On November 5, 1990, I was selected to served as the third pastor of Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. My father, who had died a year and a half earlier, had served the church for more than 40 years. And after more than a year-long search, the congregation voted to extend a call to me to be its pastor, even though I was only a 17-year-old high school senior.
A month or so later, MSMBC hosted a special installation celebration to officially welcome me as its new pastor. The late Dr. E.V. Hill, who served the Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Los Angeles, preached the installation message. Dr. Hill was good friends with my dad. He also led the meeting to select MSMBC’s new pastor. And it just felt appropriate that he bring the message.
I doubt I will ever forget the message Dr. Hill preached that day.
As he often did, Dr. Hill gave his title before he gave his text. In his inimitable way, he declared, “I want to preach tonight from the subject, ‘What can that boy tell me?’ That’s the question I have been hearing around town from members of Mt. Sinai,” he said. “What can that boy tell me when my marriage is in trouble? What can that boy tell me when I am having trouble with my children?” One hour and more than five texts later, Dr. Hill proclaimed, “He can tell you whatever the word of God tells you to tell him!”
That message is a landmark for my life and ministry. It forged in me a confidence in the sufficiency of scripture, even though I had not yet heard that doctrinal term.
A year or two later, I attended a small Bible college in Anaheim. It was a new school that was struggling to get off the ground. But during my days there, I learned from several men of God and master teachers who continue to be a blessing to my life and ministry to this day. One of the men was Dr. James Borror, who presently serves as the president of Golden Minute Ministries. Dr. Borror was instrumental in teaching me the inductive Bible study method and the principles of expository preaching. These courses with Dr. Borror were literally life-changing for me.
I also took a course Dr. Borror touch called, “A Biblical Theology for Pastoral Counseling.” I still have the syllabus and my personal notes from that class, which are now close to twenty years old. I learned a lot in the class. But there was one thing that stuck out. Dr. Borror hammered home a principle that he said should always be remembered: Truth is truth, whether I experience it or not. That principle did not just serve as a helpful philosophy with which to approach pastoral counseling; it sealed my confidence in the sufficiency of scripture. I was settled that as a believer and a preacher and a pastor, I am never to teach others from my own experience on any subject. I am simply to say what the word of God says about that matter, whether I have experienced that reality or not.
For instance, I have never prayed for anything as hard as I prayed that God would heal my dad. God chose not to do that. But it does not change the fact that God is a healer. And I must faithfully proclaim God’s power to heal, even though I did not experience it when I desperately prayed for it. Or if the subject is marriage, I am not to try to guide others based on my relationship with Crystal. I am to guide others with the clear principles of God’s word, independent of what me and Crystal embrace in our marriage. Sure, I have a testimony that is worth sharing. But my testimony on any subject does not have the authority of the word of God. So in every situation, be it the public or private ministry of the word, I am to stand on the solid foundation of the word of God, not the shifting sands of personal opinion, experience, or philosophy.
It is common to hear people say these days, “If God says it, I believe it, and that settles it.” Indeed, I understand the spirit of that statement. But that equation has too many parts. The bottom-line is that what God says on a matter settles it. Period. Ultimately, it does not matter to God whether my faith validates his word or not. The power of the word of God is like the force of gravity. If you jump off a tall building, you don’t break the power of gravity. You break your neck!
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (ESV). And the corresponding mandate is stated in three words in 2 Timothy 4:2: “preach the word.” Because the Bible is the God-breathed truth, how dare we compromise its authority by proclaiming personal opinions, worldly philosophies, self-help theories, business principles, scientific theories, motivational fluff, or political speeches. We need men who will be men – men who will stand with a Bible and a manuscript with a biblical message, if its necessary, and preach the word! Pray that God will raise up in this land a army of faithful men who are stubbornly biblical and absolutely confident in the sufficiency of scripture to save the lost, nurture disciples, lead the church, provide counsel, and change the world. Pray that young preacher who has been pontificating in this article will never waver from E.V. Hill’s godly exhortation: “Tell them whatever the word of God tells you to tell them!”