John Goetsch, James Stalker, and Homiletical Heart Issues

In chapter one of John Goetsch’s [1] book, Homiletics from the Heart, he wrote,

In a dingy, dirty, six-dollar-a-night motel room in downtown Los Angeles in 1976, I made a commitment to the ministry. My revival meeting for that week had been canceled. I had nowhere to go for six days and after paying for my motel room for the week, I had just two dollars in my pocket. I had no gas in my car, no friends to call on, and the television in my room got only “snow.” But it was there, alone with God in fasting and prayer, that I made a commitment to Him to preach regardless of the cost. That week may have been the best “meeting” I ever held in all the years of evangelism, for it produced a decision in my own heart of commitment to God’s call (11).

Eleven years later, up in the high country of Red Cliff Bible Camp near Pinedale, Wyoming, God used Goetsch’s preaching to burden an introverted, 17-year-old Idaho boy about being a preacher of the Word. I have been preaching since.

John breaks down his book, Homiletics from the Heart (Lancaster: Revival Books, 2003), as follows:

Chapter One – Called to Preach
Chapter Two – Choosing the Scripture
Chapter Three – Collecting the Facts
Chapter Four – Constructing the Introduction
Chapter Five – Creating an Outline
Chapter Six – Challenging Through Illustrations
Chapter Seven – Convicting Conclusions
Chapter Eight – Compassionate Delivery
Chapter Nine – Conducting the Invitation
Chapter Ten – Character of Preachers
Chapter Eleven – Controlled by the Holy Spirit
Conclusion
Appendix I – The Putting Off – Putting On Principle
Appendix II – How to Memorize Scripture

With this brief outline to John’s book, here are moving excerpts John places in his book “from an ordination charge given by Dr. James Stalker. It was delivered at the ordination service in Gallatown, Kirkcaldy, in 1879 for the Rev. William Agnew.” For the preacher, Stalker addresses heart issues.

Perhaps there is no profession which so thoroughly as ours tests and reveals what is in a man—the stature of his manhood, the mass and quality of his character, the poverty or richness of his mind, the coldness or warmth of his spirituality. These all come out in our work, and become known to our congregation and the community in which we labour.

It seems to me to lie at the very root of a right ministerial life to be possessed with this idea—to get quit of everything like pretence and untruthfulness, to wish for no success to which one is not entitled, and to look upon elevation into any position for which one is unfit as a pure calamity.

The man’s self—the very thing he is, standing with his bare feet on the bare earth—this is the great concern. This is the self to which you are to take heed—what you really are, what you are growing into, what you may yet become.

All our work is determined by this—the spirit and power of our preaching, the quality of the influence we exert, and the tenor of our walk and conversation. We can no more rise above ourselves than water can rise above its own level … What is in us must come out, and nothing else. All we say and do is merely the expression of what we are.

Evidently, therefore, there can be nothing so important as carefully to watch over our inner life, and see that it be large, sweet and spiritual, and that it be growing.

Yet the temptations to neglect and overlook this and turn our attention in other directions are terribly strong. The ministerial life is a very outside life; it is lived in the glare of publicity; it is always pouring out. We are continually preaching, addressing meetings, giving private counsel, attending public gatherings, going from home, frequenting church courts, receiving visits, and occupied with details of every kind. We live in a time when all men are busy, and ministers are the busiest of men. From Monday morning till Sunday night the bustle goes on continually.

This is what we have to fight against. The people we live among and the hundreds of details of our calling will steal away our inner life altogether, if they can. And then, what is our outer life worth? It is worth nothing. If the inner life gets thin and shallow, the outer life must become a perfunctory discharge of duties. Our preaching will be empty, and our conversation and intercourse unspiritual.

We must find time for reading, study, meditation and prayer. We should at least insist on having a large forenoon, up, say, to two o’clock every day, clear of interruptions. These hours of quietness are our real life! It is these that make the ministerial life a grand life. When we are shut in alone, and, the spirit having been silenced and collected by prayer, the mind gets slowly down into the heart of a text, like a bee in a flower, it is like heaven upon earth; it is as if the soul were bathing itself in morning dews; the dust and fret are washed off, and the noises recede into the distance; peace comes; we move aloft in another world—the world of ideas and realities; the mind mounts joyfully from one height to another; it sees the common world far beneath, yet clearly, in its true meaning and size and relations to other worlds. And then comes down on Sabbath, to speak to the people, calm, strong, and clear, like Moses from the mount, and with a true Divine message.

Lose your inner life, and you lose yourself, sure enough; for that is yourself. We take it for granted that you are a regenerated man, or we would not have ordained you to be a minister of the Gospel today. But it is possible for a man to be regenerate and to be a minister, and yet to remain worldly, shallow, undeveloped and unsanctified. We who are your brethren in the ministry could tell sad histories in illustration of this out of our own inner life. We could tell you how, in keeping the vineyard of others, we have often neglected our own; and how now, at the end of years of ministerial activity and incessant toil, we turn round and look with dismay at our shallow characters, our un-enriched minds, and our lack of spirituality and Christ-likeness. O brother! Take heed to thyself! (Reprinted by permission from James Stalker’s book, The Preacher and his Models. New York, New York. Hodder and Stoughton Publishing. 1891.)

In our day, as we struggle with shallow life and ministry, I greatly appreciate what John wrote on page 25. “Never apologize for time spent in studying the Scriptures.” Amen.

1. Dr. John Goetsch was born and raised on a dairy farm near Watertown, Wisconsin. He graduated from Maranatha Baptist Bible College in 1974 and entered full-time evangelism. For the next 21 years, he conducted nearly 1,000 revival meetings in churches, schools, and youth camps all across the United States and in several foreign countries. On July 1, 1996, he joined the full-time leadership team at Lancaster Baptist Church in Lancaster, California. He is currently the Executive Vice President of West Coast Baptist College, where he is involved in training young people for full-time ministry.

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Todd Wood is pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He received his B.A. in Missions, M.A. in Theology, and M.Div. from Bob Jones University. But more than anything he hungers for the A.I.G. degree affixed to Apelles (Rom. 16:10). A board member of Red Cliff Bible Camp, he greatly anticipates sitting at the feet of John Goetsch for the preaching of the Word at Red Cliff Family Camp July 5-8. Also, Todd and his family will be heading to Lancaster, California, July 9-13, where 30 years ago in a nearby dingy motel room in Los Angeles Goetsch committed his life to herald God’s truth.

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