fauss -- Another greatly convicting preacher. A whole lot of men in the age range of late 30’s and beyond can testify of the effect that O. R. Fauss had on them as young men and young ministers. Some of his sermons are on Faithbuilder.
J. T. Pugh -- Brother Pugh affected him long before John met him through his preaching. I don’t have the time to go into a story John told me sometime back about meeting Brother Pugh in the Denver airport at one of the most crucial times of his life but he received much spiritual direction during that time from Brother Pugh. When I asked him about specific messages of Brother Pugh, he mentioned two although they are probably not the classics that he is mostly known for. The classics are “You’re First Night in Hell,” “Anointed But Not Blessed,” and “Something Better than Heaven.”
“Fadeless Stars That Never Go Out” was a message that he heard on tape. It was a very provoking and complex message. Jude speaks of “wandering stars” and Brother Pugh took this and compared and contrasted stars with black holes. A black hole is a star that turns in on itself and consumes itself. A man can turn in on himself and quit praying and giving and pursuing and seeking until his ministry shrivels up to nothingness. Or a man can be like Jeremiah who had no converts to speak of, did not have a wife or family and spent much of his ministry in tears seemingly almost in defeat with little outward success. However, the influence of his ministry would be lived out in Babylon by Daniel, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego.
As a sidenote, I have written a couple of blogs about Brother Pugh in the past. Spiritual Creativity and The Making of a Champion.
John would later meet Brother Pugh and establish somewhat of a relationship with him that remains until this day.
Another message was “Stars You’ve Never Seen Before” by way of cassette tape that produced a very strong prayer meeting after John listened to it.
Verbal Bean -- His series “Prayer” and “The Works of the Holy Ghost” were a multi-tape series that John listened to a number of times in his early years of ministry. Both of these series are on Faithbuilder in MP3 format although the audio quality is not the greatest in world due to the age of the tapes.
Derold and Judy Doughty -- This is a man who is very important currently in his life. He is who John looks to as a pastor. Judy Doughty is a woman who is given to early morning prayer and has been an inspiration to him in this area.
Gary Howard -- This man was an evangelist who preached many times during John’s childhood. He told me that there were messages that Brother Howard preached when he was five and six years old that he does not necessarily remember the content of the message but how there was great depth of the Spirit and provided for long altar services. I am convinced that the key to true revival are those moments that we are able to spend in the altars allow God to work through and to knead the spirit of the man.
I asked John what he thought allowed men to move with such a depth in the Spirit and a feeling of conviction that those in the pew responded to. He told me it was something that our generation does not want to hear but the real keys are pain, suffering, and affliction that will almost break a man in two. Two things we can do with trouble determines how God will let it work for us: 1) The thorn of affliction can be taken to the throne of grace and a measure of grace will come that will sustain a man in his work, or 2) a man can turn that pain inward and become shallow and bitter until it consumes him and those around him.
Before a man can rightly divide the Word, the Word has to rightly divide the man. The Word has the capacity separate soul and spirit, joints and marrow (Hebrews 4:12) and until this happens, men will always be at a loss to really minister the Word.
A man who has no personal depth will never inspire a congregation to work and reach the high calling that God has for them. Trials have the capacity to move us beyond the places of “maintenance prayer” which basically only covers what our daily needs require. In the Tabernacle, the second altar had to be visited and then one moved beyond the veil into the presence of God at the Ark of the Covenant. There is a place of prayer that moves us into the very presence of God that has to be sought out every day. Far too often, men find a place to pray but never stay long enough find that second wave of the Spirit. Moses left the Tabernacle but it was Joshua who lingered in the presence of God (Exodus 33:11) and it paid huge dividends in his life. When we get into a rush and the hustle and bustle of life it can be taxing to our relationship with God.
When I asked John about sermons that he had heard that over the years had meant much to him, he mentioned three particular men who preached messages.
Mark Morgan -- “When the Avenger Arrives” that was preached at the ARK conference. Another one, “When God Changes His Coat” at the Colorado District Campmeeting.
