This past September 29th marked the 30th anniversary of my first sermon. I was quite nervous as I delivered that sermon at the Clarksburg Church of Christ (now Clarksburg Christian Church). The text was from James 2 and the message was about not showing favoritism.
The congregation must not have been terribly disappointed with this brand new preacher, because they invited me back to preach the next Sunday. The church was looking for a preacher, and I was looking for a place to preach. I don’t remember the subject of that second sermon, but I must have done all right. After the worship service that Sunday, Bert Brown, one of the elders at the church, handed me a key to the church building and said, “I guess you’ll be needing this.” That’s how I learned that they wanted me to come and be their preacher.
In the 30 years that have elapsed since then I have delivered approximately 2,000 sermons. Most of them occurred at the 6 local congregations I have served, but there were a few revivals, homecomings and guest speaking opportunities along the way.
There have been many ups and downs over these three decades of preaching, which is to be expected. Someone once described preaching as “a joyful burden”. It is indeed frustrating when people reject the Word of God, sometimes maligning the messenger along with the message. However, I try to focus on the positives, the times when people believed the message and obeyed it. It is truly heart-warming to reflect on lives that have been forever changed by the Word of God.
The Bible contains the good news of salvation through Jesus. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The Scriptures tell us how to accept Jesus as our Savior: through faith (Mark 16:16), repentance (Acts 2:38), confession (Romans 10:9-10) and baptism (Romans 6:3-4). God’s plan of salvation is so simple that a child can understand it, yet at the same time it is so deeply spiritual that scholars have written multitudes of books on the subject.
Besides telling us how to be saved, the Bible is our road map; it tells us how to live a life that pleases the God who created us for his pleasure. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” The Scriptures keep us from stumbling around in the darkness. The Bible enables us to clearly see the paths of righteousness that the Lord has set out before us.
The greatest honor in my life is that Jesus died for me. The second greatest honor is that God called me to be a preacher. I have never taken that call lightly! I have always endeavored to be faithful to the text and deliver life-changing messages that were relevant, interesting and challenging. I have tried to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. I have preached in season and out of season. I still try to fan into flame this gift God has given me and do the very best at what he has called me to do.
One of the most important things that a preacher can do is to remind followers of Jesus that they too are preachers in a sense. Acts 8:4 says, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” The early church grew in leaps and bounds because men, women and young people shared the good news about salvation through Jesus everywhere they went. The church of today has great opportunities to spread the light of the gospel in this dark, dark world. But it will only happen if we take seriously the commission we have received: to be witnesses for Jesus (Acts 1:8) and to make disciples by spreading his Word. Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have command you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Preach the Word!