Note: The following article is the 11th – and last – in a series on “Characteristics of Great Preachers.” The ongoing series was commissioned by the Louisiana Baptist Message from Austin Tucker of Shreveport, a former Louisiana Baptist pastor who now teaches and writes on religious subjects, He also is a frequent pulpit guest in churches and is a member of the Louisiana Baptist Convention Executive Board.
Note: The following article is the 11th – and last – in a series
on “Characteristics of Great Preachers.” The ongoing series was commissioned
by the Louisiana Baptist Message from Austin Tucker of Shreveport, a former
Louisiana Baptist pastor who now teaches and writes on religious subjects, He
also is a frequent pulpit guest in churches and is a member of the Louisiana
Baptist Convention Executive Board.
Austin B. Tucker, Freelance writer
The last character quality to mention in the search for the making of great
preachers is work.
In the history of preaching, those who excelled at their task were all hard
workers, busy preachers, never idle, never slackers. How a Calvin or Wesley
or Whitefield could preach every day – and sometimes several times a day
– and still find time to study and write and organize and promote a mighty
movement of men and nations boggles the mind! Whatever other gifts or talents
they had, they worked hard!
Consider Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892). Besides preaching and serving as
pastor of a great church, he established a pastors college and lectured
to the young men regularly. He established an orphanage and ministered to the
children. He published a monthly magazine called “The Sword and the Trowel,”
which included his exposition of a psalm or some other text in every issue.
It enjoyed wide circulation all over the English-speaking world.
Wilbur Smith once calculated that Spurgeons writings would approximate
27 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica. He founded a literature distribution
society and arranged for colporteurs to distribute wholesome Christian reading
material in a society woefully in need of it.
Spurgeon himself read tons of books. Though he was without theological schooling,
he was certainly not without theological education. Many of the 12,000 volumes
of his personal library have his handwritten notes in the margins, evidence
of thousands of hours spent in study.
A common misconception about Spurgeons sermon preparation is that he
spent only a couple of hours on Saturday evening after supper on his Sunday
morning sermon. Not true! He spent many hours of the week working on several
texts. Then at the end of the week he selected the one most ready to preach
and sketched out his final sermon plan.
Meanwhile, when John Henry Jowett (1863-1923) was a new pastor, he was awakened
early in the morning by the clomping of work shoes going past his window. The
mills started work at six oclock. He said, “The sound of clogs fetched
me out of bed and took me to my work.”
In his Yale Lectures on Preaching (among the very best in that illustrious
series named for Lyman Beecher), Jowett advised young pastors to enter their
study at an early hour. He recommended the hour be as early as the earliest
of their businessmen goes to work.
Jowett occupied some of the most illustrious pulpits in England, including
Westminster Chapel in London, where he followed G. Campbell Morgan. In 1911,
he moved to New York Citys Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Today, pastors are tempted to wring their hands and bemoan the plethora of
promotional and organizational work that demands their time. They think they
could prepare great sermons if they just did not have so much else to do.
Of course, preachers in earlier generations did not have to spend 10 or 15
hours a week watching television, and probably not a single one had to spend
one day every week on the golf course. The task of a preacher is too great and
too glorious to command less than total commitment. Christ deserves no less
than our best.