In the fall of 1972 the old auditorium at Lee College soon became a familiar place; we had chapel there three times a week. I had established my normal place near the back on the right hand side of the main floor. God had blessed me with a love for the college. I felt I was thriving, I certainly enjoyed my experiences, but I was struggling with clarifying my call to ministry. Chapel was a mixed bag; there was a lot of enthusiastic singing and most of the sermons were engaging on multiple levels. Sometimes I felt the music was a little too formal and a sermon a little too stilted, but mostly I was enriched by chapel, especially Sunday evenings when Dr. Charles Conn, as College President, preached.
For one of the weekday morning chapels it had been announced that Dr. Hollis Gause, Dean of the College, would be preaching. I was taking Greek from Gause and I had a high level of respect for him but I wasn’t expecting a barn-burner. I had a test scheduled for that afternoon and so I slid up to the balcony where it would be safe to study during chapel.
Dr. Gause began his sermon and I slipped out my notes to begin reviewing for the test. I had no idea what he was preaching about, but I heard the voice of God, “You call yourself my servant and you won’t even listen to my Word being preached.” I repented and made a promise to God, “From this day forward, I will listen to Your Word when it is being preached.” I sat up straight, put my notes away, and began to listen. It was the most wonder-filled sermon on the cross. With rapid-fire staccato he traced the beauty and glory of the cross through the Scriptures. I had never heard anything so powerful, exhilarating and convicting.
Hollis Gause is known as the chief of theologians for the Church of God, and that he is. But on that day I discovered him to be equally the prince of preachers. I have tried to keep my promise to God. I have since heard some very good sermons, many great sermons by Hollis. I have heard some very bad ones (by others) as well. The truly pathetic ones are those delivered to impress the audience with the preacher’s gifts rather than communicate a word from the Lord. On par with them are those that distort the Word of God to serve the preacher’s personal agenda. Still I listen, endeavoring to honor the Word of God and discern His presence.
As for me, I consider myself a good preacher, not a great preacher. I love God. I love His Word. I love His people. I endeavor to respect all three and bring them together in my sermons. I want God’s people to encounter Him in His Word. Sometimes I succeed. In recent years I am honored on most Sundays to preach to Hollis Gause. With him present, I am content to speak the truth of the Bible, not say something idiotic, and get one chuckle or at least a grin. He humors me.
September 26, 2010