Warren Wiersbe, born in 1929 and still with us here in the land of the living, is quite likely the most prolific living Christian author, with more than 150 titles to his credit. From his famous “Be” series of commentaries on the entire NT and most of the OT, to various practical and expositional books, he has shared the wisdom and knowledge he has accumulated in many decades of ministry. I consider some of his works—Walking with the Giants, Listening to the Giants, Why Us? When Bad Things Happen to God’s People, and Confident Pastoral Leadership, to name those than come immediately to mind—among the most valued books in my library.
Wiersbe was born and grew up in East Chicago, Indiana, and received all of his formal education there and in nearby Chicago, where a significant portion of his ministry was also conducted.
Wiersbe pastored three churches—Calvary Baptist Church in East Chicago, Indiana (1951-57)—followed by four years on the staff of Youth For Christ (1957-1961)—Calvary Baptist Church, Covington, Kentucky (1961-1971); and Moody Church, Chicago (1971-1978). After four years in conference work and writing, he became the Bible teacher and later General Director of Back to the Bible in Lincoln, Nebraska (1981-1991) remaining in Lincoln after his departure from that ministry.
Wiersbe has been a great reader of books even from his early youth. His library numbers more than 10,000 volumes, from which he has over the years studied and prepared thousands of messages, and written many thousands of pages.
A self-styled fundamentalist in doctrine (and nothing in his voluminous writings would suggest otherwise, Wiersbe distances himself somewhat from the more rigid and harsh fundamentalists who are quick in their denunciation of anyone and everyone who does not see things exactly as they do. And a Baptist by conviction, he nevertheless recognizes that God has and does greatly use other doctrinally conservative believers of other denominational persuasions.
Wiersbe, 65 at the time he wrote his autobiography, gives some account of his life and ministry, spiced with a great deal of humor and wit. In an appendix, he gives an annotated listing of his published works (as of 1994—others have followed in the subsequent decades).
Having a knowledge of an author’s life and background helps me to better evaluate and appreciate his writings. Wiersbe’s self-account is informative and entertaining.
Quotes from Be Myself
Quoting Russell Baker—“The biographer’s problem is that he never knows enough. The autobiographer’s problem is that he knows too much.” (p. 12)
“Some Scandinavian wit called lutefisk, ‘The piece of cod that passes all understanding.’ “ (p. 18)
“There was a great deal of musical talent in our little church, although some people who didn’t have any talent sang special numbers.” (p. 18)
“Fortunate are those people whose love for books and reading started early in life and was cultivated by people who could encourage them in the right direction.” (p. 28)
“At last count, I had six different editions of [Roget‘s Thesaurus] in my library, along with more than fifty different dictionaries of one kind or another. Yes, I confess it: I’m a word addict.” (p.30)
Advice from one of his grade school teachers—“I want you to promise me that you’ll always do two things: do a lot of reading—all kinds of reading, and do a lot of writing. You’ve got a gift for writing, and I want you to use it.” (p. 41)
“I told a friend of mine at seminary that an interim pastor was a man who candidates at the same church every Sunday but never gets a call.” (p. 85)
“When pastors share with me their concern about staying or moving, I remind them that God’s servants don’t leave a place; they go to a place.” (p. 111)
“I confess that [while with Youth for Christ], I also did some ‘ghostwriting’ for some of the men whose schedules were full or whose idea account had gone temporarily bankrupt. The magazine had deadlines to meet and we couldn’t wait for late copy. I’ve never investigated the ethics of ghostwriting, but I’m amazed to see how much of it is done in the evangelical publishing world. More than one well-known preacher or ministry leader depends of ghostwriters to produce the books and magazine articles that bear their names, and some of them even have ‘ghost preachers’ to supply them with sermons.” (pp. 150-1)
“More than once, I’ve been asked how many research assistants I’ve had to help me write sermons, radio messages, books, and articles, and when I say ‘none,’ people don’t believe me. I’ve discovered that if I maintain my walk with the Lord, read widely, build a file of ideas, stay in contact with people, keep my eyes and ears open, and budget my time wisely, the Lord helps me write what I have to write when I need it. Nothing I’ve written will win a Pulitzer Prize, but at least what I’ve written has met somebody’s need somewhere, and at least I’ve met my deadlines.” (p. 151)
“When I was an adjunct instructor in the homiletics department of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, one term I taught a course on the history of preaching. There were perhaps twelve to fifteen people in the class, all of them keen students, but I was amazed to discover that they’d never heard of Harry Ironside or Paul Rader! Even some of the ‘greats’ like Robert Murray McCheyne and George W. Truett were strangers to them.” (p. 242)
“Someone has described an itinerant preacher as a man who is free to choose whatever city he wants to starve in.” (p. 260)
“Instead of reading the books of the hour, I am concentrating on the books of the ages and learning a lot more.” (p. 276)
“The mind grows by what it takes in; the heart grows by what it gives out.” (p. 277)
“I don’t think the average church member realizes the extent of the theological erosion that’s taken place on the American evangelical scene since World War II, but the changes I’ve witnessed in Christian radio broadcasting and publishing make it very real to me. Radio programs that once majored in practical Bible teaching are now given over to man-centered interviews (’talk” radio is a popular thing) and man-centered music that sounds so much like what the world presents, you wonder if your radio is tuned to a Christian station. Some so-called ‘Christian music’ is just plain silly. God’s people are getting their ‘theology’ from popular religious music instead of from the Bible and the hymnal. In so much of today’s ministry, ‘feeling good’ has replaced being good, and ‘happiness’ has replaced holiness.” (p. 301)
“We rejoice that some of the stalwart publishers are still bringing out books with solid Christian theological content, but the proliferation of superficial ‘me-centered’ books is very disturbing. If anybody’s a friend to Christian publishing and to the Christian bookseller, I am; and I’ve proved it many times. But I become grieved when I see all the ‘Jesus junk’ that’s being peddled, the ‘Christian celebrities’ that are being endorsed, and the books without theological substance that are being advertised… . The real problem is that too many Christians have an appetite for this kind of rubbish and don’t realize that they’re living on substitutes. As long as the church provides a market for that kind of product, somebody will make them available.” (p. 302)
“The sportswriter Red Smith once said, ‘There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and open a vein.’” (p. 311)
“[After gall bladder removal surgery] I was telling the people who phoned that I was now an Israelite in whom there was no bile.” (p. 313)
“I usually buy myself a stack of books for Christmas!” (p. 313) [I’d do the same—if I had the courage!—DKK.]
“I have in my file a thick folder of literature written to warn people about me and my ministry.” (p. 320)
“Without apology, I affirm that I’m a doctrinal fundamentalist; I believe and preach the historic Christian faith. To the best of my knowledge, I have never knowingly cooperated in ministry with anybody who denied any of the fundamentals of the faith.” (p. 321)
Quoting British Baptist pastor F. B. Meyer: “I do hope my Father will let the river of my life go flowing fully till the finish. I don’t want it to end in a swamp.” (p. 323)
Quoting Thomas a Kempis: “Of a surety, at the Day of Judgment, it will be demanded of us, not what we have read, but what we have done; not how well we have spoken, but how holily we have lived.” (p. 324)
“Richard Benchley said it took him fifteen years to discover he wasn’t a writer, but his books were so popular, he had to keep writing.” (p. 325)
Doug Kutilek is the editor of www.kjvonly.org, which opposes KJVOism. He has been researching and writing in the area of Bible texts and versions for more than 35 years. He has a BA in Bible from Baptist Bible College (Springfield, MO), an MA in Hebrew Bible from Hebrew Union College and a ThM in Bible exposition from Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). His writings have appeared in numerous publications.