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Superintendent Writes

Sunday, 12th September, 2004

I have just heard from Memphis, Tennessee, of the death of my friend Dr Stephen Olford, a champion of expository preaching. He died at the age of 86, after suffering a massive stroke. I had read many of his books during my student days and in the first twenty years of ministry. They influenced me greatly. In 1972, I visited him in his great New York Church where he had such a powerful ministry. We then met frequently over the years at international conferences where we were both speakers. Stephen Olford founded The Institute for Biblical Preaching in 1980 to promote biblical preaching and practical training for pastors, evangelists and lay leaders. He invited Dr John Stott of London and myself to join with him in regularly teaching the art of preaching. More than 2,000 pastors and Christian leaders have attended training sessions at this centre. I did not accept this task as I was busy enough at Wesley Mission, but I did accept his invitation to preach for him at his great church in Memphis.

That morning at both services, with 5000 present at each, I had two fully armed policemen in the pulpit with me, and many others in the congregation. I was not allowed to mingle with the congregation before or after the sermon, as a mentally deranged man had notified the church he was going to shoot me dead that morning because he knew the service was being nationally televised and he would get good coverage!

Stephen was born in Zambia as a son of missionaries. He was educated in England and wrote several books. He recently said, “The Apostle Paul held that the Word of God has an eternality, saying one and the same thing throughout eternity. We do not need to change our message because the so-called culture demands it.” How the church needs to heed that today! Stephen Olford was a great Christian leader and a preacher without peer. He powerfully illu-strated a simple truth: effective evangelism, church growth and discipleship is built upon the practice of expounding the Word of God. That is how I preach. All preachers could do well to learn from his example. With modern preachers there is often so little newsworthy about what we say. In gospel preaching, no news is bad news. It is almost as if we are disciples who have sagged under the weight of living with no good news to proclaim. Suddenly there we are at the door of the church, out of breath from our running, faces flush from what we have seen and heard at the empty tomb of Jesus, and the congregation looks at us with wonderment and expectation, their faces asking, ‘Is there any news?’ and we have nothing to say!


This is Gordon Moyes.

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