“WHO’S GONNA FILL THEIR SHOES?”
In 1985, country music legend George Jones (1931-2013) released a great country song titled “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes.” In it the writers, Troy Seals and Max D. Barnes, pay tribute to some of the giants of country music. The song begins: “You know this old world is full of singers, but just a few are chosen to tear your heart out when they sing.” Hauntingly, it proceeds to talk about the Outlaw who walks through Jesse’s dreams, the Red-Headed Stranger, the Man in Black, the Okie from Muskogee, “Hello Darling,” the Boys from Memphis, Blue Suede Shoes, Elvis, Jerry Lee, Charlie, Marty, old Hank, and Lefty. All aficionados of true country music know who these names and descriptive terms refer to.
In the chorus George sang poignantly: “Who’s gonna fill their shoes, Who’s gonna stand that tall? Who’s gonna play the Opry and the Wabash Cannonball? Who’s gonna give their heart and soul to get to me and you? Lord, I wonder, who’s gonna fill their shoes? Yes, I wonder, who’s gonna fill their shoes?”
In the same way that the writers of this country classic wondered who was going to fill the shoes of the great old country music performers (of whom only a very few remain), I sometimes wonder who is going to fill the shoes of the faithful gospel preachers who are passing from the stage of life. On the other hand, I know that God will always raise up faithful men to preach His word because He always has!
The preachers who made the deepest impressions on me as a young boy and teenager and who inspired me to want to be a preacher, W. T. (Tip) Grider, Paul Simon, Willard W. Willis, Lewis Casey, Herbert Dickey, have been gone for many years.
As a college student and young beginning preacher, I admired H. A. Dixon, G. K. Wallace, Frank VanDyke, and W. A. Bradfield. I heard the great N. B. Hardeman preach twice in his sunset years and have read most of his Tabernacle Sermons, delivered during five meetings in Nashville, Tennessee between 1922 and 1942. One could not possibly miss the power of Hardeman as a preacher. Though I never heard him in person, I read the sermons of G. C. Brewer, marveled at his talents, and seem to recall hearing a recording of his touching sermon on “The Shepherd Psalm.” All of these great preachers have also now been gone for many years.
Over the years I knew and appreciated such outstanding preachers as B. C. Goodpasture, Foy E. Wallace, Jr., Gus Nichols, E. R. Harper, Paul Matthews, A. E. Emmons, Jr., Jack Meyer, Sr., Batsell Barrett Baxter, Willard Collins, Marshall Keeble, Guy N. Woods, William C. Hatcher, Earl I. West, Franklin Camp, John Banister, Perry B. Cotham, V. P. Black, Jim Bill McInteer, and scores of othersall of whom have passed on. Among others who were more my contemporaries and whom I deeply appreciated for their work’s sake were such men as Wendell Winkler, William Woodson, Bobby Duncan, Winford Claiborne, Paul Rogers, Myron Keith, Jerry Jenkins, Albert Hill, Ron Hill, and Ken Samuel. These, too, have passed on.
Now I think of such able contemporaries and wonderful friends as Alan Highers, David Pharr, Jay Lockhart, Dan Jenkins, Clarence DeLoach, James Meadows, Glenn Colley, Phil Sanders, Gary Hampton, Steve Baggett, Charles Williams, David Powell, David Sain, Ben Flatt, Artie Collins, Tom Holland, Wayne Lankford, Billy Lambert, Greg Tidwell, and a host of others, and I ask, “Who’s gonna fill their shoes?”
But I know the answer to my question. To a young preacher an old preacher wrote: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (II Timothy 2:2). Preachers are not produced in universities, seminaries, and schools of theology. Faithful gospel preachers are produced in godly homes and loyal congregations. I know that from personal, firsthand experience. Later training can enhance what was first begun in the home and nurtured in the local church, but of themselves institutions of higher learning will never produce the men to fill the shoes of those who faithfully do the work of an evangelist and fulfill their ministry (II Timothy 4:5).
May 17, 2016