Dear Friends, in my early Christian life local preachers made a strong impression upon me and when I began circuit ministry for the first time as a young minister in the north east of England, I was inspired by them. Many of them were or had been miners and they used to speak with me about walking miles along the railway track to preach on a Sunday at village churches and how they used to study for their exams in the outside toilet by the light of a paraffin lamp.
Many things inspired me about them. Here are just some brief thoughts.
1: They were local: They had lived most of their lives in the town or village where they preached. Their roots were in the area. Their experience of life was shaped by that context and therefore their preaching.
2: They were known in the community as a Methodist local preacher: Many of them had very ordinary jobs. Some were teachers, farmers, very few were in management. But what bound them together was their commitment to preaching. Preaching was not so much what they did as what they were.
3: They were prepared to keep their minds active: I remember being asked to visit a Shepherd one evening. He lived in the Howgill Fells on his own. He had left school at the age of 14. He was a very quiet man. The house had no gas or electric and when I arrived the dark of the evening was setting in. There I found him in front of an open fire with his paraffin lamp reading the Greek new testament. He put me to shame. He had taught himself Greek and said to me, 'How can you understand the bible without knowing Greek?' Alongside him I have been amazed over the years at the weighty theological volumes some preachers have attempted and how that learning has been revealed on a Sunday to inspire and shape other people.
4: They have preached biblically: Wrestling with the text was what preaching was about. The preacher's supreme task was to expound scripture in ways which made sense to the hearer. Is it any different today?
These people have inspired me and have been informative along my faith journey. May each one of us whom God has called, realise the great privilege of being called to preach the gospel.
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