It was one year ago on May 2, 2019, that my friend Warren Wiersbe stepped into glory. Since the mid-1970s I have used his commentaries, topical, books, and small booklets from his days at Back to the Bible. Most copies are signed, and while I often mark up and highlight books when I’m reading them, I haven’t done that with Wiersbe’s books. In fact, I just don’t mark in books that are signed by the author. I even have signed copies of his first books on magic and Tricks with Thimbles. These books are priceless to me.
When I’m studying a passage of Scripture, I often consult with his books to make sure I’m not chasing some theological rabbit. Warren often said, “Blessed are the balanced.” Through the years, I’ve found him to be one of the most balanced writers out there. Why? I think it’s because he wrote for the common man. He wasn’t trying to impress the scholars. He was seeking the heart of God in a way that communicated truth to the masses. Much like Jesus, the people received him gladly. Warren had the ability to walk the theological tightropes of varying interpretations. He wasn’t wishy-washy. He just didn’t pick theological fights in his books. Again, I believe it was because he wanted to feed the sheep, not giraffes.
Warren’s books have been translated into dozens of languages. His “Be” series of commentaries is a must for laymen and preachers. Who knows how many of us have used his books to help us in a Wednesday night Bible study, a Sunday School class, or a discipleship group?! I’ve always thought the “Be” series was one of the greatest contributions anyone has ever made to the bi-vocational pastor and Sunday School teacher. I still have a copy of the original outline books he printed while pastoring Calvary Church in Covington, Kentucky.
Warren was a friend, counselor, advisor, and preaching partner with some of the most famous preachers of the 20th century. He preached in conferences around the world and shared the platform with preachers, missionaries, and teachers great and small. There was no church too small for Warren. He said, “There are no big churches or small churches, there are just churches. There are no big preachers or small preachers, just preachers.” It’s a reminder to me that one of the greatest men I ever met lived with such a humble attitude. Every time he wrote a new book over the last twenty years of his life, I would get a signed and personalized copy in the mail. He didn’t do email, he wrote letters. I have a file of letters and notes from him that I treasure.
Years ago, he sent me eight huge boxes of his messages from his years of pastoring. They were sitting in his garage. I kept telling him that the tapes would eventually break, and those messages would be lost forever. He kept insisting that he never really preached but a few good messages. Finally, after years of talking about it, the boxes arrived unannounced. Over the course of several years, we invested in having all his messages remastered and digitized, and we turned them into the Warren Wiersbe podcast. His only condition was that the messages would not be sold. The messages could be made available to give away or turned into a podcast, but they weren’t to be packaged or sold. When we made the discs, we made a set of his messages (hundreds of messages) and gave a complete set to Warren and each of his children. It was a labor and gift of love.
He wrote classic short biographies of some of the greatest preachers of all time. His series of books on “The Giants” is a must for anyone’s library who wants a glimpse into why God used certain people the way He did. His autobiography, Be Myself, was appropriately titled. Warren was Warren. No pretense. No pomp or circumstance. No strutting.
Warren never missed an opportunity to search out a good used bookstore. I’ve watched him work through a bookstore like a surgeon, pulling out books and glancing over his shoulder, “Do you have this one?” “This is good.” “I don’t agree with this author, but I like his writing style.” He could glean more in a bookstore in 30 minutes than I could find in 3 hours. He introduced me to preachers and writers I would have never discovered on my own. Warren knew how to walk slowly through the crowd. I’ve watched him when we were out to eat or as he was teaching a conference, work the room, stop, talk, ask questions, tell a joke, and make everyone he met feel like they were the most important person in the room.
I miss him. I miss the phone calls. I miss the opportunities to go to Lincoln and visit him. I miss the “What are you preaching Sunday? What’s your outline?” questions I would inevitably get. I miss the “Do you have a copy of…” questions. I wish I had a chance to get his take on this whole COVID-19 situation. We could all use a little more wisdom and a little less speculation these days. I miss the stories and jokes. Most of all, I miss my friend. I think I’ll pick up one of his books and read it. I can still hear his voice when I read his books. Thanks, Warren, for the memories.