By P. Daniel Buford
Do you remember some preachers more than others or some sermons more than others? It is not the quality of the man or the message necessarily; sometimes it has to do with our life’s circumstances at the time of the preaching.
I remember the preaching of A D Spears (thirteen-week revival when I was a child), Janet Trout (youth evan¬gelist when I received the Holy Ghost), Linda Watson (my youth director’s “Round Three, and On, and On, and On” as she pounded the silver hotel bell), R. E. Johnson (one of the great camp meet¬ing evangelists of the twentieth century), George Glass Sr. (“Worshipping the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness”), H. A. McFarlin (“To Die as Though Nev¬er Anointed”), V. A. Guidroz (“Wings, Folded and Unused” and “The Death March”), and Allan Oggs (“The World’s Greatest Preacher”).
I cannot forget the sermons of my pastor, T. D. Cardwell, telling of his conversion in an old bank building in Athens, Louisiana, under the anoint¬ed and faith-filled preaching of T. W. Barnes. Or Loretta Bernard’s intense, passionate sermons during their mis¬sionary travels that made me want to do better, give more, and withhold noth¬ing. Or James L. Kilgore’s sermons that made me want to climb on the altar, wallet and all. Or how about Raymond Woodward’s General Conference 2013 refreshing look at the mighty God in Christ? How can I forget?
Several years ago Calvin Rigdon, in his own inimitable way, looked at a group of ministers gathered around a break table at World Evangelism Center, and with his “preacher” twinkle in his eyes and his oratorical skills set on high, asked, “Have you ever wondered where your sermons go? You pray, prepare, and preach, but where do those sermons go? Those powerful, anointed sermons—where do they go? They are God’s gifts, but you nurture them through to deliv¬ery and launch them on their course; but where do those sermons go?”
Then, with a deft yet definite turn of direction, Elder Rigdon offered a parallel illustration. “Have you ever wondered where the sunshine and the rain go? The blazing sun, the gentle rains, the cloudy days, the thunderstorms, even the rising and setting sun—where do the rays and the drops go, I mean, really go?”
And then with his impeccable timing and a faraway look in his eyes (and with all of the preachers in the palm of his hand), he asked, “See that grand old oak tree out in that field, the one with the gnarled and spreading limbs, rugged bark, and massive trunk? That is where they go. In that old tree are countless rays of sun and innumerable drops of rain. No, the rays and drops are not wasted; you see their product in that oak tree and its acorns for future generations.”
And then with a return to his mis¬sion of the morning, the preacher asked again, “Have you ever wondered where your sermons go? You see that stalwart saint who has weathered the storms of life and has come through victorious, a living testimony of God’s grace, power, and mercy? That is where your sermons go. Do you see that vibrant young saint with ‘new’ written all over him? Yes, you remember where he was two years ago and realize the powerful transforma¬tion God has wrought in his life. That is where your sermons have gone. Do you see that family worshipping together on the second pew, the one whose marriage was on the rocks several years ago? That is where your sermons have gone.”
And then Brother Rigdon closed his sermon with the twinkle still in his eyes. We all left the break table, but his message still resonates in my mind. His break-table sermon still impacts my un-derstanding of the purpose of preaching and challenges me every time I pray, prepare, and preach. Yes, the oft-quoted statement gives cause to ponder: “The lawyers’ mistakes go to jail. The doc¬tors’ mistakes go to the cemetery. But the preachers’ mistakes go to Hell.”
Paul wrote, “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (I Corinthians 1:21). Isaiah wrote, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). Peter wrote, “The Lord is . . . not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9). These men penned the words but the message is God’s. It is God’s stated pleasure and will to save individuals by the preaching of His Word.
So what do we do? We preach the Word, at any time, reproving, re¬buking, exhorting with patience and sound doctrine. When people do not want to hear, we preach. When people turn away from the truth, we preach. We watch in all things. We endure un¬pleasant circumstances. We evangelize the lost. And we continue to preach, making full proof of our ministry (II Timothy 4:2-6).
And where do those preached ser¬mons go? Have you seen a grand old oak tree lately?
The above article, “Where Have All the Sermons Gone?” is written by P. Daniel Buford. The article was excerpted from the tenth chapter of Smith’s book The Whole Nine Yards.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.