Today marks the official memorial of my first public sermon, July 28, 1963. My first sermon title was “Saved by Hope – Romans 8:24-25. Although I have had a media library for the last 30 years, I haven’t been one to log my sermons, so I couldn’t tell you how many sermons or lessons I taught over the last fifty years. For me the point is not how many, but how many have been effective and productive.
You see when I finally did get my GED in the military and got to my first bible college experience, I failed “Homiletics.” My professors tried to get me to write my sermons out and I wanted to just talk them out. When I started in the ministry I was under the impression, “You just open your mouth and God would speak for you.” However, I did learn structure in college and eventually how to outline my sermons.
However, my journey is just that. My journey. Of course with the triumphs there were many mistakes and failures along the way. That is the beauty of survival and longevity in ministry. You learn from mistakes, repent and move on to teach others the wisdom you learned, if you learned and they will listen.
These are only reflections and I must get back to the task at hand. My mother was a strong and wise woman, Alice Mae Golphin. Although we spent all day on Sunday at church, most Sundays it was at least three services, she allowed my brother and I to go the movies on Saturday, even though it was against church rules. My dad had long since moved out and was living at a parsonage at his church. We only got to see him one weekend a month at his church which we visited and was now an “Apostolic” church also. By the time I was twelve, it seemed like all the young people had disappeared from my Mom’s church and my brother and I started going to my Dad’s church every weekend.
School was hell for me. I didn’t fit in with the school gangs and I was constantly in fights. I was constantly teased for my handwriting and the way I dressed. You see, we were very poor and my mom brought us second hand clothes from the Veteran warehouse to wear to school. In elementary school, I was left handed and was talented in art and numbers. I taught myself to write right handed to fit in and studied martial arts to protect myself. I didn’t make many friends but no one pushed me around.
By the Fall of 1963, I was headed back to school with my new found religion and was being teased daily for “being saved” and called “rev” as a negative nick name because the word got around that I was preaching too. Before the school year was out I had made the decision to leave school and get a job to help support my mother. But not before my ninth grade English teacher made me learn a poem that changed my life.
This is Part 3. If you started here, you need to start at the beginning
The media attention Christianity is getting lately might cause many to believe what they see rather than what they know to be true. In fact the best way to administer poison is to hide it in something good. So, false teachers are not standing up waving a flag saying they are teaching false doctrine. No, they are mixing truths, lowing standards, and secretly denying canal doctrines of the faith while we celebrate their greatness and are deceived by their glamor.
I believe one of the problems today in our worship services is that we depend too much on the popularity of preaching than on the integrity of teaching. In other words, we would rather be entertained than intellectually stimulated. But in order to identify false doctrine, one must be thoroughly engulfed in true doctrine. This can only be maintained through proper training and dedication. Another problem is a lot what we see and hear today depends on revelatory inspiration and private interpretation by untrained, but gifted preachers who don’t trust or are too proud to discuss their findings or conclusions with their colleagues. So when they minister if people respond or embrace the concept they are home free. So, church becomes what is popular instead what is challenging.
The issue is not so much an indictment of the messengers, but recognition of satanic attacks. Having survived ministry for over 50 years, I am aware of the many dangers of leadership. Becoming a container of the message of Christ, instead of a funnel of gifting activities is a daily struggle. Especially as we learn to shift from personality praise and attention to rejection and acceptance from God. Self-deception is one of the most lethal. When you believe you are working for the right cause and motivation only to discover, you were doing the right thing in the wrong season or the wrong thing in the right season.
There is an alarming trend of moral failure among church leaders today. The devil’s strategy seems to be – “get the focus off the message to the messenger, thereby marginalizing the message. “ The problem is the message is what we hear, but the messenger is what we see. If what we see fails to line up to what we hear, well we have a problem. Whether we want to accept it or not, there is a close relationship between the message and the messenger in the public’s attitude toward any ministry. The highly publicized disclosures of the moral and financial corruption of well-known media personalities have caused untold damage to the reputation of God within our society of Faith.
The problem may be that in the Western church we have a need to “market” ministers more than the ministry. We have made “rock stars” out of those who bring the Word, rather than conforming to what the message announces. Most ministers use their name for ministry promotion and we flock to hear popular speakers who motivate but seldom cultivate change in our lives. We must pray for a quick recovery of an alarming trend to demoralize the message of Christ with tainted messengers of Christ before there is no voice to be heard.
The church is really defined by its doctrine, its people, and its style of worship. All of these areas are under attack as we pursue an understanding of the true nature of the church in the 21st century ^DMG.