As it was true yesterday it is true today. You are probably not going to know this next influence on me. He has also been one of the largest influences of my life because he also is one of my best friends.
When I became a Christian in college at 20 years old, someone took me to a local church a few days later, and it was at this church that I met my first real and favorite pastor, Richard Jones. I say he was my first real pastor because he was. I have known other pastors in my life, but have never willingly placed myself under their teaching. I say he is my favorite pastor because it was Richard who first taught me the Word of God as it is without any compromises. Since college Richard and I have remained close and in touch, and he even married my wife Holly and I. Because of this he has been and always will be very fond to my heart.
In fact, Richard does me a huge favor and help by listening to my sermon each week after I do it. I ask him to such a thing for 2 reasons: 1) I need someone outside my congregation to listen to my sermons to make sure I’m staying on track expositionally, Biblically, and theologically. 2) I need someone outside my congregation who knows me very well to make sure I’m not straying off into pride in my preaching. Richard does this for me, and each week I feel comfort knowing that he is listening to my sermon and that there are things put in place to protect me from myself. Very helpful.
When I think about his impact on me personally I become aware that I’ve received much from Richard. Sitting under his teaching I understood for the first time that God is sovereign, that He never says oops, that He never makes a mistake, or is caught by surprise in anything. He is absolutely sovereign. Richard taught us this going through the gospel of John my sophomore year of college and it proved foundational for my theology.
But it wasn’t only this aspect of God’s nature I learned under Richard’s teaching. I also learned that evangelism is one of the Christian’s most important disciplines in this life. I learned how to evangelize with Richard, did evangelism with Richard, and have traveled to Peru with him to preach on street corners and evangelize too.
One example stands out to me: This past Easter I was preparing my Easter sermon going through the text of Romans 6:5-11. I called my sermon “The Fruit of Resurrection.” After going through the passage I sent Richard a text and asked him this: “Any advice on Romans 6:5-11? Preaching on it this week for Easter, can you look over it for me?” What he said has stuck with me ever since:
“My advice is this. Believe this text. It is a great text, full of the sovereignty of God in salvation, and therefore full of confidence for us. Believe the text.”
I don’t know if I’ve heard better advice on preaching. “Believe the text” has always stuck with me, and now every time I prepare a sermon I know I’m ready to preach once the text has worked in my heart and not merely my brain. If the text has moved me, I am confident that in preaching this text, God will move through me to my hearers.
Eternally grateful for Richard, I am who I am because of his labor.