School of the Prophets Special:
THE MISSION OF THE PASTOR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Now the presentation tonight concerns the preaching part of a minister’s life, this part up here in this pulpit. All of us are familiar with the definition of preaching by Phillips Brooks; by far that is the most famous definition of preaching that has ever been said in the world. Phillips Brooks defined preaching as the presentation of truth through human personality. And that certainly fits my own conception of it. What you do is, you take the truth of God and you live it here in this pulpit. Live it, feel it, agonize it, shout over it, rejoice over it, you take the truth and incarnate it right here in the pulpit. You live it; if you don’t feel it, they are not going to feel it. But if you feel it, almost certainly they will also, and you will find ways to express it. Now that is preaching, and nothing else but that is preaching! Preaching is living the truth of God, taking the truth of the Lord and living it right here in the pulpit.
Now that is why––and by the way I forgot to bring it––one of my men came back from London last week, and he brought me a picture of Spurgeon that had been published in a London newspaper. It is an angle and a subject situation I have never seen before. Somebody who was seated there—Spurgeon’s great tabernacle had a lower floor, had a balcony that went all the way around, and he preached from that first balcony. Then it had a third balcony that went all the way around, really a second balcony; a lower floor, this first balcony, and then a second one up there. And he preached at the rail of that first balcony. He had a rail. And on the rail he had a lectern, you know, a pulpit top on which he placed his Bible and his hymnbook. And Spurgeon preached from what came to be world famous as “The Spurgeon Rail.”
If you ever go to Tremont Temple in Boston, they have a rail, a Spurgeon rail there. Now that reflects the philosophy of Spurgeon about preaching. Spurgeon said that a man preaches with every muscle and fiber and bone in his body. And as such, he said, the preacher ought not to be covered up. Now you just think about that in your church. Whenever you see a big pulpit such as Travis Avenue in Fort Worth, go all the way around, it hides the preacher out of sight. And of course, Big Jim Coggins can be seen in that thing; but an ordinary man such as I am, I’m just buried behind that stack of wood.
Oh, I have enough trouble, and any preacher does, of getting out there to these people; and to put a whole lot of lumber between you and the people is just that much more of a barrier between you and the hearts you’re trying to reach for Jesus. Were it not for the looks of the thing, I’d take even this pulpit out and preach over just this PA system. I would do it. That’s the way Norman Vincent Peale preaches.
You go up there to Marble Collegiate Church in New York City and listen to Norman Vincent Peale. He stands up there, he’s got on a flowing clerical robe, but he stands up there with a microphone, and that’s all. And you can see every movement in him, and what’s not hidden away with all of those flowing, clerical garments. But that’s the way to preach! The way to preach is with everything that’s in you. You preach with the tip of your toes, and your corns, and bunions, and everything else that you’ve got. You’re preaching all over you. Now that was Spurgeon’s idea of preaching, and in my humble opinion, that is correct. You are living that truth and presenting it here in the pulpit.
Now I have a paragraph here about the need for the living message. There were some prognosticators, and you’ve always got them around, saying that preaching was done for, it’s going to be out, and all of us little old two-by-scantling preachers, why, our day was numbered and going to be ended. And we were going to have––this was spoken in the days of the radio, you put television in it where he is talking right now––he said we’re going to have maybe six great far famed preachers in the world, about six of them he said. And they preached from wherever they were. I guess they’d all be on Manhattan Island from the attitude that they usually have toward preaching, and from those pulpits in Manhattan Island this half a dozen preachers would preach to the whole world. You know, it’d be sent by radio, and all these little old two-by-scantlings like us, why, we’d have no place. Now that was the prognostication made by responsible men. Why did no such prognostication like that ever come to pass? For the very simple reason that the truth has to be relived and re-taught and re-presented to every heart and to every generation. Can’t be done just over there, or just there, or just back there; it has to be done for us. Now you listen.