David Shatwell -- “How to Heal a Wounded Spirit” which was preached either at Annapolis, Maryland or Madison, Mississippi.
Tony Bailey -- “Early Morning Prayer” which he heard 8-9 years ago.
In the past, John had related to me his early morning routine which I found to be inspiring and remarkable. He gets up between 5-5:30 AM for prayer. At this time of the day, there are no disturbances because the world is not yet stirring. He will pray until he touches God and then there is that lingering in the presence of God that will cause his heart to be inclined toward ministry his church. After the prayer, John begins to muse through the Bible, quietly, carefully, prayerfully, and God uses the Word to speak powerfully to him. On a sidebar, when I speak with John on the phone, I never leave the conversation but that he has not dropped a tremendous thought that he has gained from Scripture. In fact, I have a notebook that I drag around with me everywhere and more than once or twice, something he has said to me makes its way into the pages.
While this Bible reading is going on, a cup of steaming Community Coffee is at hand along with a journal (8 ½ X 11) accompanied by a fountain pen. John has been writing with fountain pens since he was a kid and learned the art of it from his granny. His granny had an old wooden barreled Schaeffer that he started with. He has a variety of fountain pens. He has a Schaeffer, a Waterman, several Parker’s, and a utilitarian type fountain pen that he uses daily. Instead of using one that has an active inkwell, he uses the ones with cartridges for the sake of convenience.
When he was telling me about the pens, he said he had an old preacher tell him one time that he was the “youngest, old preacher” he had ever met. John told me that he likes old saddles, old guns, old pocket knives, but he has a special affinity for old coon-dogs (we shall get to more of that later).
So with Bible, coffee, journal, and fountain pen the inspiration starts to flow and he writes out his notes. He has a number of these hard-bound journals as he will usually fill up 1-2 of them every year. These thoughts will end up becoming sermons and Bible studies for him at later points.
The reason he is committed to writing his thoughts out is because every preacher has times when he is almost trying to drink from a fire hydrant and there are other times it is as dry as a desert. He told me that J. T. Pugh spoke of seasons of inspiration and that the inspiration comes but it has to have structure or it will be worthless. The structure is what causes the perspiration.
John then told me that on these early mornings he can feel the power that is expressed in an old song, Shut In With God:
The disciples were praying for the power to fall
Ten days they did tarry, on God they did call
Then God sent His spirit to baptize them all
For they had been shut in with God
Shut in with God in a secret place
There in the spirit, beholding His face
Gaining new power to run in this race
Oh, I love to be shut in with God
Of all pleasant places on land or on sea
There’s no place on earth that is sweeter to me
Than to kneel at the feet of my Master and Lord
For there, I’ll be shut in with God
The pathway to Heaven, though rugged it may be
I’ll travel ‘til my precious Saviour I’ll see
Then the gates of that city will open for me
And there I’ll be shut in with God
John stressed the importance of not being a “binge” student. You have to take Brother Wayne McClain’s advice that he had given to him years before, “Gather the manna every day.” So on approximately 330 days of the 365 you will find John Carroll from 5-5:30 AM until 7:00 praying and working through the Scriptures.
He told me that he gained his love for the Word from a Sunday School teacher who had taught him as a kid. Then his aunt gave him a Bible when he was 7 after he had received the Holy Ghost and was baptized in Jesus’ name. Then through the work of his old pastor, who was very doctrinal in his preaching, gave him a love for apostolic doctrine. So with that first Bible (which he requested from his aunt to have red-letters, pictures, and a concordance), he begin to underline all the major parts of doctrine concerning the Oneness of God and the New Birth experience. One day as he was running the references, John 10:30 leaped out at him and it felt as if the revelation of the Oneness of God was pouring into his mind. So at a very young age, he was very much devoted to doctrine. He encourages his young ministers in his church to work messages in such a manner that they can build a bridge from the message to Acts 2:38.
