My friend Rich Johnston asked me on Facebook the following question:
“What would you say is some of the most powerful and memorable preaching/teaching you have heard over the years and why?”
Well, it was an opportunity to be indulgent, nostalgic and speak off the cuff without much thought! What minister who loves to talk could resist replying? This is my list thus far that I gave over 2 replies to Rich with one or two updates:
“Jack Deere when he spoke at CLAN Gathering. Unlike many visiting speakers he had taken time to find out what God had done in Scotland to help us thing about our heritage. So many visiting speakers fail to take this simple God and people honouring approach, but impose a culture which is foreign to us and also mock what is true to us. The present dishonouring in the conference scene seems to often be we must all look, sound and minister like Americans! Why? I AM A SCOTTISH CHRISTIAN. I DON’T FEEL ANY NEED TO CALL GOD “Poppa” nor even Pappa for that matter. I can manage “Father, Abba Father.”
Jim Graham. He showed what it was to honour Word and Spirit. The reason? He carried an experience of both due to the events and the processes of God’s working in his life and a desire that God would be glorified by a Word and Spirit honouring Church. Some people rely on a one time event of empowering, some emphasize the sort of “keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit” truth. Biblically, it is not an either or but both and…. sadly we often seem happy to listen to preaching that shows academic or entertainment skills with no evidence of either/or or both/and in terms of the filling of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom He brings from above.
Dr. R.T. Kendall for the authority he shows in challenging the evangelical and charismatic church. I deeply admire his ability to admit he was wrong about some things and his committment to work out in what direction the Sovereign Spirit of God is moving. I guess why that is why God opens fresh doors for him even at the age he is at!
John Arnott for his faithful presenting and giving away the Father’s love so freely to so many in so many places for so long.
Jackie Pullinger for being willing to make us feel uncomfortable.
But, on the whole, pastors who feed their flocks good food year by year are my heroes and heroines. As someone who has spoken in conferences for 15 to 20 years all over the place, I can say that speaking at a conference is a breeze compared with Sunday by Sunday preaching except for the time I spoke with an interpreter somewhere who did not like what I was saying and made listening torturous for all. However, the gathering and the leadership realised he was being a naughty boy. He was replaced and God blessed and honoured His Word. But this conference malarky is ultimately less powerful than local church ministry, though in the heat of the moment it can have a greater Wow factor or emotional impact and have a greater entertainment factor too. Nothing wrong with a rip roaring, refreshing conference – I was involved in the leadership of one for years that drew together thousands of people in Scotland with participants from 500 churches and with 250 – 300 senior leaders attending! Nothing, however, is as needful as Word and Spirit in pulpits in local gatherings of believers week by week.
Hugh Black, co founder of the Struthers group of churches for reasons many and precious. Also his daughter Mary. Could write for paragraphs…
Paul Cain for nuggets of pure gold amidst some of the most confused and badly structured preaching I have heard! God have mercy on his child, Paul. The church to a large extent large having taken from his ministry, probably won’t… we are not good at restoration. It goes without saying that sometimes those who fall do not want restoration in any true sense of that word. Not all do. Pride is a terrible thing as is the deceitfulness of the human heart. God knows our hearts. The Church at large seems to offer either nothing in terms of restoration and hope, or a quick return to ministry on the basis of publicly agreed and announced excuses, rather than time and space for true repentance: e.g., a speaker who admits adultery is applauded after a confession, but continues with their ministry and cements their adultery rather than turning away from it and back to the Lord. Satellite TV and an appetite for showy ministry, that seems to think the more bizarre a ministry is the more it is of God, encourages both the falls and meaningless restorations.
Rob Parsons. Single best talk I have ever heard anywhere. It was on the subject of prodigals.
Bishop T.D. Jakes for being his unique redeemed self in his communication style. Pray to be the same in terms of that glorious Creator honouring freedom, not to copy his style. If I, as a 5’4″ white Scot, were to copy a large black American preacher, strutting, shouting, glaring and dancing, that would be sort of stupid. By the way I shouldn’t even copy another Scot, though of course influences rub off on one another.
Joyce Meyer for helping me to understand what lt means from the bible and in day to day living to die to self in Christ. Think what you want…Rich asked me for my list. I don’t think he asked you for yours, though he might do that yet! She’s God’s “Wee Joyce.” Some of you will feel furious about that, you will feel more furious when I tell you God told me that is who she is to him. How do I know he said that? Well if you can’t hear what God is saying and recognise it and distinguish His voice from your own thoughts, well, that is for another blog. You can learn. Below the international ministry, behind everything that people criticise, she is “Wee Joyce” to God, protected and to be protected in prayer.
Diana Rutherford, Struthers Cumbernauld, for reminding me in my weakened state, of Jesus and the Life of God within me. Every sermon I hear is like life-giving manna to my soul right now! Indeed at times, it is heavenly manna bringing refreshing to my body as well as my soul in this time of felt daily weakness. Gutted when I cannot get there.
Martyn Lloyd Jones for two reasons well expressed by others; firstly, he showed logic on fire with The Truth and The Spirit: secondly, I heard what anointing is like on preaching; sometimes you have to go round the runway a few times, then all of a sudden, lift off; to change the metaphor, the catching and riding of the wave begins! Lift off doesn’t happen every time even in the ministries of those who experience lift off a lot, even almost always. When it doesn’t happen it can be like watching paint drying, or waiting for a kettle to boil, but it never seems to get there. Amazingly God can use the “watching paint drying” sermons to save and bless some at least. There’s always another day…. public humbling is no bad thing, in fact it is helpful and even perhaps at times needful. It is a nicer experience to humble ourselves privately, that goes without saying, but if we want the anointing at whatever cost, there are plenty stories of individuals God has used to teach us that sometimes the cost of that greater anointing has been a certain degree of public humbling and even public or church rejection. It helps others to take us preachers down off of any pedestal we have been willingly or unwillingly placed upon and reminds ourselves and others of what we are like if God does not show up in grace and power.
John Paul Jackson for demonstrating that God is doing what He has always done and is who He has always been. He served Scotland in CLAN Gathering and Streams Ministries so so humbly, demanding nothing, offering everything.
Henri Nouwen and Jean Vanier for reminding me of the priorities of Christ.
Bishop Zac from Uganda when he asked us all at New Wine, Shepton Mallet, “When are you Christians in the UK going to give up the idol of safety!” Wow! Shaft of lightning type moment….led to new things….which illness cut short.
Rev. John Murdo Smith from the Hebrides for filling whatever gathering he is in with the impact of the personality of Christ, even though he spoke in Gaelic the once or twice I heard him preach and I did not understand a word with my mind. If only I could be like that….not like him for we are different people….but like him in terms of carrying Christ in an unselfconscious fullness, spreading Christ’s fragrance in a beautiful way among the people of God and wider afield. A child of revival and it shows.
I could add many more. This is what came to mind without much thinking, though sharing some of my thinking behind it all ….