I am not exaggerating this when I tell you, you might as well have said that we’re going to have six tremendous lovers in Hollywood. We’re going to have Rudolph Valentino, and then we’re going to have six great lovers in Hollywood, and we’re going to channel it to all of the park benches and all of the houses and homes of the world. And they’re going to make love for us; they’re going to court our girls, and they’re going . . . good night alive! You have got to experience that yourself. Man, that’s what it is. Yea, those are good amen’s. It’s doing the thing that is the thing itself. I do not exaggerate to you when I say preaching is that way. You can’t get six preachers anywhere in this earth and they’re going to preach for us. It’s just not possible. We have to live it. We have to experience it. We have to respond. It’s an eyeball to eyeball sort of a thing; that’s preaching. It just is. I don’t want to carry some of these illustrations too detailed, but they sure are pertinent.
Now the different kinds of preaching you already know. The summation of what I just said is, my brother, there’s always a need for you. Going back to my first premise; God’s ascension gifts are preachers, teachers, pastors, evangelists [Ephesians 4:11]; God does that for every generation, and there will always be a need for you, always. Now there are a lot of kinds of preaching. I start off here with mentioning the fact that if I could live my life over again, I started preaching when I was seventeen years old, and oh dear, I just can’t describe to you the misconceptions that my teachers––God love them, they’re all in heaven now, and I hope they made it good up there, but they sure led me astray––my teachers led me astray in a thousand ways that I won’t try to go into now.
That’s why I think we need this School of the Prophets. We need to get together and talk about this thing as it actually is, not like somebody sits over there in some kind of a philosopher’s chair and seeks to tell us what he thinks it is. Let’s get this thing just as it is. Now if I had my life to live over again, I would take that Bible and if I couldn’t get a message out of one verse, I’d get it out of a paragraph. If I couldn’t get it out of a paragraph, I’d get it out of the chapter. If I couldn’t get a message out of the chapter, I’d get it out of the book. If I couldn’t get it out of one book, I’d get it out of five books. If I couldn’t get it out of five books, I’d take half of the testament. If I couldn’t get it out of half the testament I’d take the whole testament. If I couldn’t take it out of the whole testament and still have a message, I’d take the whole Bible. My announced subject for this Sunday is “The Bible and all that is in it.” That’s what I’d do. That’s exactly what I’d do. I would preach the Bible. I would preach the Bible! And God will bless any boy anywhere who will do that. I started doing that in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Isn’t that a tragedy? Isn’t that a tragedy? All of those years, all those years I was piddling around, you know, trying to get some—pace up and down the floor, trying to decide what in the world am I going to preach about, trying to get some kind of a subject to preach on. It was not until I came to be pastor at Muskogee, Oklahoma, my pastorate before this, that I began preaching the Bible as such.
Nor can I tell you why I started to do it there. I have no idea. I thought, and thought, and thought, and thought, and thought, but there’s not anything ever comes back to me as to why I started preaching the Bible in Muskogee. But I did. In Muskogee I started taking the Bible, you know, just pieces of Bible, just one after another and started preaching, studying, and preaching. And oh, it did something to my soul; and when I came here to Dallas, that’s the way I started here in Dallas. And right after I came here is when I started preaching through the Bible, as I’ve told you, for seventeen years and eight months.
Now there are lots of kinds of preaching; problem preaching, life situation preaching. That’s the way practically all these liberal men like Fosdick, oh practically all those men preach problem sermons, personality sermons. There’s a situation and they preach from that situation. Well, that’s just fine, but my impression of it is man alive, you listen to him very long and it’s like a guy that’s got the heebie-jeebies; pretty soon you’re a’scratching all over, you just got that feeling, you just get to thinking, “Well man, he’s preaching about all those problems, why, let’s see if I don’t have some problems.” And brother we can all fall into that kind of psychology; it lends itself to that kind of a thing. Now the kinds of preaching that I list here are very familiar here, and we’ll not go into it. There’s an exposition, that’s a larger passage of Scripture. There’s a text, that’s just one little piece of a Scripture. There’s a topic, and I’m not against topical preaching, there’s a topic; preach on faith, hope, and love, and election, and atonement. There’s a place for that.
