A Passion for Preaching
When I was 16 years old, evidence began to surface that God was calling me to preach. I began to write sermons and preach them to an imaginary crowd when I was alone. I also loved to hear good preaching. Once I borrowed a reel-to-reel tape recorder and recorded a mock radio program, complete with music and preaching. When I got my first Sunday School class at the age of 17, it was only three boys, but I preached to them. In only several months that little class grew to 30.
Soon, while I was still in high school, God brought a preacher buddy into my life and we preached everywhere we could. We went to the jails, to little churches, and once we started preaching in an empty house to neighbors who came to find out what was going on.
I also preached at camps, at youth rallies, and even a revival or two. (Last year we moved back to North Carolina within several miles of a church where I preached a revival when I was 18 years old. The church had put my picture in the paper to invite people to come hear me preach like I was the real thing. I remember preaching my heart out during that week.) One of my favorite memories during that time was at a New Year’s Watch Night service. I came in about ten o’clock just as they were inviting the preacher boys to stand and give their testimonies. I stood with fire in my heart and told about the work of Christ in my life. My mom told me later that the service had been a bit dead, but that my energized testimony brought it to life.
Once I went to a youth rally to participate in a preaching contest. (Well, it was actually a speech contest, but I didn’t know the difference.) When it came my turn, I let it rip like a voice crying in the wilderness. I was almost embarrassed that I was so much better than the other contestants who only knew how to give little talks, or so I thought. When the time came to announce the winners, I prepared to go forward to get my first place award. I was almost out of my seat when they called someone else’s name.
When I showed up at Bible college several months later, I went with a group of older students on a Saturday night to preach on the street corner of a busy intersection in downtown Fort Worth, Texas. I had no fear. When my turn came, I stepped to the curb and raised my Bible. I still remember the words I called out. “This is the Word of God! In this book, God tells us how we can go to Heaven.”
Toward the end of that school year, I entered the annual first-year student preacher’s contest. It was an elimination process with the students getting the most votes advancing to the next round. I don’t remember how many rounds I preached – it was several at least – but I preached my heart out and won.
During my years in Bible college, I was passionate about preaching. I did not date, although several girls seemed to have an interest in me. I also did not watch television. Those were the two things about me, a college buddy later told me, that seemed to set me apart from the other students, along with my aggressive soulwinning, loud praying, and John the Baptist style preaching (which the Fundamentalist magazine noted when I preached at the state Fellowship meeting).
After my Bible college days, I preached a few revivals, but mostly worked on church staffs providing ministry to young people. In the 5 or 6 churches where I served, I preached to the teens on Sunday, then several times during the week on the ball fields, in gyms, and at rallies and camps. The youth attendances at each church doubled and tripled.
During these later years of ministry, God has called and prepared me to provide individual counseling - so, while I am still passionate to communicate Truth, I have adopted a conversational style for my counseling which I also use for my talks and presentations to groups. But occasionally, especially from the pulpit, the preacher in me shows up. I do not mean hollering or sermonizing, but setting forth with deep conviction and clarity the message of grace which God has burned in my heart. Preaching was my first calling. I don’t expect my passion for it to ever go away.
Don Loy Whisnant/Journey Notes 10C27