Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Wylie C. Johnson, "The Preacher from the Layman's Viewpoint" (1954)

While visiting Refiner’s Fire Bookshop in Louisville this summer, the owner, my friend, Ron Sloan, pointed me to a real jewel. It was Wylie C. Johnson’s “Tharp Lecture” at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary entitled “The Preacher From the Layman’s Viewpoint” (Feb. 24, 1954). It was a simple, paperback booklet. I don’t know anything about Mr. Johnson or the Tharp Lectures, except that this booklet said it was an annual lectureship which brought in laymen to speak to pastors I training. So, I did not know what to expect from this little address, but it did not take long for me to discover that this was a very useful lecture that deserves to be heard again. In his own “down-home” way Mr. Johnson gave great advice to his audience particularly crying out for pastors to resist the growing popularity of an entertainment model and to beware of pride.

Here are some excerpts:

(This one reminds me of the discussion of Oprah as a model for pastors)
“The gospel of Christ is not just a beautiful philosophy of life. It is not just a sublime impulse. It is not just a reforming and steadying influence upon society and upon the individual.

Many of the sheep are developing religious gout on this intellectual, entertaining, psychological diet. They want and need the spiritual strength that comes only from the ‘Bread of Life.’

Christ’s preacher is not a dramatic actor, presenting a play that he dreamed up. The gospel of Christ is not a little dab of philosophy added to a cup of psychology, stirred with eloquence, and flavored with a wee bit of religion.”
A wonderful reminder of our duty (reminiscent of an earlier Truet quote I posted)-
[Beginning with a quote from George W. Truett] “ ‘Tell it not in Gath. Publish it not Askelon. A prophet of God out in the race with little, cheap theatricals! If I could get the ear and heart of the young man beginning his ministry today, I would beseech him to shun as he would deadly poison every tendency within him, every urge his heart feels for fame, popularity and publicity in the ministry. Fame is nothing. Doing the will of God modestly and humbly is everything, and a record is kept on high.’
The preacher obsessed with this modern mania for headline publicity, who has a flair for the sensational, will soon be forgotten by the laymen, while quiet, humble preachers whose spiritual qualities enrich our lives will long be remembered.”
Good reminder of the temptation to pastoral arrogance-
“Sometimes preachers come to think that they are the only ones to whom God has revealed himself. They sometimes get the messiah complex and claim to be everything from fortune tellers to divine healers, and frequently wind up attacking every other Christian group whose theology differs from their own.”

“The very nature of your calling, speaking for God, is conducive to creating egotism and selfishness. Egotism is destroying more preacher influence than all the combined evils that you preach so much about.”
Then, another note about what we are supposed to be about-
“We laymen want in our preachers sincerity – not salesmanship. A few years ago there was a book published on ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People.’ This book became a best seller. Business and professional men bought many copies of it, and I am afraid some preachers also read it.”
[Aren’t some people know encouraging pastors to read this sort of book instead of theological books? We could use a good dose of this layman’s sanctified common sense]

I don’t know if this address is still available anywhere. If anyone knows I’d be interested to find out.


Adam said...

I love Refiner's Fire Books! And I agree that budding theologians could learn a lot by listening to the sanctified layman in addition to systematic theologies and such.

Brett said...

Now, tell me that is not the same Ron Sloan that was at Union with us.

Ray Van Neste said...

Indeed brett!
The one and only!