I love older preachers. May be it is because my dad is one of them. Maybe it is because they were and are my mentors and my heroes. Through the years my dad has been asked, “When will you retire?” Well, he is 92 and still going.
Older preachers deserve our respect. They are men of the Book. They are men of knowledge and wisdom. They have given their lives to the preaching of the gospel. They have sacrificed their lives for the opportunity simply to teach the saving grace of God. They learned their craft through years of labor. They faced discouragement. They faced moments of victory. Through them all they remained persistent and consistent in their own faith. They set the example of faith, purity, love and godliness. As they age, let’s remember they are deserving of our respect.
Further, older preachers fought the fights against institutionalism. Their battles against the errors of the sponsoring church and corruption of the work of the church enable us to have congregations we have today. They did the hard and dirty work to provide local congregations that prosper today. They fought the fight and we enjoy the fruit of their labors. They sacrificed to build local congregations. My generation has not done that. My generation is Johnny-come-lately. Occasionally I hear someone chide these older men for what they did. First, we were not there. We were not in their shoes. Second, what they did for the cause of Christ, we enjoy their fruit. Those men were told to leave churches where they preached. Some were immediately cut off without financial support. They fought and lost much personally. Many times they lost relationships that had been in place for years. They were called names. Yet, they never quit or walked away. They remained true to their fight and God’s word.
Also, my generation of preachers, and those coming after me, enjoy the financial support those men did not have. I have always had the attitude, leave things better for the man who follows. Well, these older men left it better for the men who followed them. I never knew when money was tight. My mom and dad never told us kids. I do remember my dad working a few secular jobs to help make ends meet. He had four kids and a wife to provide for. The financial support for the older men was not as good as it is today. We who preach today owe them a debt for the path they blazed for us. They sacrificed and they taught brethren that the man who labors is worthy of his hire. Brethren listened.
Consider, when Paul wrote Philemon about accepting the runaway Onesimus back, he at last said, “You owe me…” (Philemon vs. 19). Yes, we owe them. That is the bottom line. We owe them respect! We owe them love! We owe them a willing ear and patient disposition! We have received much from these men. Now in their waning of their ability to preach and maybe even in waning years of their life, let’s please remember they shared and we reaped.
All my heroes are men who are either in their eighties or nineties, or have passed away. Men like my dad, Jesse Jenkins, Dee Bowman, Paul Earnhart, Sewell Hall, Bob Owen, Harold Fite and Melvin Curry. Men who have passed away like Dan Shipley, Bob Bolton, Robert Turner, W.L Wharton, Robert Jackson, James Adams, James Cope, Harry Pickup, Jr., and Jim Everett. I owe these men. Brethren owe these men. They are not flawless but they taught us. They made many of us who we are.
I love these men. I admire them so much! They are my heroes! My Dad, Dee, Joe and Dan were and are my mentors. There is a lot of them in me. I am so thankful!
Paul said, “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved” (2 Cor. 12:15). Yes, these older men did spend their lives and they did love us. They did it gladly and would do it all over again. Will we forget them and love them less?
by Rickie Jenkins