Jerry Vines last night was a man among boys at the 2009 FBC Jax Pastor's Conference. The man has not lost a single step, he is still as sharp as ever in his delivery of an expository bible sermon. As a man, as a preacher, as an expositor, he is so far above the other speakers at the conference it is mind boggling.
It was a sad sight in some ways, to see Dr. Jerry Vines at a conference he himself established, preaching in front of such a relatively small crowd. Just three years after the apex of the conference in 2006 when there were thousands and thousands of pastors and the building was so full, last night the auditorium was perhaps 1/2 full, maybe a little more. Even the people of FBC Jax couldn't turn out to pack it out along with the few pastors present. How sad. But its a new day, and maybe the old man and his bible sermons aren't what is wanted these days. Maybe people, even at FBC Jax, now want fluff, history, anger - not a loving, happy, but hard-hitting bible sermon full of bible truth.
It was nice that Mac made an attempt to show great respect for Vines...but how revealing is it that Mac's trusted church marketing advisor, Maurilio Amorim, the man who has had to come along with Mac to consult with Mac on how to develop strategies to grow the church, to do "Kingdom planning", didn't even stay to hear Jerry Vines. Maurilio was there for the previous speaker, J.D. Greer, but then Maurilio bolted. In the middle of the sermon here's Maurilio's twitter that came forth over the Internet:
"Enjoying a beautiful piece of parmesan crusted snapper at the Chart House with @moverstreet"
How absolutely disgusting. Maurilio, flown down here by Mac, put up at the Omni, wouldn't even bother to stay in the building, out of respect for his client Mac Brunson if for nothing else, to hear the prince of SBC preachers deliver a sermon. Maurilio couldn't bear to sit down with a bible in his lap, and sit under the preaching of the man whose faithfulness helped build the church that is now paying Maurilio huge consulting fees. Maurilio couldn't find time to hear the man preach who himself established the very conference that Maurilio now has helped transform into a marketing bonanza. Is that not amazing? Is that not disgusting? And Maurilio's twitter during the sermon was to say "I ain't there, and I hope you know I ain't there." The people of FBC Jax are probably paying for Maurilio's Chart House dinner while Vines preaches. But what does Vines have to teach the great Maurilio - Vines is just a country bumpkin, like the rest of the FBC Jax members, to Maurilio. Probably a good thing Maurilio was not there, as his toes would have been stepped on so hard by Vines he wouldn't have been able to make his 6 mile run in the morning along the St. Johns River with his Twittering friends.
The content of his sermon, out of the book of Hebrews was excellent - I'll let you listen to it yourself...but even more than the sermon itself, it was as though Vines' sermon was saying:
[Note: the words below are NOT those of Jerry Vines, not even a close paraphrase. Watchdog is giving his own "message within a message" - a message that was unspoken by the action of Vines to stand and deliver a bible sermon as he did at Pastor's Conference 2009]
"Stand back fellers....let this 70-something year old preacher show you young whipper-snappers who think they know better...let me show you how its done. You guys who think you know how to use marketing techniques in building a church, who think the answer is advertising and promotions....I'm going to show you what Homer Lindsay, Jr. and I did three times every week for 40 years that built FBC Jax. You see, when I came here to FBC Jax in 1983, I didn't bring a marketing consultant with me. I came here with a bible in my hand and got busy PREACHING THE WORD. "
"Watch me boys, as I show you how to stand in the pulpit, open the Bible, deliver a powerful, passionate, loving, yet convicting, verse-by-verse, expository sermon. I'm not going to give a history lesson. I'm not going to use the pulpit to attack my critics who have been after me lately on the Calvinism debate, I'm a bigger man than that to attack people, pastors' wives, or female seminary professors from behind the sacred desk. Watch me, as I stand up and don't back down on one of the moral issues about which I am most passionate - that is the use of alcohol. I hate alcohol not because it makes me popular or because my contemporaries will cheer me for it, or because it will build my brand or get me a conference gig. I hate it for what it does to people I love and pastor, so I will do what my predecessor has not done in three years - I will give a clear, biblically valid, passionate, heart-felt defense for total abstinence. I will also lovingly tackle the issue of church music - explaining that the PASTOR is responsible for making sure music is theologically correct. I'll also tackle the issue of crudity and rudeness in the pulpit - since so many of the SBC preachers these days think they can act like bullies in their speech. Watch how I stand on my convictions, but do it in a way that is NOT angry. It can be done, fellers. I did it for 23 years here at this church - how quickly you forget!"
"Watch how I react when I say a good point and get only a smattering of applause. I won't step back and 'amen' myself and reprimand my audience...I'll just say that I'm not looking for applause, and I'll make light of it and say a joke but still get my point across. Psst...Mac, I won't even take my glasses off and stare you down."
"Watch me as I will preach the text, but give a little bit of Greek explanation and verb tense when it helps to make my points; but I won't use it to try to impress you with my knowledge of Greek. I'll give a few historical contexts, but only so far as it helps me to make the scripture relevant to my listeners - not to wow you with how much 18th and 19th century history I've read this past year. I will make reference to other helpful scriptures, but I won't hop and skip and lose my audience in my quest to show them how I can handle the scripture."
"I will even at the end show you guys how to do a real altar call, inviting people in a clear, loving way to invite Jesus into their hearts. "
"That's how its done. I did it for 23 years here. Homer did it for 30 years or so. It was what I JUST DID, preach the Word with love, power, and conviction, that will grow a church. Do what I just did week after week after week, and you won't need a church marketing consultant to tell you how to reach people in a city they haven't spent 5 days in."
I'll close with this: last November the Watchdog wrote an article on "heart" and "annointed" preaching - the two essential characteristics of preaching that Vines discussed in his books on preaching. The contrast between Vines sermon tonight and what we have had at FBC Jax for three years is exactly what that article was all about.
God bless you, Jerry Vines. Thank you for your faithfullness to preach the Word all these years, and to still be doing it and doing it well as an example for those who are coming behind you.