my excellent twelve hour Bible conference

I am on my way to the Western Canada Baptist Fellowship annual meeting, this year featuring the preaching of Mark Minnick. The meeting will be held in Calgary, AB, Thursday-Saturday (although I have to beat it out of town on Saturday to make it home for our own services).

On the way, I am going to spend a day with my parents in my quirky and beloved Alberta home town. I say quirky because my love for this town is mostly nostalgic. There is nothing special about the town per se, but there are excellent memories to be had on almost every street of the little burg… and it is on the prairies where you can see the sky. What more could one ask out of a home town?

I had intended to get an early ferry and make it home before I rested my weary head, but certain family responsibilities meant I had to catch a noon ferry. So here I am, twelve hours after disembarking, still a couple of hours from home, and ready to sack out. But before I do, a few comments on preaching…

When driving alone, I love nothing better than listening to sermons. With modern technology I do this with a PDA and an auxiliary plug in my CD player. In my twelve hours on the road, I managed to listen to 15 and a half sermons today! Kind of a soul-food pig-out session!

The preachers for my marathon personal Bible conference were Chuck Phelps, now president of Maranatha Baptist Bible College, Brian Fuller, bro Phelps’ successor at Trinity Baptist Church, Concord, NH, and Royce Short, Dean of the School of Religion at Bob Jones University.

The Phelps/Fuller messages are from last summer as Trinity Baptist Church went through the transition from the ministry of brother Phelps to the ministry of brother Fuller. You can access some of these messages here and the rest here. You will want to download the messages from late April 2007 through August 2007.

Chuck Phelps is a contemporary of mine, graduating from BJU one year behind me, but the Lord has given him a much wider ministry than mine. (Praise the Lord for that!) I can’t remember ever having much contact with him at school, I knew who he was, but that is about it. This spring, he spoke at our northwest regional FBF meeting. I was especially blessed by those services and through some of the things he said in conversation became interested in the period of transition for Trinity Baptist last summer. I was happy to discover the messages available online and made a project of listening to all of them. Today’s trip enabled me to finish the last eleven messages from that time period.

The Royce Short messages come from a family camp held by Vacaville Bible Church in Vacaville, CA. You can access these messages here. My wife and I were at a retreat two weeks ago where the pastor of the Vacaville Bible Church , Martin Blanton, was the main speaker. Pastor Blanton is an excellent Bible teacher as well … I think you would enjoy his messages, also available on the VBC site. Pastor Blanton mentioned these Family Camp messages at the retreat, so off I went to download them.

All of this sermonizing leads me to some observations concerning preaching.

1. God uses different styles and approaches for his glory. Each of these preachers have their own style. (Brian Fuller is somewhat reminiscent of Chuck Phelps, having served under him for a number of years, but he is nevertheless his own man.) Each of them teaches the word in a different way, but each one engages the text, expresses it effectively, and reaches the heart in application.

2. Good preachers preach with a heart for their audience. The Trinity BC messages of course seemed more emotional, due to the nature of the period in which they were preached (and the styles of the preachers), but all three preachers have an evident heart for the people for whom they are preaching.

3. Age and training make evident differences. (I want to be careful how I say this!) Each preacher reflects his stage in the ministry and the extent of his training. Both Phelps and Short have much more experience in the ministry. I think you can hear it in the messages. But bro Fuller gives evidence of being a man of the book, committed and zealous. He preached fine messages but I am guessing that one will hear a difference in them as the years go by. (I am currently transferring our own cassette tapes of my preaching to digital myself, working backwards. I am now in early 2001 in this project… The further I go back, the less inclined I am to continue!)

It is interesting to contrast energy and experience. Both are blessings to the ministry, and necessary. You can’t get the experience without expending the energy. It would be nice to be able to retain a bit of the energy once you have a bit of the experience, but that just doesn’t seem to be the way it works.

4. The preachers you listen to influence your own preaching. This one is kind of funny to me. I have spent hours listening to Mark Minnick. Mark was my Pulpit Speech teacher. I have intentionally tried to imitate his methods and something of his style. As I began listening to the Trinity messages this summer though (and most of them were Chuck Phelps), I caught myself a few times in the pulpit saying things in a way that sounded to me like the way Chuck would say it. I think Chuck has a certain cadence to his preaching that is a bit unique among preachers, and I was unconsciously (or semi-consciously) picking up on that.

Chuck himself mentioned this tendency among preacher boys in one of the messages I listened to today. He said that those who sat under Tom Malone often mimicked some of his habits as did those who sat under Dr Bob Sr. Of course, I have observed this with other admired preachers as well. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing!

But it does mean preachers need to be careful who they admire, who they listen to, and who influences them. I think that subject is probably worth another post at some point.


I had better wrap this up. The AM will arrive very soon. Maybe I can get another couple of messages in on the last leg of this trip. One blessing of the internet age is that there is a lot of good preaching one can listen to. (And a lot of the other kind too… Lord, grant us discernment!)



  1. Don,

    “…preachers need to be careful who they admire, who they listen to, and who influences them.”

    This is a wise statement. I have had similar thoughts about preachers and preaching. Our intake is very important in shaping who we are and who we attempt to be like. Nice article.