Praise God for Influential Preachers

I just read an article from Preaching magazine –25 Most Influential Pastors of the Past 25 Years. The title should be “preachers” rather than “pastors” in any strict sense of the term’s current usage. Anyway, it is worth reading.  I’m sure some would be quick to criticise how American the list is, but that is always a cheap and easy critique.  What struck me was how many of these preachers have blessed me in recent years (and I don’t spend much time listing to famous preachers).

I would encourage you to read the article and give thanks for these and other well-known preachers who have faithfully sought to serve God through their ministries.  It is easy to critique the famous, but actually it must be hard to be in their positions, perhaps facing some unique stresses that most of us don’t face.

Perhaps the list might suggest some names that you haven’t heard before, leading you to trawl the web for a sermon by E.K.Bailey, or W.A.Criswell, or Fred Craddock.  Or someone who doesn’t fit in your theological or ecclesiological comfort zone . . . anyone from Adrian Rogers, to Bill Hybels, to William Willimon, to Stephen Olford, to Warren Wiersbe, to Rick Warren, to Jack Hayford, to Tim Keller, etc.  Have you observed Andy Stanley preach?  Have you

Maybe this kind of list has a handful of preachers that you have really been blessed by over the years – stop and give thanks for them.  I’m delighted to see Haddon Robinson on there, I know many who would give thanks for the influence of John Piper in their lives, I have friends who have been so blessed by John Stott, and other friends who have faithfully tuned in to Chuck Swindoll, and of course, there are numerous people I know who would count Billy Graham as the preacher God used to reach them with the gospel.

As with all lists, we could add others who would be on our personal list. Famous, or not, we do well to pause and give thanks for preachers God has used in our lives over the years.  I fondly remember the hours I spent listening to George Verwer messages while going through university – how making a quick meal of pasta could stretch into the afternoon as God dealt with and encouraged me through George’s preaching.  Or the Calvary Chapel preacher whose tapes I would rewind incessantly as I took copious notes in my black chair with my feet on the bed.  Or the seminary prof who preached in class every morning at 8am . . . Bruce Fong it was a pleasure to study God’s Word with you, man O man, what a privilege!

Laughter and the Preacher

The subject of humor in preaching can create tension.  Personally I think that natural humor appropriately used can be a great tool in preaching.  Obviously I agree that unnatural humor inappropriately used for the sake of entertainment in preaching is not good at all.  Satan loves to take something that is good and corrupt it, even in the church.  But I’m not wanting to write about humor in preaching, I’m thinking about laughter in the preacher.  Perhaps a preacher with a great laugh comes to mind, like Charles Swindoll, or a preacher with dry humor, or whatever, but I’m not thinking primarily about preaching today.

I just read the quote that laughter is an instant vacation.  Perhaps in the busy-ness of life and ministry, we need something akin to mini-sabbaths by laughter.  Before you start thinking that my view of sabbath is limited, hear me out.  I know that the biblical concept of Sabbath from Genesis 2 to the book of Hebrews is very rich theologically.  I also know that we of all people, hopefully understanding the Bible well, being experts in the struggles of contemporary life, carrying the pastoral burdens of deeply hurting folks, facing spiritual opposition at potentially elevated levels, etc., we of all people have reason to be sombre and serious.

Yet at the same time, if we know the Bible well, if we know God well, if we have a firm grasp of the theological truths in which we deal every day, the truths of a God who has grasped our hearts and poured out his love into them . . . we of all people should have laughter in our lives.  The Psalmist wrote about the return of the captives and spoke of how their mouths were filled with laughter.  Why?  Because they knew, indeed all the nations knew, that the LORD had done great things for them!  (see Psalm 126)  The book of Proverbs speaks of a joyful heart being good medicine (Pro.17:22).  They say the laughter of a Dad is critical to the psychological health of a child.  Laughter, by definition, seems to be a healthy ingredient in life.

I don’t deny the other side of the coin.  The need for seriousness in many aspects of life and ministry, the sadness that may overwhelm our hearts as they beat with His for this hurting rebellious world, the deep realities of mourning in this world that itself groans in travail.  I do not urge flippancy or silliness or folly.  I simply want to prod myself and perhaps you too . . . surely we of all people should have regular bouts of laughter.  God-inspired, clean, honest, “I’ve cast my cares on Him so the burdens are not on me” laughter.  God-given, grace-prompted, “God has given me so much to rejoice in that I am able to enjoy the little blessings” laughter.

Perhaps if we allow ourselves to laugh in private, it may even spill naturally and appropriately into the pulpit.  Maybe that wouldn’t be a bad thing sometimes.