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gospel preaching Uncategorized

My Heroes Have Always Been Preachers

Neal Pollard

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!

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Perry Cotham in a 1989 debate in his “younger years” (77 years old). He was 101 when he died in 2013.
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church growth gospel preaching Uncategorized

“GM”

Neal Pollard

I make a notation “GM” along with the date and place on the paper copy of my sermons to indicate that I preached that sermon in a gospel meeting. It is one of my homemade preacher shorthand notations. Growing up a “PK” (“preacher’s kid,” of course), I’ve got a lot of GM memories. I would not trade anything for them, especially the indelible imprint they made on me in shaping the adult I have become. Let me encourage you to bring your children and yourselves to our gospel meetings for what they will mean to your faith and for the part of you they will forever become. To me, the GM of gospel meeting stands for a few other things, too.

Great Memories. When James Watkins held a meeting for us in 1984 in Franklin, Ga., I led singing that Sunday night. I was 14, and this participation was a big deal to me. I led, “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah” and in verse three mistakenly bellowed out, “All ye fruitless trees and cedars.” Once when the air conditioner was out, we opened the side doors on either side of the pulpit for relief in that muggy July, west Georgia heat. This was an open invitation for the horse fly that landed on the calf of my leg during the chorus of “the song before our opening prayer,” which bit mercilessly until I could swat it during said prayer (which was by no means a quiet slap).

I remember attending a meeting in Carrollton, Georgia, and being jolted by Bobby Duncan’s dramatic cries of “the boy is home!” in his powerful telling of the story of the prodigal son. I remember, though, I was no more than 5 or 6, the smell of hay and watching members set up a portable baptistery for a tent meeting my dad preached in Aragon, Ga. I remember the family car rides when we rode to others’ meetings. I remember the baptisms, restorations, preaching, and fellowship so much a part of these special times.

Giant Men. Through this venue I first became acquainted with men who became my heroes: Frank Chesser, Perry Cotham, Howard Swann, James Watkins, Bobby Duncan, Truman Cobb, Franklin Camp, Winfred Clark, Wendell Winkler, Glen Posey, Ken Thomas, V.P. Black and others. I remember playing basketball with Ken Thomas, who had to play in his socks and still took us all to school (he also demolished me in a game of “punt, pass, and kick”). I recall having me heart stirred and being convicted of sin by the penetrating preaching of Frank Chesser.

I vividly recall being amazed by Perry Cotham, who seemed to me even three decades ago to be a very old preacher (I saw him preach in California when he was in his late 90s). I will never forget being touched by Franklin Camp’s tender heart as he told the story of Christ’s crucifixion. I was wowed by J.J. Turner’s ability to turn a phrase. There was the time when I walked by James Watkins’ hotel room and saw him diligently studying his Bible in the middle of the afternoon. These men were spiritual giants to me.

Gospel Message. Even as a child, I learned so much from the sermons I heard. I saw things in a new way because every preacher has his own unique style, history of study, and method of delivery. I was challenged by the Bible-centered approach these men faithfully took. I got my first glimpse at sermon organization, taking crude notes and main points from sermonic masterpieces. Meeting after meeting, year after year turned my heart and mind more and more to the Bible. Even then, I saw, at least to a juvenile degree, the effectiveness of this method of evangelism and edification.

Give your children, your mate, your non-Christian friends and neighbors, and yourself the pleasure of experiencing these unparalleled joys. The Godhead and the heavenly host pay particular interest to each service of every gospel meeting. Let us join them there and grow from hearing anew the wonderful story of love. It will stay with you for a lifetime.