Character preaching is the easiest preaching, and the preaching that seems to be the most blessed when you take it to people; preaching about the characters in the Bible, living them up here. Man, taking that stone and throwing it at that giant and it goes into his head, and he falls down, and he takes the big sword and cuts off his cranium. Boy, do that up in the pulpit and everybody will listen, and all the little children will say, “Mama, I tell you we got the best preacher in the world.” Now, that’s a good way to preach, and it’s biblical. Then there are special occasions, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July.
But the best way to preach is taking that Bible and preaching through in some way. Either go through the whole thing, or take a book, go through it. Blackwood, that professor at Princeton, Blackwood wrote, “A connected series on any subject by a man of modern ability will make far more permanent impressions than an equal number of isolated sermons by a brilliant speaker. The congregation recalls what’s said last and looks forward to what’s to be said in the future.” It is a wonderful way to preach, to take a series. And the best way to preach in a series, I think, is to preach a book. Take a book of the Bible and learn it and live it and expound it; but any kind of a series, as Blackwood says, is better, even though the man is of mediocre ability, than a disconnected bunch of sermons by a brilliant orator. Of course the best way to do it, if you could, is to vary your sermons – and you’ll do that in exposition – if you’ll just expound that book, all kinds of ways and means will come to your heart concerning it.
Now the best way to preach is to be yourself. Now, I just hate to take time to tell you these things, but I don’t know how to emphasize them if I don’t. When I started out to preach, I was seventeen years old, I went down to Baylor University, and to my amazement, I did not know I was that way, to my amazement I preached like a house afire. You see, we didn’t have any doohickeys like that; that is the worst thing in the world because it ties you to a little old angle like this.
Now when I began preaching, I preached all over the place, just all over the place. Wherever I was, there I was preaching up and down, back at the back, to the side, in the pulpit, out of the pulpit, I just preached all over the place. I had a voice that on any clear evening you could hear me for four or five miles, just on any occasion. And I preached loud and vociferously. I felt that way and I preached that way. Well, I had a whole lot of friends at Baylor University, those kids, I belonged to the volunteer band, for example, and they went out with me to Pecan Grove––that’s Pulltight, little store way up there called Pulltight. And the church is down here in the valley, you know, just didn’t have a church house, just had a tabernacle, open tabernacle.
So they came out there in a big bus and listened to me preach. There were about twenty-five of them, these kids at Baylor with whom I was going to school. Well, when I got through preaching, you never saw such a lugubrious bunch in your life. They said, “We just can’t imagine such, why, nobody’s ever going to call you to be pastor of any kind of a church. You’re going to stay out here in the sticks all your life. There’s no fine church going to call anybody to preach as you do. They’re just not!”
Well, when twenty-five of them started working on me like that, you cannot imagine what it did to me. So, we had in the town there a very famous elocution teacher, expression teacher, dramatic teacher. Her name was Martha Folks Hawn, Hawn, H-a-w-n, Hawn; and she was so fine that the citizens of the city had built for her a little theater in the back of her house. Her house is here, and then back there they built a little theatre for her. So I went to Martha Folks Hawn, and I said, “All of my friends in Baylor tell me no church is ever going to call me, of any consequence; I’ll be stuck out here in the sticks all my life.”
Well, of course, that’d be all right with me now as I look on it, but back there, you know, why, that was supposed to be––oh, you just failed if you stayed out in the sticks. You gotta go up like this. Oh, the sorry ideas you get when you’re young and when you’re in school from your compatriots! Well, I went to Martha Folks Hawn and I told her my problem. “Why,” she said, “I can help you,” and so much of help. You know they all got that. So I said, “All right, I’m going to pay you, and I’ll come twice a week.”
Well, I’ve had expression lessons ever since I was that high. My mother wanted me to be taught dramatic readings and elocution and humorous readings, and declaiming, and later, debating; and I had those lessons, you know, you just taught how to breathe and talk from your diaphragm, don’t make a gesture like that, make a gesture like that, you know. I had been taught all that stuff.
