A Life that Preaches

Daddy was a preacher.  On Sunday mornings, he thundered truth from the pulpit — and sometimes the thunder came in a whisper.  He whispered a word of grace which quietly entered our hearts and then thundered on the inside.

Some preachers yell because there’s no substance.  It’s loud, but hollow and doesn’t sink any further than the earmuffs.  But Daddy’s message always sank deep into the soul and then exploded.

He wasn’t eloquent.  Reading was a struggle for him, and he never attended seminary.  Sometimes, he felt inadequate.  But Daddy was equipped.  Although he never finished high school, he was admitted to God’s Bible School, and graduated with honors and served a full life of effective ministry.  His sermons, though simple, were always powerful and transforming.

I think the main reason for Daddy’s effectiveness in the pulpit was not his oratorical or homiletical skills.  Instead, it was because his whole life preached.  What he was on Sunday morning behind the pulpit was what he was Monday through Saturday.  He lived a life overflowing with holy love, gratitude and praise.

As he put life into his words, he put his words to life.

I thought of Daddy when I recently read these words by J. Wesley Ingles:

 “Every abstract word is hollow until we pour life into it. Honor, glory, sacrifice,loyalty, love, joy, peace, courage and endurance, faith and faithfulness, democracy and brotherhood, justice and mercy- what are these?

Words. Abstract words. Hollow words- until we fill them with deeds, with life, and hence with meaning…

The great words of the Christian faith—grace, forgiveness, redemption, faith, hope and love—are all hollow words until we pour our Christian experience into them.

Yes, the great words are hollow; and yet filled full of life, they could shake the world again as they have done in the past, not as disembodied sounds, however correct, but as poured-out life penetrating to the heart of the world.”

Especially in this day and age, it would pay Christians to practice what they preach.  Rick Warren said that often when people observe Christians, they don’t see the hands and feet of Jesus.  Instead they just see a big mouth.

Mary Ruth Penn, my Sunday School teacher during my high school years said, “what you do speaks so loud I can’t hear a word you are saying.”  The truth of that teaching just floated on the surface and didn’t sink in for quite some time.  But eventually, like Daddy’s sermon, it detonated in my heart and now, almost 40 years later, it is at work in me.

The other day, I looked at myself in the mirror and saw my father staring back.  As I age, I look more like him and hope, when I grow up, I’ll look more like him on the inside too.

Truth remains just a concept that doesn’t change anything until we bring it to life.

7 thoughts on “A Life that Preaches”

  1. Good stuff, Mark. Some theologians and homileticians minimize the person of the preacher. Yet, the ethos matters more, I think, than eloquence. The person doing the preaching matters. Of course, God empowers our preaching, often in spite of us. But, he does seem to work best with preachers whose lives match the gospel they preach. Augustine wrote that plagiarism happens when a preacher proclaims a truth they do not live. Yikes! Glad your dad wasn’t a plagiarist.

  2. Thanks for sharing! An amazing legacy your Daddy had! Big shoes to fill, but very inspiring. I pray all is well with you and yours.

  3. Amen. It encourages me as I have very little formal education and am a Wesleyan commissioned pastor. Looking to keep going deeper with God so he can be my teacher/mentor/provider of wisdom.

  4. “There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” (Gandhi)
    The hands and feet of Jesus.

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