My dad was holding a gospel meeting somewhere in the Carolinas and he asked me to preach the Sunday evening sermon of the week he was gone. It was April 12, 1987, and I was a Junior at Bradwell Institute (high school) in Hinesville, Georgia. He gave me one of his sermons and I basically, with little change, got up and preached it. I remember being scared out of my mind. I had no formal training (which is obvious from the grammar and pronunciation). Afterward, the congregation flooded me with compliments, which says everything about them and nothing about my abilities. But, it encouraged me. It helped solidify my desire to preach and became the foundation for my willingness to go preach around the area over the next year-plus (preaching in such places as Glennville, Jesup, and Brunswick, GA). It led me to choose Faulkner University, to major in Bible and meet great preachers and teachers like Wendell Winkler, Ken Randolph, Carl Cheatham, Leonard Johnson, Eris Benson, Donnie Hilliard, and others. My family led me to believe that gospel preaching was an honorable, important occupation. So did the Hinesville church of Christ, on that occasion and subsequent ones. So did brethren in those places where I filled in.
What an important lesson for families and congregations today! Paul asks some questions of eternal consequence: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!” (Romans 10:14-15). I pray that more adults will send a clear message to young men: preaching is important, respectable, and valuable! It should be considered as an option exercised by normal and even talented and intelligent individuals.
We’ve been engaged in full-time ministry for 28-plus years, and it has blessed our lives tremendously! It’s thrilling to watch our three sons giving themselves to that life, too. Let’s send more preachers!
(It’s hard for me to listen to, but it should encourage anyone who says, “I don’t have any talent for preaching!”)
4 thoughts on “My First Sermon”
Neal, Thanks for an inspiring story. Many of us preacher kids who became preachers ourselves can identify. It meant a little more to me because I worshipped at Hinesville when my ministry was Army chaplaincy. I taught the adult Bible class and led singing, spoke on the congregation’s lectureship. When I moved to the National Guard as a chaplain, I certified to teach English and history, and taught both at Bradwell Institute, where both my sons graduated. So I could imagine some of the families who heard your first offering. Preach on!
They included the Millers, Stewart’s, Joiners, Fletcher’s, Streets, Rays, and more. I guess I’d forgotten this connection. I graduated BI in ‘88
I knew several of those families well. I was there from 2003 through 2006. The wake for my older son, who stayed in the county after I moved away, was held at the Hinesville church building after he died in 2015.
Every Journey begins with a first step. As we encourage wee ones to begin the journey of walking – we should encourage the wee ones in the faith to begin the journey of spreading the word. Unless a young man at least tries, as you did, he has no idea if he has the ability. As with all things in our life, trying is success. I am so glad your father knew that as you know that and now can encourage other young men to find their skill set.