So I went to Martha Folks Hawn, and so she started out, you know, all those exercises of breathing, making your gestures, and on and on and on. So after the passing of time, why, she said, “I wonder if you’d preach me a sermon?” Well, by that time, I’d got acquainted with her very good. She was very worldly, very worldly she was. So she said, “Would you preach me a sermon?” I said, “I sure will!” So she put me up there at the front, and I took my Book, and I opened it, and I preached that dear sister a sermon.
When I got through, she never said a word, not a word. She dismissed me and said, “You come back at the appointed hour. Next time, would you preach me another sermon?” I said, “I will.” So I came back the second time, the appointed hour, I opened that Book, and I preached her another sermon, just had a congregation of one. When I got through the second time, she never said another word, not a word. She said, “You’ll be back at such and such hour.” I said, “Yes.” You know, I was going twice a week.
Well, when I came back the third time we never went to the little theater or anywhere else. She said, “I want you to come here and sit down by me.” So I sat down by her side on the sofa in the living room. And she turned to me and said, “You know, I’ve been thinking about you a great, great deal. And this week, I have a dear friend in Kansas City, and she came down here to visit me. And I asked her, ‘Where do you go to church in Kansas City?’ And she said, ‘I go to such and such church.’ I asked her, ‘Do you belong to that church?’ She said, ‘No.’ ‘Well why do you go to this other church?’ And the friend said, ‘Because that man preaches there, and I love to hear a man preach.’”
So she turned to me and she said, “Listen, what my friend said in Kansas City is exactly how I feel too. If I go to church, which,” she said, “I hardly ever do; but if I go to church, I like to hear a man preach. Now,” she said to me, “you stand up there in that pulpit, and if you feel like doubling your fist, you double your fist. If you feel like shaking your head, you shake your head. And if you feel like stomping your foot, you stomp your foot. And if you feel like saying it to the top of your voice, you say it to the top of your voice!” Then she added a sentence I’ll never in this earth forget. She said, “I am not saying to you that everybody will like you, but I am telling you that they’re going to listen to you.” Isn’t that a sight? And in her little talk, before she got to that last sentence, she said, “Don’t let anybody ever bother you again. Don’t ever let anybody bother you. I don’t care,” she said, “what they say to you. Pay no attention to them at all. You just be yourself, and you stand up there and tell that message just exactly as you feel like saying it. And don’t let anybody ever bother you.”
Well sir, you know, from that day until this, I’ve had ten thousand people tell me things about my preaching. “Man, you bust my ears. You give me a headache”; I don’t know what all they’ve said to me, nor could I tell you the people that, when I go to preach at a church, the deacons, three of them, would come up to me and say, “We’re sure glad to have you here, but you know we’ve got the best auditorium acoustically in the world. You can hear a pin drop in it.” They never tell me, “You’re preaching so loud you’re giving us a headache.” They always say it very nicely: “Oh, we’ve got such a marvelous, acoustically arranged auditorium.” I know exactly what they’re talking about. She said to me, “Don’t ever let that bother you, you just go right on and be yourself.” And I have been that ever since.
That sentence here is the truth. You may be a fair imitator of somebody else, but listen: you’re the best example of you in this world. There’s nobody like you, and you be yourself. Some fellows are just born funny; that’s wonderful. Humor is a gift from God. Some men are serious all the time; that’s great. Just be yourself, just be yourself. Some men are never vigorous in their expression; that’s all right. Some men are like John the Baptist carousing in the wilderness; you can hear him in Jerusalem [Matthew 3:1-6]. That’s all right; just be yourself, and whatever you are, being that, God will wonderfully bless.
Now we’re to remember that we’re preaching to the people. It is for them that we are preparing this message, and it is addressed to them. Oh, I have a story that comes to my mind, and I ought not take time to tell it to you. But, oh, some preachers, how they do, they parade their ostentatious knowledge and learning and background, oh dear! Now, teach in your preaching. God says that in Ephesians 4:11, the pastor and the teachers together. And if you will expound the Word, you will just automatically do that. And then I have these quotations here from those old Puritans about speaking naturally, not bombastically or with a holy tone. No, just be yourself. Then I have a long discussion here about not to be afraid of emotion. Don’t ever be afraid of emotion; don’t. Oh, the sermon can be dry like a potsherd, all the feeling run out of it; don’t. Stand up there and just live the message with the people.