When I asked him about particular books that he read, an amazing world opened up. John has a bachelor’s degree in English literature and actually was a schoolteacher before going into full time ministry. Therefore because of this background he rarely (as in never) reads books that are religious in nature. He learned from his profs in college that if a man will give himself to reading the classics then there is a stimulation toward deep and orderly thinking.
There are three reasons to read: 1) For recreation; 2) To gain information; and 3) To discipline the mind. The latter two are the most important reasons that someone should spend time reading. The classic literature that he has read includes Dante’s Inferno, Plato’s Republic (which is an incredible task in itself), the essays of Sir Frances Bacon, varied works by Shakespeare, and poetry. His two favorite poets are Emily Dickinson of which all of her works are enjoyed and Rudyard Kipling. The two favorite poems of Kipling are “If” and “The Female of the Species.”
He also expressed an enjoyment of reading Mark Twain’s works. Of Twain, he told me that he is deceptively deep and multi-layered in his writings, to which I greatly agree as I have used several illustrations from Twain over the years in my own preaching. He mentioned that Twain could be enjoyed by a 12 year old boy and at the same time could challenge a well educated college professor.
When he told me about the process of putting the messages that he preaches together, he said that he could in no way say he would fall into the category as a Doug White who might spend 10 hours on a message. He said that all week long is basically the process by which the message will be borne during those times of devotion and prayer. The real work of preaching is not so much the event as it is the praying, gathering, and working to put it into a preachable design. When we were talking about the aspect of God speaking to the man he mentioned a provoking verse from Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 23:21-22 KJV I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.  But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.
The dilemma of our days could very well be related to the fact that few are willing to stand in the counsel of the Lord and hear what He longs to say to the His Church. All that was required of the prophets was for them to stand and stay in the place of the Lord until they had heard from God and they could not do it and Israel failed.
As far as his notes, he takes to the pulpit 2-4 sheets of lined notebook paper. He will write out transitional points. His outline ranges from very detailed to very scanty. He uses different colored pens to write with, primarily black, blue, and red. The Scriptures are always in red and the blues and blacks alternate the other portions of the message. He doesn’t use a computer to type of his notes on.
As for his closest friends, they are Terry Harmon, David Shatwell, Doug White, Scott Phillips, and Guy Godwin. All of these friends were met at events/conferences that involved deep moves of the Spirit and consecrating prayer. He told me that for all of these friends that a principle came about in that what is born of the Spirit is Spirit. Things will bear fruit in the realm that they are born in. If a friendship is born in a spiritual way, the friendship has a tendency to bring about spiritual change and encouragement.
I asked him about a particular Bible preference and he said he has used a Thompson Chain reference for years. He likes the font and the margins that allow him to write things in the margins. He told me that all of his Bibles over the years have been marked up. I did not tell him but I have told numerous men that they need to write in their Bibles simply for the fact that when they die, their children will have a very valuable gift but it will be much more than that, it will be a legacy passed on.
On a lighter note, I asked him about his coon dogs to which he has a great love for. He has three American Bluetick Hounds. He said these are the best coondogs a man can buy. He has three and they chase coons in the surrounding regions of Salina. Their names are Mabel, Emmy Lou, and Judy.
When I asked him what final advice he might give to young men who are just entering the ministry, he told me he about a Scripture that he wrote in the front of every Bible he has ever owned:
Proverbs 13:20 KJV He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.
Make sure the friends that you have are men who will make you reach higher and be better. Never associate with those who are always testing the limits and the boundaries seeking to wander off into a spiritual wasteland. Also, if a young man does not want to pray and study, he needs to find something else to do with his life. Finally, get a grip of Truth and never let it go!
There are some various sermons by John Carroll on Faithbuilder.
Also the following sermons are available:
God's Gift to the Rebellious
The Three-fold Perspective of the Worshipper
The Road Less Traveled
The other posts related to this one are as follow:
The Discipline of Study.
J. H. Osborne.