I am a gospel preacher! I love the way that sounds! I could not see doing anything else with my life and gifts. I get no other joy than helping people, which often extends beyond the preaching moment. Since the begining of my ministry I have been blessed to have been touched and impacted by great men of God. I know I would not be who I am, or what little I am if it had not been for men who have taken time and interest in my development as a gospel preacher.
My grandfather was the earliest eccesiastical model I had. I would sit in awe as a little boy and watch my grandfather preach for what seemed like hours. (Back in those days if you didn’t preach for 2 hours nobody would come to hear you, nowadays if you preach for two hours nobody will want to hear you) He would always take his coat off and preach in his vest. Walking and preaching! Punctuating his discourse by saying “Y’all lookin at me funny” and I wanted to use big words like him.
My father was also a preacher. His gift clearly and uniquely was teaching. I wondered how he would see some of the things he could see in a text. When I started preaching he would challenge me to delve and stay with the text. While members of one church we became good friends with the Pastor’s family. On occasion he would drop us off at school and in the summer for day camp. Even as a pre-teen I remember admiring how “busy” and how much in demand he seemed to be, and even then I believe the Lord was giving me a commercial before I even knew it.
I started preaching at 19 years age (whew! thats 18 years ago) under Pastor Willie Radcliff. It was through him I got both the importance of the preaching task and the lifestyle that should accompany the preacher. Though he never went to college or seminary he taught me the value of burning the midnight oil and giving yourself to study, and making sure you are as simple as you can be. If the food is too high only the giraffes can eat. But if its on the ground both giraffes and sheep can eat it. I have never met anyone like him. He taught me the value of giving and helping those in need. Much of what I know practically, both in and outof thepulpit, I learned from him.
Though, I started preaching at 19 I delayed my calling because as I looked at the “grand” tradition of african-american preaching, I looked at that and decided that I can’t do that. I still would say personally that I am a better teacher that preacher. God used the Bishop Kenneth Ulmer to validate that I didn’t have to be like anyone else but use the gift God had given to me. Bishop’s style of preaching was basically that of a teacher. The Lord used him to show me that I didnt have to fit in anybodys mold I could be myself. After hearing him preach, I never saw preaching the same. He officially modeled expository preaching at its best. Context, language, and culture. After hearing him for the first time he had me hooked! I would go to his 7a.m. service to hear him exegete the Word of God. He has been a model that I must admit I imitate and emulate.
I thank God for my models and mentors and now I look to give to others what I have received, and I pass it on as freely as I can.