Now: preach without notes. Here again, may I tell you that paralyzing experience. When I started when I was seventeen years old of age, I started preaching, as you know, out in the country. And I got down on my knees, oh dear, I will never forget this—I got down on my knees, and I said, “Lord, I want to preach with an open Bible and without any notes. Now Lord, help me to do that. I ask You to help me to do it.” When I got up off of my knees and started to do it, I was simply paralyzed with fear! It terrorized me! What if I were to forget the sermon right in the middle of it? And here I am standing up there before the people preaching, why, I’m a ridiculous figure. I’m a mockery. I’m a laughing stock. I have forgotten, don’t even have a message to say, can’t even remember it. What if I were to do that?
But after I got down on my knees and asked God for the blessing, I was not going to withdraw my request. I asked God for it, and I depended upon God to see me through in it. That is forty-four years ago, forty-four years ago. And in forty-four years the Lord has never let me down, never let me down. I preach without notes in every kind of a situation that you can imagine, and sometimes one sermon after another, and in situations that are a thousand miles apart. I never use notes! And God has never let me down!
Now I go through strange psychological aberrations in it. I’ll sit over there in that chair, and once in a while as I sit there and Lee Roy is leading the singing, the whole sermon will leave me, just the whole sermon, and I’ll sit there just absolutely blank, the whole sermon has left me. Your mind is one of the strangest psychological instruments you ever saw in your life. I’ll sit there and the whole sermon is gone, just the whole outfit’s gone. Sometimes I’ll sit there in that chair going through those points of the sermon before I stand up, and I’ll think of the first one, I’ll think of the last one, and the three middle ones just gone out of my mind. I just can’t recall them at all. And all kinds of things like that happen, seated there in the chair.
All right, once in a while I’ll stand up here in the pulpit, and I’ll just be firing away, and that third point just leaves me, right up here in the pulpit. Well, what do you do? What you do is you keep on firing away! And it has never failed. It comes back to me. It comes back to me. If I trust my memory, in the goodness of God, my memory will not let me down, never, in forty-four years. And it will not let you down.
Now, I am not saying that you must preach without notes. I had compiled for me, and I hate to take time for it, but I had compiled for me, by a homiletical professor, a report. I asked a homiletical professor to do this for me; thirty-five preachers, how did they preach? All right, now I’m going to name you some men who preach with a full manuscript. That is, he had the manuscript like Hirams and Fosdick and stood up there in the pulpit and read it. Phillips Brooks did that, one of the greatest preachers of all time. He read from a manuscript. Thomas Chalmers did it, the tremendous preacher. Jonathan Edwards did it. Now would you believe that? The man who held people over hell like spiders and they held to the back of the pews lest they fall into torment, he read that sermon. He read all of his sermons. Peter Marshall read his sermons, just prepared it, got up there and read it. The great Catholic Cardinal Newman read his message. Paul Reese, up here, you know, the Covenant Church, read from a manuscript. All those men read from a manuscript.
Now there’s thirty-five of them here, how that did it, and I rejoice in God’s goodness to these men. However—but I am saying to you that it is better if you can stand in the pulpit with an open Bible and preach without notes. That doesn’t mean we don’t prepare, we do prepare, oh dear how we need to prepare. But in the pulpit, it will mean something to the people if you deliver your sermon without looking down to a manuscript. And I give an example of that. Could you imagine those apostles reading a sermon? Could you imagine the prophets reading a sermon? Could you imagine the Lord Jesus at Nazareth and all the eyes were fixed upon Him, could you imagine the Lord Jesus reading that message? [Luke 4:16-20]. Why, when they looked at Him, He looked back at them, and that’s the way we ought to preach. If I were talking to you, would I prepare a manuscript to read to you? Wouldn’t I talk to you just face to face, eye to eye? That’s the way we ought to do, is stand up there in the pulpit and just deliver that message face to face, just looking at the people.
