I'm not sure what got me to thinking about this the last couple of days. Maybe it is the lingering memory of dad (frankly I find myself thinking about him every Saturday night or early Sunday mornings) or perhaps it's the reality of my own struggles to be the best I can be and the failures that often seem to accompany those. Regardless I've been thinking about preaching - in the shadow of a giant! I'd be interested in your additions and comments on this one: Years ago an older preacher told me that if you want to be loved follow a guy who didn’t do a good job. Well, I passed on that advice and as a result have stood in, been blessed by and at times intimidated by some pretty hugh shadows they’ve cast: At Hamilton I followed W.T. (Truitt) Allison who’d preached there for nearly 18 years and helped build the reputation of that church into something wonderful. Previously men like Levi Sides, my dad and Edsel Burleson had been their preachers. At Granny White they’d had their share of giants too, including but not limited to: William Woodson, Charles Chumley, Dennis Loyd, G.C. Brewer (one of the most respected writers of his day) and Norvell Young (later preacher at Broadway in Lubbock in it’s heyday and then long term president/chancellor of Pepperdine). Even coming to Spring Meadows the good man who had filled the pulpit while we worked out details and who helped plant this congregation had/has a number of “giant” qualities about him (that’s Trent Wheeler in case you didn’t know). Here’s some of what I’ve observed:
- The giant killers are out there: For every hero out there there are people who are allowing themselves to be used by satan to knock them down. I’m amazed that when I visit a church where some amazing giant is involved in a work that some seem not only to know what they have they also gripe and complain like everywhere else does. Going through my dad’s office, thousands of old pieces of paper, mail, stuff he’d sat aside to work on a later that never came, I ran across a couple of letters that made threw harsh criticisms at his preaching and the work the church there was doing. It was a powerful moment of clarity for me. If someone so accused “the man” who I believe was the best and who had an impeccable 50 year record of faithfully proclaiming God’s grace why should any of us expect less. Of course I should have learned it from Christ long before (John 15:20; 1 Peter 2:21). Can I say it plainly, I wish we’d stop tearing down the giants - but we won’t. Would you commit with me to try to be a part of counteracting those giant slayers by encouraging your preacher?
- They are human: they look like giants and in many ways are but every one of these guys I followed was very human. Not only are we all faliable but preaching every Sunday and always “hitting it out of the park” is not just hard - it’s impossible. Sure any of us can toss our best five to ten sermons in a bag and be good on the road, but it’s not easy where they KNOW you, warts and all. Those of us who travel a little and preach need to remember that when they toss the rose petals along our path - be nice in accepting the “acclaim” but build up the local guy!
- Just like you - he's better than his critics accuse him of being and worse than his admirers bill him as. As the old song goes: "be careful little ears what you hear." I'm not sure what it is in us that makes us hear stuff and listen to them about others.
- Everyone is a hero somewhere and to someone. The first full time work I did with a church the preacher before the guy before me had been there 12 years. Outside of his county it’d be hard to find anyone who knew of his work. But within that small family he was a hero. He had loved them. He had buried their parents, baptized them and married their kids. Remember, especially if you follow a man older than you, he is a hero. You see, most often our brethren have judged our guys by their love for the Lord and their faithfulness to His Word - not by his ability to entertain or put creative lessons together. Therefore, be careful what you say. Remember it doesn’t make you taller to criticize your predecessors anyway.
- Finally. Be aware of your manner of life and your teaching. Even if you can’t imagine it right now, you someday will be a several someone’s hero too.