SIXTY-TWO YEARS OF PREACHING
This year marks sixty-two years since I made my first boyish effort (in the spring of 1953 at the age of 15) to stand before an audience and deliver a sermon. According to my records, that “sermon” was delivered to a little band of Christians gathered on a Sunday afternoon at the LibertySchool House in Walton County, Florida. Soon thereafter I also preached a few times at the small PleasantValleyChurch of Christ in adjoining Holmes County, Florida, and, still later, I spoke one Sunday morning at the GaskinChurch of Christ, north of my boyhood home in DeFuniak Springs, Florida. It was at Gaskin that I had my first public response to the gospel.
In the late summer of 1953, our family moved to Florence, Alabama where I enrolled in MarsHillBibleSchool. It was here that I completed my last two years of high school. During this time I began preaching two Sundays a month for the CenterHillChurch of Christ between Greenhill and Lexington, Alabama, and midway through my senior year in high school I began preaching every Sunday at Center Hill. I have maintained a relationship with the Center Hill church for over 60 years, during which I have conducted over a dozen gospel meetings (revivals to some of my readers) with them and am scheduled for a future meeting.
In the fall of 1955 I entered Freed-Hardeman College (now University) in Henderson, Tennessee. During my school days at Freed-Hardeman I had regular preaching appointments at such places as Broadmoor, Bakerville, Dyer, Humboldt (filled it several Sundays while the church was between ministers), Yorkville, and New Providence near Murray, Kentucky. In the summer of 1957 I was the summer “fill-in” preacher for two or three months at the Clements Street church in Paducah, Kentucky. In Paducah, in addition to preaching Sunday mornings and evenings and teaching a Bible class Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, I also conducted a fifteen-minute Monday through Friday radio program over WPAD in Paducah.
Following my studies at Freed-Hardeman I moved to Louisville, Kentucky in the spring of 1958 for my first full-time work. This was with the Worthington Church of Christ, east of Louisville. Jan, my lovely wife who has been my strong support throughout all these years, and I remained in Louisville for one and a half years, my shortest tenure as a local minister. Since Louisville, I have served churches in Knoxville, Jackson, Clarksville, Lebanon, and Shelbyville, all in Tennessee. I also have served churches in Mobile, Alabama, Dallas, Texas (where I had my longest ministry [12 years, 3 years in
the pulpit and 9 years as minister of involvement] with the Skillman Church of Christ), and Selma, Alabama (my last full-time work).
I have spoken at churches in 21 states (from Pennsylvania to Nevada and from Ohio to Florida), most of these engagements being gospel meetings. I also have spoken in North Ireland (eight day gospel meeting), Greece, Bulgaria (lectureship), and Italy. In my travels, I have been in all of our states except Michigan and Hawaii. Jan has been with me on many of these state-side trips.
In addition to gospel meetings, I have been privileged to speak on the lectureship programs of three of our Christian universities, at least five of our Schools of Preaching, as well as many regional and local lectureships conducted by churches.
After over forty-two years, I retired from full-time ministry on July 31, 2000. Jan and I bought a home in Gallatin, Tennessee where we continue to make our home. During these fifteen years of “retirement” I have continued to be active in preaching, teaching, and writing. I served as the part-time but regular preacher for the church in Adams, Tennessee for one year, the LaGuardo church in Wilson County, Tennessee for ten years, and the Mitchellville, Tennessee church for the past almost two years. During these “retirement” years I have preached in numerous gospel meetings and other special speaking engagements throughout Sumner County and Middle Tennessee, as well as in Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, and Nevada. I love to preach, teach, and write, and intend to continue these activities as long as the Lord gives me strength of mind and body to do so. As the late Jim Bill McInteer said in his later years, “The word ‘retirement’ is really not in my vocabulary.”
It has been my privilege to work with people of all social, educational, and economic levels and to serve under some of the finest elders in the Lord’s church. I have been privileged to know and to associate with some of our greatest and best known preachers, as well as preachers who were little known but did great work for the Lord in their little corner of the world.
I have preached at such places as Sweet Gum Head (in Florida) and Sugar Tree Knob (in Tennessee). Forty years ago I conducted a meeting in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, home of the “Bubba Gump Shrimp Company” in the movie “Forest Gump.” I have preached in three meetings in “Sin City” Las Vegas, Nevada! I have known good times and bad times in my personal life (times of immense emotional pain), have seen the good and the bad in people (including myself), have baptized hundreds into Christ (my first baptisms were of five young people when I was 16 years old), seen many restored to the Lord, performed many wedding ceremonies, preached hundreds of funerals, buried way too many friends, witnessed far too many divorces among friends, and seen more departures from the faith than I would care to recount. Yet compared to the ministries of many others, my accomplishments have been quite meager and I do not wish to pretend otherwise.
From these sixty-two years of preaching emerges one great over-riding truth: The Lord’s church is made up of the finest, best people on earth! I have absolutely no doubt about the divine nature of the church! It has been my life!
April 21, 2015
May 6, 13, 20, 27: Green Hill Church of Christ, Mount Juliet, TN