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!

The Battle of the Pulpit

Greg Haslam’s opening chapter of Preach the Word has been my food for thought in these days.  He writes about the battle raging over the pulpit.  Since the church expands primarily through preaching, the enemy will obviously target this part of the ministry.  So we have a barrage of popular opinion that people can’t concentrate on the spoken word any more, that they need entertainment and fun.  In response, so much preaching is like firing corks from a pop-gun, or endless repeaters from paintball guns – lots of smoke, but no fire.

Here are John Stott’s words quoted to energize the preacher:

“In preaching, God is bringing to each person’s notice what holy Scripture has made publicly and permanently available, so that His timeless word comes to timely announcement, so that people believe the message and commit to the Saviour it announces.”

Earlier Haslam points out that the term homiletics can carry the sense of saying the same thing as something outside of yourself.  So?  So through preaching “we should be saying the same thing that God would say in a given situation.”

Later in the chapter he quotes William Willimon in respect to preaching, “Call it a burden, call it a privilege, a duty.  You know that it is worthy of your best talents, worthy of a lifetime’s labour and dedication.  On any Sunday you can give it your all and still know that the Word deserves more.  It is no small task that the Church has set upon your shoulders.  Being called to preach the gospel, you can do no more than to promise as long as you have breath and there is someone to listen, then by God’s grace you will give them the Word.”