I did not know it at the time, but I grew up in a golden age of oratory. Soaring speeches filled with eloquence and soaring poetic imagery were regular. I recall John Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Junior and their speeches full of grand images and inspiring cadence. I took it for granted that this was the norm, but alas it is not. This time was an aberration! Nevertheless, they affected me greatly. I grew to love language. I grew to appreciate a well-turned phrase. I admired the ability to move people and call them to be greater and do better.
As a young Christian I admired great preachers who fell into this same category. I was drawn to the sermons of Charles Spurgeon “The Prince of Preachers” who could strike a theme and paint a picture and draw huge crowds and move them to respond to his Kingdom call. I discovered other preachers to admire. One such was Stephen Olford. I took my family to Memphis to study under him. We camped in a KOA during tornado season (Our tent was blown down in such a tempest.) He was, to me, a poet, and a preacher whose oratory drew and inspired people. I longed to be like him!
I never became a Spurgeon or an Olford, though I learned much from both. I realise, in my seventh decade, that I was not created or gifted to be them but to simply be me.
For the past few months, I have been unable to do my usual Bible Studies and have instead posted three such studies a week, on Facebook. This has given me a chance to listen to myself and to get feedback from others. One comment from someone I do not know to someone I barely know said “ He is so quiet and laid back letting the scriptures speak for themselves.” I was at once inordinately flattered and taken aback. My lifelong goal had not been to be a ‘laid back’ Perry Como of preachers! Somewhere along the way God had sidetracked me. My imagined soaring pulpit pounding rhetoric had been replaced and replaced by a quiet hemming and hawing simplicity.
Unlike my heroes I will never be held up as a ‘master’ preacher, but I feel quite comfortable in my shoes. I confess to being a slow learner but now I want to be authentic much more than soaring. I want to let the Holy Spirit do the task of inspiring, for that is the very function of the Spirit.
The moral of the story is this: God cares less about our ability, than our authentic availability. Perhaps others can be less slow to learn this valuable lesson