I was preaching on Youth Sunday. I was fourteen, maybe fifteen.
As I sat down, no one could have told me that I did not just preach a great sermon. My father stood up and did just that.
He was supposed to be giving pastoral remarks. He started talking about me, instead. Literally, he was talking about himself. But he was still talking about me.
“Pray for me, church,” he said. “I have a long way to go with my son.”
“He’s not going to go far,” Dad continued, “until he recognizes that there are many other preachers that can beat him being Jasper Williams, Donald Parsons, and Caesar Clark.”
“But no one can beat him being H.B. Charles, Jr.”
I heard what he said. But I wasn’t listening.
I started listing, however, not too long after my father’s death.
I had been invited to preach a local district association meeting. It was a great honor for such a young preacher.
As I was preaching, an older pastor sitting on the platform responded, “Say it, Jasper!”
I thought I was hearing things, at first. I had to be. But then he said it again. “Say it, Jasper.” A few minutes later. “Preach, Jasper!”
This was so wrong. Even worse, he was so right.
I was doing my best Jasper Williams impersonation. And I was doing it to the tune of a Jasper Williams sermon I had stolen for the occasion.
Whoever was standing behind the pulpit that night, it wasn’t H.B. Charles, Jr. And it definitely wasn’t Jasper Williams. It was some strange pulpit chameleon that deserved to be mocked.
I started listening.
It is said that imitation is the best form of compliment. But this is not true in the pulpit.
If preaching is truth through personality, to proclaim the truth dressed up as some other personality is to not preach. It is pulpit identity theft.
Vance Havner used to say that when he began his ministry, he determined that he would be original or nothing. Havner said he ended up being both.
So it is with every preacher.
We are all influenced by other preachers. We are shaped by our teachers. We are reflections of our pulpit heroes.
It’s inevitable. But it should not be intentional.
God has called YOU. God has gifted YOU. God has prepared YOU. God has given YOU an assignment. God has given YOU a message to proclaim.
The Lord made you an original. Don’t settle for being a cheap copy of someone else.
Remember, no one can beat you being ___________________________________.