Wednesday, 02 April 2014 00:00

Generals in the kingdom (2)

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Overview

George Truett (1867-1944) was converted to Christ at age nineteen after hearing a sermon based on Hebrews 10:38: Now the just shall live by faith. The following Wednesday night, his pastor encouraged him to share his testimony, and the crowd was amazed at the power and passion of his words.

From that time on, many people encouraged him to enter though ministry. His primary vocational interest, however was teaching school.
Whenever asked to speak at church services or evangelistic meetings, he demonstrated remarkable ability. He was once introduced with the words, "Brethren, this is George Truett, and he can speak like Spurgeon. George, tell them what God has done for you..." Still Truett worked at school, teaching, and toyed with the idea of studying law.

One Saturday, he heard that special business meeting was going to be held at his church that night. He arrived to discover that the church was meeting to vote to ordain him into ministry. The oldest deacon present rose to his feet and said, "I move that this church ordain brother Charles Truett to full work of the Gospel ministry."

Truett, twenty-three, rose to protest, but the church would have none of it. He later recalled, "There I was, against a whole church, against a church profoundly moved. There was not a dry eye in the house... one of the supremely solemn hours in a church's life. I was thrown into the stream, and just had to swim."
W.A. Criswell, who followed Truett as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, followed a different route into ministry. He felt called to preach in childhood. When he was ten years old, he became intrigued with Rev. John Hicks, who stayed in the Criswell home while preaching at a local revival meeting. "I told him I had been thinking about being a preacher for years, since I was six," Criswell later recalled.

"Yet I knew I wasn't even converted yet, hadn't been saved. But I knew God wanted me to be a preacher and had the same conviction then I have now. I cannot remember when I was not going to be a preacher." Criswell received Christ as His Saviour, and he was baptized the following Sunday. His sense of God's calling on his life never wavered.

Rodney (Gipsy) Smith (1860-1947) was one of the most remarkable and entertaining preachers of the twentieth century. He was also called to preach from almost the moment of his conversion. He and his family were gypsies in England, virtually homeless, but his father had experienced an unusual conversion. Shortly afterward, on November 17, 1876, Rodney attended a Primitive Methodist Chapel and went forward following the sermon of Rev. George Warner. He heard someone whisper, "Oh, it's only a gipsy boy."

Rushing home, he told his father he had been converted. Though illiterate, he began carrying around a Bible, English dictionary and Bible dictionary, trying to learn to read them. People laughed at him, but he said, "Never mind. One day I'll be able to read them, and I'm going to preach too. God has called me to preach."

As he worked on his reading, he began to practice preaching, going out into the fields preaching to the turnips. At age seventeen, he stood on a small corner near his gipsy wagon and gave a brief testimony. It was his first attempt at preaching. But it wasn't his last. He became worldwide evangelist, preaching to thousands at a time, and carrying on his phenomenal ministry for seventy years, until his death at age eighty-seven.

Stuart Briscoe, pastor of Elmbrook Church of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, described his call to preach like this: I never intended to be a preacher. I was going to be a businessman. As a teenager in England, I'd just moved to a new town to start working, when a layman in the church I attended asked me how old I was.
"Seventeen," I said.

"It's time you were preaching," he said, which was a total surprise to me. But two weeks later, I found myself preaching my first sermon in that small church. He had given me my topic: the church at Ephesus. So I studied everything I could find on the Ephesians.
In that first sermon, I went ten minutes over my allotted time-and only got through my first point. So he told me to come back the following week and finish. Which I did. Then he said, "There are lots of little churches around here that need preachers," and so he started sending me to different little congregations, preaching about Ephesians.

So I started preaching, and I discovered (1) I could do it, (2) I enjoyed doing it, and (3) people seemed to be blessed as I was doing it. Eventually the church affirmed my preaching, and I discovered a gifting. And I learned that where there's a gift, there's a calling. Over the years, that sense of calling has crystallized.
So after twelve years, I left the business world and went full time into the ministry.





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