Only eternity will reveal the results of a preaching ministry. On Sunday, October 5, 1986, I conducted a prayer seminar at Groton Heights Baptist Church, Groton CT. Following the morning service, a well-dressed couple came to talk with me. The man asked: "Are you the Dr. Henry who preached revival meetings in Eastern Kentucky in the 60's?" When I replied that I had the privilege of leading many revival meetings in the mountains of Kentucky, with beaming faces, they exclaimed: "We thought so. Our son has gone to get our grandson out of the nursery. He is now in the U. S. Navy serving here. He came to Christ under your ministry in Kentucky. We will always be grateful to you."
One of the joys of preaching the Word is seeing the Holy Spirit use the Word bringing conviction resulting in the salvation of men, women, boys, and girls down through the years. My Sermon Projects will culminate in a book of favorite sermons that involved my reviewing sermon notes from a twenty-seven year ministry. I traveled down Reminiscent Trail recalling pastors and congregations.
The 3 x 5 card file is complete. The entries include the text, the subject, the date a sermon was preached, the place, and any result. It was interesting to note that when we changed pastorates that my first sermon in a number of them was A Prayer for Christians using Colossians 1:11-12 as the text. My last message in four of the pastorates was Heaven.
The first time I preached that sermon in leaving a congregation was at the Rosedale Baptist Church, Richmond, Kentucky on December 17, 1961 following a four-year ministry. Beginning with Westside Baptist Church, Berea KY, in 1953, I had the privilege to serve eleven other congregations as pastor during a twenty-seven year period. Although I never envisioned not having a pastorate, the Lord had other plans which began with a call to the presidency of Northeastern Bible College, Essex Fells, NJ in 1980. It would be difficult for a college president to serve one church as pastor since he must have a wider ministry among the Body of Christ, the Lord was preparing me for the itinerant prayer seminar ministry. If there were more than one of me, however, one would certainly be pastor-teacher of a local church. Another one of me would be an evangelist.
For over fourteen hundred Sundays, I had the privilege of serving as pastor of a local church. From 1953, at the age of seventeen when my work began, until 1980, when I became president of Northeastern Bible College (NJ), there were few Sundays when I was not in my own pulpit leading morning and evening worship services. There were two messages
to prepare and deliver each week or sometimes more.
There are several approaches to preparing messages. One is to develop a sermon outline to guide thoughts and then extemporaneously fill in the words. Another is to write out the message and speak from the manuscript.
The late H. B. Harris, my "father in the ministry" and my mentor (who was the biggest influence in my early ministerial life) used the sermon outline approach. When he was called home in January, 1961, through an automobile accident at the age of forty-three, he left hundreds of sermon outlines. Some he had shared with me over the years. During my early years, I emulated his approach. Since Pastor Harris used the topical approach to sermons, so did I. This basically is choosing a subject, choosing a primary text, and then developing it with key points, supported by Scriptures throughout.
Every week, I worked on my messages, which required my spending time in the Word of God finding support verses for my sermons. In 1977, I became aware that I did not know God very well. I had been too busy working for Him to spend time in seeking to know Him for who He is. I realized for the first time that my basic approach to the Word
of God should be first for my own food and that I should read systematically beginning with Genesis 1 and ending with Revelation 22.
The result has been amazing. As the years have speedily passed, my challenge for some years has not been to get a message to preach, but to have time to share what God has given me through my daily time in the Word. As I began to profit from the Word, I became aware of expository preaching which is to choose a text and open it up. Later I found that the approach followed by both Jesus and Paul was opening up Old Testament Scriptures as they shared the Gospel. Once I discovered this approach, I began to write out my messages in rather complete form and then speak from the manuscript.
As did Pastor Harris, I have kept my messages and have them filed according to texts. There are some messages that God blessed in special ways many times over the years with souls saved or folks coming forward for what we called rededication or regardless of how many times I preached them. From the beginning, I have recorded the date that a
message was preached, where it was preached, when, and the results.
Preach the Word
I am glad that I learned from the beginning to preach the Word. I am glad that I typed up my messages and have kept them. I am glad that I recorded where and when I preached a message and took time to write the results. I am glad that the Lord has laid on me to prepare a book of favorite sermons to extend the influence of the messages He gave to me.
Pray with me that those who read the messages will hear from God and that He will use them to help the readers "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). It is possible to grow in knowledge and not in grace. Nothing could please me more than to learn that the readers know more about the text, but that they will grow in grace as the Holy Spirit brings the Word alive with His special anointing and unction.
The first sermon I will share is "The Healing of a Nation." The answer to the moral crisis is not which political party is in power, but in following God's prescription for our healing. Nothing short of knowing and applying His remedy will suffice. May God bless America!