The following is a guest post by my dear friend, Gary Miller. His words are timely and true.
“We have come all the way from burning hearts to itching ears, from ‘Amen’ to ‘So what?’”
In 1975, I was a seminary student in Ft. Worth, Texas. It would be the last time I would hear the voice of Vance Havner. He was small in stature, unassuming in appearance, but he could still project a laser beam of light from the pulpit. To hear him preach was to see the light.
WARNING LABEL: Havner was not politically correct. He didn’t suffer fools gladly, and he was always at his best when preaching to preachers. He thought a group of preachers was like a pile of manure. Spread it around and you will get a harvest. Keep it all in one place and you will draw flies. Get the picture?
I cannot say that I remember his specific remarks that day, but I can still recall with my mind’s eye the image of leading pastors, from all over the city, gathering to hear his trumpet blast from the past. They were leaning forward in their chairs, like moths to a flame. By the time he was through, he had them laughing at themselves, and falling in love with Jesus. Not a bad day’s work.
Havner had presence, power, and gravitas when he preached. It was not driven by his wardrobe. He wore a simple black suit, white shirt, dark tie, black shoes, and carried a big Bible. Without The Book, Havner could have passed for an accountant, funeral director or small town banker. He exhibited no flash and dash, but he delivered thunder and lightning. He remains a great role model.
Nor was his impact derived from his language. It wasn’t laced with hipster lingo or references to contemporary pop culture, selected to help him relate to his much younger audiences. To be sure, he used vernacular vocabulary. He just filled it with homespun, humorous common sense and sanctified sarcasm.
Young people loved his witty plays on words spoken with an unapologetic identification with his country roots and humble origin. There was not any pride, but there was great power in his preaching. Perhaps this was the key to the longevity of his ministry and the timeless quality of his message.
Close to 40 years have passed since that day. Thanks to men like Michael Catt and the incredible, sometimes moving, target of state-of-the-art technology, the voice of Vance Havner will not be lost to the dust bin of history. That would have been a national tragedy.
Perhaps the greater potential tragedy still remains. Havner’s voice can still be heard, but it remains to be seen if it will it be heeded. Hearing and heeding are two very different pursuits. One is a past-time and takes a nostalgic walk down memory lane. The other is a passion and takes a leap of faith to carry out the mission.
Pray with me that a new generation of preachers will hear Havner and others like him. Pray that they not just take notes, but get the message. Please pray with me that the pulpits of this land will be filled with God-called preachers, empty of pride, in love with Jesus, filled with His Spirit, focused on the Word, and aiming to please no one other than The One who called them. Even if we can’t have Havner, we can still have an Awakening.