Now the service, how the service is: I think it’s always good to begin just a little before the announced time. I like that. When people come, things are going on, and they get the impression it’s moving; to begin just a little before the announced time, and have the building all prepared, and greet the people joyfully. “Man, this is a great day. I was glad when they said, ‘Let’s go to church’” [Psalm 122:1]. And then if there’s some way, which I haven’t been able to find out, to call the people to prayer––O Lord, I wish I knew how to do that. Were these pews not so close together, there are a lot of times I’d ask the people to pray here; I mean, get down on their knees. But you can’t kneel between those pews, they’re too close together. I’d put a prayer rail in here, if I knew how to do it; but we’d lose a whole lot of seating if we did.
Now when the minister stands up here in the pulpit, practically all the ministers that I know do all the preaching, all the announcing, all the praying, and all the everything else. And we’ve taken off one chair on each side—we had five: one, two, three, four, we had five—because we don’t have room in this new arrangement up here. This has just been prepared, what you see here now. But what I like is to have different men every Sunday up here in the pulpit, and then one will lead the invocation, one will lead the benediction, one will lead the pastoral prayer, and different people do different things. And you’ll just be surprised at how that blesses the congregation, to see different people taking part in it.
And we use the Bible every Sunday. We read out of the Bible together at every service. One of the funniest things that I ever heard of—right over there is the YMCA, you know, right there; well, there’s a man standing there at the YMCA on Sunday morning, he went back into the counter and he said to the clerk at the Y, “I thought you said that was a Baptist church across the street.” And the clerk said, “Well, it is a Baptist church.”
“No,” he said, “it isn’t. I was standing there at the front steps of the Y and watched the people as they came out after twelve o’clock, after the eleven o’clock service, and every one of them had a prayer book in his hand, every one of them.” And the clerk laughed and said, “Listen, man, those aren’t prayer books, those are Bibles.” That was the impression that we made on that man.
Now I don’t always succeed in this either, but any time you pray privately, just pray all night long and all day and all the time—but any time you pray publicly make it brief, make it brief. Long, agonizing in private, but in public the prayers ought to be brief.
And we ought to praise God in song and with orchestra. More and more we’re getting men and women here who are trained to play these instruments; all through here. My I wish I could build a church house. Goodness it’d be something to go to. There’s no theater, there’s no vaudeville, there’s no stage in the world that would have the tremendous programming that we’d have in that church if I were able to build it. Up here, why, we just do the best that we can. You see these wings we’ve just put up on each side, and the orchestra is just oh so crowded down here; but in the Bible, that’s the way they did. Two hundred eighty-seven orchestral pieces, instruments, five thousand Levites a’singing [2 Chronicles 5:12], can you imagine what all that sounded like? Ooh, what you could do!
Now, in the invitation hymn, I do not know the number of preachers that I’ve seen give an appeal, go down there, stick their head in a book and sing this song, the first verse, then usually the benediction, or sing a second verse. Man alive, if somebody came down and responded, you’d have to gouge him in the ribs and say, “Wake up, fellow, I have decided to give my heart to Jesus. You’ve got your head in a book.” Isn’t that a sight? Don’t expect anybody to come; oh, arrange for an invitation hymn to be sung, and you go down there and see if somebody won’t respond. If they won’t, well, world without end have I invited people to come to the Lord. Now you’re going to see how to conduct an invitation hymn tomorrow. You look at that carefully. That’s the way to do it. They change from one to the other, just like that; no pause, no anything, just changing from one to the other. The hymn that I give Lee Roy to start off with, I mean for him just to start off with it because that may be something that, at least when I chose the subject, would fit it. Now, when the sermon is actually delivered it may be a thousand miles away from it, but start off with that, but that’s just a start. Then go into another hymn, then another one, then another, and appeal. My, my, world without end have we sung here for thirty minutes or longer, and believing that God will give you a harvest. The Lord won’t let you down. It’ll come in God’s time and in God’s place.
