Steve Bracken gave me an ASV New Testament on Saturday morning, August 2, 1967. I treasure that New Testament and keep it in my desk. That was the day I revealed that I wanted to be a gospel preacher. He inscribed on the presentation page, "To one I love so much." He always told me to keep smiling.
Those were good days. He preached the gospel with such tenderness and firmness. I wanted to do the same. Steve now lives in Seagoville, TX.
I decided to preach at age 15, the average age of most young men who decide they want to pursue life as a minister. While there have been many mountain-tops and valleys, I have never regretted being a gospel preacher. God has blessed me, and every day is an adventure of love.
I think that it is harder to preach in 2007 than ever before. Changes in our culture and in the commitment of the church itself makes the job harder. People are far more selfish and critical today. We live in a culture that feels privileged and eschews preaching against sin. This may be the reason we are losing some 600 preachers per year and only educating about 300 to take their place. We need gospel preachers, men of God, not comedians or socialites who will tolerate nearly any deviation from God's will. We really don't need any more high-sounding "theologians" who dismiss wickedness with a warped view of grace. We need some Elijahs and Jeremiahs. We need the courage of a John the Baptist. We need the wisdom of an apostle Paul. We need the encouragement of a Barnabas.
So many men had an influence in those early days: Ron Goodnight, J. D. Fredman and his son Dan, Howard Mitchell, Paul Garlitos, Richard Black, Cecil Roller, and Dewayne Thomas. My heroes have always been gospel preachers. These men encouraged me and opened doors to a young man who had a desire to preach.
I must mention the great influence of my parents, who always encouraged me to preach the gospel. I doubt I would be preaching, if it had not been for them. My uncle Hill also influenced me. I treasure the set of commentaries my aunt Alice gave me after his death. I still use them.
Some young man you know might have a desire to preach. Encourage and help him. Challenge him to love the Lord and to be faithful. Don't criticize him for doing what is right; support him. Help him to preach with love and firmness. We desperately need young men who will preach the unsearchable riches of God's grace and glory, men who will fearlessly speak the truth in love, men who will not compromise or play foolish games.
The church must recruit and train its preachers. We cannot leave that up to those who want to reinvent gospel preachers by making them into professionals who revel in religious uncertainty and play in "muddy waters."
Encourage that young man you know. May he give his life to a labor of love and a work of faith.