“Who have been the five most influential preachers in your life?” A fascinating question that I have never been asked before. I was speaking to a group of young pastors in Cape Town as part of a training day and the question intrigued me.
I have been privileged to hear many great preachers. Recently saved from a completely non-Christian background, the first preacher I ever heard was John Stott at All Souls, Langham Place in London. Not a bad place to start! Others have included John Piper, D A Carson, David Pawson, Ern Baxter, Bob Mumford, Charles Simpson, Dave Wilkerson, Billy Graham, Stephen Olford, Alan Redpath, Campbell McAlpine, Dr Kriengsak, Os Guinness, Mark Driscoll and of course others that I have downloaded.
But the question wasn’t those I’ve heard, but those who have influenced me.
The first preacher who influenced me greatly was the first (and only) man I have ever called ‘pastor’, namely Ernest Rudman, affectionately known as ‘EGR’, the pastor of Holland Road Baptist Church in Hove.
He taught me that the Bible is completely authoritative and penetratingly relevant to life. A great student not only of scripture, but of human nature, he spoke powerfully to the heart with piercing application but with Godly gentleness. I never felt bullied by his preaching but regularly I knew I was meeting with God as I listened to him. He loved to follow series and tell stories, often of Bible characters, which made you not only appreciate the moment, but also eagerly anticipate next week’s instalment. This greatly influenced my approach to Bible week preaching many years later.
He was also a remarkable man of prayer, a strong Sabbatarian who felt that his Sabbath (Sunday in reality) started (in Jewish fashion) the evening before. This gave weight to the church having its weekly prayer meeting on Saturday evenings where, from his point of view, the true impact was made in preparation for Sunday’s two services.
Sunday baptisms were frequent and the battle for conversions was fought in prayer on Saturday evening. I don’t remember ever attending a baptismal service where there was no response to his gospel invitation. Every year he also hosted a remarkable ‘missionary week’ attracting many hundreds, and sowed the seeds of a passion for world mission in my heart.
Though later in life he challenged me that I’d ‘changed everything’ in the way we did church, I learnt so much from this man and owe him a massive debt. I dedicated my first book ‘Restoration in the church’ to him with huge affection and respect.
To be continued….