I got to walk through the Aigne-Marne World War I American Cemetery east of Paris, France, in the Spring of 2006. It was dedicated in 1923 by an army general who said, “Now and then, a veteran will come here to live again the brave days of that distant June. Our countrymen will come here in hours of depression and even of failure, and take new courage from this shrine of great deeds.” 100 years later, memories have faded and fewer go there for inspiration. But soldiers, as well as policemen, firefighters, and doctors, are role models of bravery, sacrifice, and commitment that make great heroes.
My heroes have always been preachers, and I appreciate the depth of understanding I’ve gained from them. I’ve been motivated to live closer to Christ because of their preaching. Earthly memorials fade with time, but the value of good Bible teaching only grows with the passing of time. We must always measure what every preacher says by the Word of God and never blindly accept something just because someone we admire is the speaker (cf. Acts 17:11). But with that in mind, you can learn so much from older gospel preachers.
LISTEN TO THEIR SERMONS. Many old audio sermons are available online. Try wsoj.net, thepreachersvault.podbean.com, schwegler.us, housetohouse.com, pioneerpreachers.com, and therestorationmovement.com. There, you’ll find sermons of preachers who were much older when I was a boy and teenager, like V.P. Black, Franklin Camp, Roy Lanier, Sr., Bobby Duncan, and Wendell Winkler. There are also sermons from men who died before many of us were born, like N.B. Hardeman, B.C. Goodpasture, G.C. Brewer, and Marshall Keeble. These men were from a time when the church was experiencing incredible growth and when gospel preaching emphasized Bible doctrines and fundamentals. It’s a glimpse into church history from the voices of men who helped make it. Some of them baptized thousands and established many congregations.
READ THEIR BOOKS. I do not refer just the preachers from another time period, but those today, too. Those who have put much study into a topic of Bible book can bless you life and relationship with God. Read church history biographies, topical studies, sermon books, debate books, and the like.
HEAR THEM LIVE. I just ordered a set of DVDs from the 1988 Faulkner University lectureship. Though I was there live as an 18-year-old freshman, I am looking forward to reliving those wonderful days. I heard Franklin Camp, Hugo McCord, Leroy Brownlow, George DeHoff, Winfred Clark, Rex Turner, Sr., and others. My parents carried us to gospel meetings where I got to hear great preachers who have long since died. We still have that opportunity today through gospel meetings, workshops, seminars, and lectureships. We need to value this treasure in “earthen vessels” (2 Cor. 4:7).
SPEND TIME WITH THEM. I have directed Future Preachers Training Camp since 2007. One of my goals for these teen boys is to allow them to see preachers out of the pulpit. Their teachers and counselors are mostly preachers. The campers find out we like sports, video games, listen to some of the same music, and go through many of the same kinds of things. We are ordinary men who sincerely care about them. Many preachers are interested in what’s going on in your life.
I feel I could have done many other things in life, but if I had it to do over again, I’d still be a preacher. That’s thanks in large part to the preachers I’ve known in my life. Take time to get to know preachers. It will encourage them, but it may just encourage you, too!