Now Dr. Bryant, we have two and a half minutes, and my brother has his hand up. Son, what? [Question from audience] Yes. When I go, most of the times, in a meeting now where I go to church it will be in a revival meeting. When you have your offertory, practically every church—I do not know whether there’s an exception to it or not—practically every church will have the organist or a piano to play while the offering is going on. And there is a deadness in that period of time, there is a hiatus in that period of time that is as deep as heaven and earth. People gawk around, and they look around, and they start wool-gathering. I’ve watched them for years; I am not mistaken in that judgment. So what I do is we have the choir to present a tremendous number at that period of time, and it doesn’t lag; the service goes on. Any service ought to move. The television people know that. If you have a dead spot in that television, why, they’ll flip you off from Channel 8 to Channel 4, Channel 11 or Channel 5 they’ll lose. But when a fellow out there in Hollywood makes a program, boy, he pushes it along. Now the church ought to do that.
Well, you say—and I’ve been told this by pastors and music directors, when I say we do that. When I say do that, they said, “Oh, that’s not right to the choir, to have the choir singing while all of these plates are being passed.” Well, what do you think about the organist? What do you think about him? Is it right to the organist, then, for all those plates to be passed when he’s doing the best he can to make a rendition of Beethoven, or Handel, or Mozart, or—dear me! See, it’s silliness, it’s idiocy, I’m telling you!
Now what you want to do in planning that service is, when that thing begins, move it along, move it man, move it! That’s right. And your service will be blessed. People will say, “Man alive, there’s power in that thing!” So that’s why I say, when the offertory comes, man, hoist a tune; boy, raise it up; let’s sing. And I––and you’re going to see what I’m talking about tomorrow. My land, these people will raise you out of your seats––you will love what I’m saying.
All right, good night, our time is gone. [question from audience] I’m not able to say whether what we do here on Wednesday night is good or bad. I just cannot say. And because of the tremendous responsibilities and burdens of the work, I do not object, I have not objected to what they have done.
What we did here in the church was this. For years and years, I suppose for a hundred years, the church met on Wednesday night—same time they met on Sunday night—met at 7:30 o’clock, and our prayer service was from 7:30 to 8:30; and for twenty-some-odd years I conducted that service form 7:30 to 8:30. We did that every Wednesday night. Well, the church became involved in sections. That’s what makes a church big. You know, these directors direct that division. It’s theirs. They take it. You’ve got a Teenage division, an older teenage division, got a younger teenage division, you’ve got the Primary division, and you have the Junior division, and so and so and all.
Well, the church became filled with multitudinous faceted activities. You had the choir program; how many choirs? Twenty-five choirs. There are twenty-five choirs, organized choirs. Then you had the recreational program. Then you had the GA program, and the RA program, and the Sunbeam program, and you had all of these different programs going on. Well, it was difficult for the fathers and mothers to come down here on Wednesday night, and having a service that lasted until—my goodness, when I get started on the thing, even though it was supposed to dismiss at eight-thirty, no telling when it’s dismissed. It’s just whenever I am struck by lightning or something, and I quit.
Well, they said, “We just can’t carry on this mission program, and we just can’t carry on this choir program unless there is a schedule here that our people can live with, because Wednesday is a school night, and these kids are in school and they got to go home.” And of course, there’s nobody lives close to the church. I live closer than anybody else, I suppose, and I live three miles away. I live right downtown. Practically all of our people live in a band from five to twenty-five miles all the way around the city.
Well, the staff came to me and they said, “We believe the best thing to do is to take Wednesday night and to turn it over to these divisional groups and these activities groups.” So they start in the afternoon on Wednesday afternoon, just as they start on Sunday afternoon. They start on Wednesday afternoon, and they schedule that clear through 8:10. Is there anything beyond 8:10 o’clock? At 8:10 it’s all over. So they scheduled the prayer service for adults. Now it’s just for adults, because the teenagers have their own meeting, and all the children have their own meeting. The prayer meeting in the church is scheduled from 7:30 to 8:10 o’clock. Well, when they did that, I just turned it over to them. I’m there! I go to prayer service, I sit on the platform, and we have a calendar of concern, you know; we mimeograph the names of all our people and special requests and everything, and I lead that, you know. We have a call to prayer and we kneel, praying for the sick.