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attitude speech

Our Words Reveal Us

Neal Pollard

I was recently checking the customer reviews for an upcoming hotel stay.  The reviews were from verified members of the hotel club of that particular chain.  74% of the raters gave it the highest possible rating, but it was interesting to read the remarks of the smattering of people who ranked it poorly.  One said, “I’d rather drive an extra 30 miles than stay at this hotel. The staff is impossible to deal with.” Another put, “This hotel is nothing more than regular. Expect nothing great for a high price. Bad choice for the night of your wedding.”  A third wrote, “Very overpriced for quality of accommodations. Mold in bathroom, poor upkeep, poor bed quality. Would not recommend this hotel.”  Surrounding these aberrations are gushing reviews overflowing with superlative words like “by far the best,” “amazing,” “could not have asked for better,” “very happy,” “very clean,” etc.  My best guess is that somebody did something to upset the “exceptions” or, as experience has shown, the guests may not have handled themselves well and helped matters escalated.

Here is something that is certain.  So often, our complaints, angry words, unrestrained speech, and foul mood reveals far more about who we are than the object of our disgruntlement.  Two people could receive the same customer service and react completely differently.  Two aggravated people express themselves totally unlike one another.  The waitstaff may be lacking at a restaurant, and one encourages while another berates.  A teacher may have a bad day and one student might sympathize while another brutalizes.

Paul urged Colosse, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Col. 4:6).  This is said in the context of evangelism, though the principle prevails in all our interactions.  The late Wendell Winkler often said, “If you are not kind, you are the wrong kind.”  Are we cognizant of the power of our tongues to heal or kill (Pro. 18:21)?  Jesus says, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man” (Mat. 15:18).  More than once, my parents admonished me in my formative years to “watch my mouth!” What sage advice for grown-ups, too! We might think we have good hearts, but our words reveal who we really are!

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Bear Valley church of Christ Daily Bread Neal Pollard Pollard blog

“How Does The Spirit Indwell The Christian?” (Or, Some Guys Just Love Trouble)

One of my favorite preachers (taken during his younger days) (CAN YOU GUESS WHO THIS IS?)

Neal Pollard

The controversy preceded my birth.  Wendell Winkler was the first man I remember talking about the Open Forum, spirited debate between Gus Nichols and Guy N. Woods over how the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian.  In those days, despite the vigor with which each man presented his view, the matter was not seen as divisive or worthy of a breach in fellowship. So long as the Spirit’s Deity was not denied or so long as one did not believe that the Spirit miraculously or directly operated upon the heart of an individual to convert or exert His will upon that one, the “how” was not seen as crucial.  I remember that many of my role models, Wendell Winkler, Hugo McCord, William Woodson and Roy H. Lanier, Jr., on one side and Franklin Camp, V.E. Howard, and Winfred Clark on the other, loved each other and worked together despite their divergent view on how the Spirit dwells in us.

 

Society as a whole has become more rancorous and divisive.  Turn on talk radio or cable news shows and you will see partisan bickering that approaches “media rage” levels.  At times, God’s people have adopted such tactics and attitudes.  While I was taught the representative view growing up, I have adopted the view that the Spirit non-miraculously, but personally, indwells God’s children.  Some of my dearest preaching friends maintain the representative view, but we love and work alongside each other.  Yet, there are some who seem to be utterly consumed with one extreme or another on this matter.  Right here, I am not referencing those who claim direct Spirit guidance apart from the Word, who seek the Spirit as proof or defense of their making decisions or moves that conflict with written revelation.  I mean those who are arguing for how the Spirit indwells.  These men have spent an inordinate amount of time, money, and energy and have troubled and even divided congregations of God’s people.

 

Every preacher’s personal life and work as a preacher will be audited by the perfect, Divine Auditor some day.  Will it be the case that some have been so issue-oriented that they left undone the weightier matters of the law–to include not just justice and mercy and faithfulness but also evangelism, edification, and enlistment?  That very thought should humble all of us to the core and give us pause as we reflect on what kind of stewards we are of our charge as gospel preachers.  The same principle applies to whatever hobby horses we chase and what kind of attitude we display while riding them.  We used to be warned in school that “you can be right and be wrong.” Let us be careful that, in trying to show the world or our brethren that our view is right, we do not find ourselves in the wrong!