Editor's Note: On October 2, 2009 I posted the first of a number of articles about preachers and what they had to say about preaching on the Thoughts From the Mound Website. These interviews were very popular then and we thought it would be good to migrate a few of these to our new "Preacher's Notes Blog."
It continues to be one of the great blessings of our life to be associated with brother George Bailey. We were blessed to be with him and his family recently as he celebrated his 90th Birthday. His mind remains sharp and it is always a rich blessing to be associated with this wonderful man of God.
In the near future we will be posting more information from brother Bailey. Following is that first interview in full (Please remember that this article was written before brother Bailey lost the love of his life, Ela Beth last April.)
There is no better man than George Bailey to begin with in a series of articles about preaching and preachers. George Bailey is not a great preacher just because he quotes numerous Scriptures in his sermons (although he does that). Brother Bailey is not a great preacher just because he has a commanding voice (his voice is still powerful at the age of 87). He is not a great preacher just because he knows how to turn a phrase, although he can do that as well as any man alive (ie. “Anyone can count the apples on a tree, but it takes a man of vision to count the number of trees in an apple!" "If we would keep the unity of the Spirit, then we must keep the spirit of unity!” “Jesus wants to be Lord in every man’s life, but waits until each man makes Him Lord of his life”). He was once called, "the master of the epigram." He is not a great preacher just because of his amazing command of the English language (even though that is also true). He is a great preacher because he loves the Lord, His Word, and the church. He is passionate about preaching. To be in his presence is to see what a true Christian gentleman should be. He is kind, considerate, and caring. He loves life and he loves people.
During the past few years, Laura and I have been blessed with the opportunity to become very close to brother George and his lovely wife, Ela Beth. They are a sterling example of what God desires in Christian couples. They have been married for sixty-six years! One of the highlights of our lives was spending nearly a week with them in California last year, when brother George and I were speaking in a leadership seminar. They were full of life and the most enjoyable of company. We enjoy meals with this wonderful couple about once a month. Each time we are with them we leave with joy in our hearts and a stronger desire to be faithful to our Lord.
Brother George Bailey is the consummate preacher. He began preaching at the age of fourteen and has been proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ for nearly 73 years. As a young man, brother Bailey was influenced to preach most by his family, then by brother Gus (G.A.) Dunn, Sr. and brother Gayle Oler who baptized him. He stated in our conversations that he can never remember wanting to do anything other than preach. He has made two around-the-world preaching trips, one from the East Coast and one from the West Coast. In 1964 was invited to be the speaker for the opening of the World Fair in the Protestant Pavilion. Brother Bailey was involved in radio and television preaching for a number of years. He continues to preach effectively, reaching another new generation of God's people with God's Word. When asked to describe George Bailey, Hardeman Nichols, his long time friend, said, “he is a modern day Barnabas, always an encourager. He is full of Scripture and Truth, and he lives by it."
When I first asked brother Bailey to participate in this project he seemed reticent to do so! He wasn’t sure he had anything worth sharing (Oh, for more preachers in the church like him who understand humility and service. We have way to many preachers who think that every thought they have needs to be put on display!)
After agreeing to participate in this effort, because of his great love for preachers & preaching, we had an opportunity to sit and visit about preaching. Brother Bailey said if he could give one piece of advice to preachers about preparing to preach it would be study, study, study, "Nobody can study for you. Others can do other good works, but nobody can do your study for you. Nothing can take the place of study." And if he could give one piece of advice to preachers about presenting sermons it would be "understand your audience." He recalled when he was preaching in Abilene that he had three different audiences each week; the college community (professors, students, etc.), Christians who were not a part of the college community, and the non-Christians. He emphasized the need for realizing who makes up your audience and stated the importance of not assuming that your audience knows everything about the Bible as you speak to them.
One of brother Bailey’s favorite sermons is, “Can You Recommend Your Religion?” You can find this outstanding sermon, along with others in the book, Great Preachers of Today - Sermons of George W. Bailey. This scanned copy of brother Bailey's notes are his personal study notes (I know they will be difficult to read, however I wanted you to see them just as they were given to me). He stated that he did not take these notes into the pulpit, but he used them to study. He has always preached his sermons without notes. He was quick to point out that he does not feel that this is the only way to preach, believing that some of the best preachers he has heard preach from notes. He says that some can even preach very effectively from a manuscript. This just happens to be the method that has worked best for him.
He related the following humorous story about his study notes. When his son was small he asked his Dad if he had notes with him when he preached. Brother Bailey said he did not, but he made notes to use in his study. His son asked if he could take his study notes and follow along with him during the sermon. Brother Bailey gave his son the notes and he along with a few friends sat on the front row listening intently and following along. At one point during the sermon one of the boys waved the page of study notes in the air and whispered loudly, "you missed a point!" Brother Bailey said that after the sermon the boys came to him and said, "maybe you need to study a little more!" After that experience Brother Bailey thought it best not to let the boys to use his notes. One further word about these notes. They are front and back on one sheet of paper about nine inches wide X six inches high.
George Bailey is a prince of a man and a marvelous model for any of us who are attempting to preach the Word of God. We pray that God will raise up another generation of men like him.
Dear Father, we thank You for bringing men like George Bailey into our world. We thank You for his example for all of us who are attempting to proclaim the Word. We pray that You will continue to bless this man who has blessed the lives of so many. In the Name of Jesus we pray, Amen.