When I was a student majoring in Bible at Freed-Hardeman College (it now goes by University), occasionally I received invitations to preach at small churches. When I drove to those appointments, which often were as far as a hundred miles away, I would pop an eight-track tape cassette into my player to help me stay alert. I played a variety of songs, but I had one song that I played every time I drove to preach: Neil Diamond’s “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.” Its description of people coming from throughout the countryside to hear the dynamic Brother Love preach invigorated me and help me focus on what I would say as well as the needs of the people to whom I would say it. It reminded me that a variety of people with all sorts of agendas would assemble for worship that day. The reference to crying babies reminded me that not all would be there because they chose to be. The song told me (and Neil Diamond may not have had this in mind at all) that all these people needed to hear God’s message of love through Jesus and that I might help them hear it or block their reception of it by what I said and how I said it. The lyrics challenged me to preach compassionately but fervently.
Among the biblical passages that shaped my approach to preaching was 2 Timothy 4:1-8. Those verses resonated with me early in life as I heard my mother and my great-grandmother Taylor discuss how my great-grandfather loved those verses. Joe A. Taylor came to be identified with the phrase “Preach the Word” in many of the congregations to which he preached in Arkansas, Missouri, West Virginia, Ohio, and Florida. Verse 7 was engraved on my father’s tombstone: “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” These verses emphasize that preachers must proclaim the message of the Lord with faithfulness; they also warn that that the task demands spiritual stamina and love for God. When one considers their message in the greater context of 2 Timothy, he discerns the importance of the heritage of the faithful: Timothy learned the Scriptures from his mother and grandmother; he learned from the apostle Paul to teach faithful men who could teach others.
I DO IT … YOU DO IT
"See how I hold the bat straight up? Do you know why I do that?" the coach asked. "Because the bat is lighter when held straight up. Less surface for gravity to pull on."
"Hold your bat back like I am. As the pitcher throws the ball, respond with your body the way mine is. Pivot your front foot, twist your hips and shoulders, bring your arms around. If you decide you like the pitch, bring the bat around with you. If not, hold up. Understand?"
We didn’t. We were a bunch of eight year olds being drilled in the art of batting. And the coach, my dad, was tasked with making sure we had some idea of what we were doing.
But, would that be enough? Is it ever enough to just tell someone, "Clean your room. Don’t do drugs, alcohol or sex. Make sure you do well in school. Treat a girl right. Drive carefully. Make sure the boys respect you."
We might think that just verbalizing these instructions is enough, but do any of us catch on to abstract concepts or even concrete behaviors that easily? Don’t we need someone to go beyond the verbal instructions to show us what the ideas look like or how the behaviors are performed?
My dad taught us in his batting clinic. But, he did more. He showed us. "Hold the bat like this."
John Maxwell identifies four biblical steps to training someone. The steps are: Continue reading
I would have to say an elder in the Falls of Nuce church of Christ in Raleigh, NC. I had been absent from God for a number of years and he went out of his way to greet and welcome me the first time I visited the congregation. I tried to sneak out the door and he followed me. After talking for a while and encouraging me to return, which I did and confessed my prodicalness, he became my mentor. As for someone presently in my life I would have to say Jim Reyna, a preacher in a neighboring town, where I attended for a number of years. He finally received a liver transplant in Oct. 2009. He was suffering from Hepatitis C, from a tainted blood transfusion.Prior to his transplant he went through four life threatening incidents from vein back pressure to the liver causing vein leakage and ruptures. Nearly died twice. After the transplant they had to go back in twice to fix both the left and right arterial blood vessels to the liver for blockage. On march 12th his liver examinations show signs of rejection. They sent him back to Baylor Univ. Med. Center for in depth examination where they found the Bile duct to be the problem. He went back into surgery to have it reconstructed, then went back in again due to internal bleeding. He is coming home today. His stamina is an inspiration to me. I personally may have given up a long time ago.