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LESSONS FROM DR. ROY BRANSON
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.,
A lesson given at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Hymn Sung Before the Sermon:
The Call of God
The Scripture says, “How shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Romans 10:15; p. 1204 Scofield). This does not mean that they are sent by a church. It means that they must be sent by God. Dr. Roy Branson said,
“If you are a preacher, you probably shouldn’t be.”
“Your church is probably pastored by a man who ought to be doing something else.”
“At least nine out of ten Bible-believing pastors ought to quit.”
“At least nine out of ten Bible-believing churches are pastored by men who have no right to pastor or preach!”
“At least nineteen out of twenty such churches have not the slightest idea of what to look for in a pastor.”
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How can Dr. Branson ask such questions? He has been a preacher for almost fifty years himself. When he writes about unbearable hurt, he shows by experience what he is talking about. He has suffered through a terrible church split, while pastoring one large church, and remained to pick up the pieces.
Dr. W. A. Criswell said of Dr. Branson’s book, Dear Preacher, Please Quit, “Mandatory reading for every minister.” Dr. John Rawlings said, “I commend Dr. Branson for his studious effort.” Dr. Lee Roberson said, “I certainly agree with [Dr. Branson’s] general emphasis.” Dr. David Otis Fuller said that his book is “Filled with common sense advice…Scripture is quoted profusely.”
The Bible says, “How shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Romans 10:15). Dr. Branson said that God “reveals His call in many different ways. But when He calls a man that man will know it and remember it.”
There was no electrifying call to me as a young man. I was thinking about what to do with my life. I was an actor. I had acted in many plays, but I knew that there was little hope of “making it” in the theater. I went forward at the altar call and told the pastor I was going to be a preacher. That was all. I would not receive a more spiritual “call” for many years until I had failed in everything, and God called me late one night when I was studying in a liberal seminary which I hated.
My “call” was not well received in my church. My first sermon was a disaster. I vowed never to preach again. But I just couldn’t keep that vow!
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was considered one of the greatest preachers of the twentieth century. Dr. Lloyd-Jones (and I quote him from memory) said that one of the ways to determine your “call” is to hear what other leaders in the church think about you. They will tell you whether or not you are sent by God, and whether or not you have the gift of preaching ability. Dr. Branson said, “[God] may reveal His call in many different ways.”
Dr. Branson quoted a medical doctor who said to a pastor, “I could never stand up under the load you carry…I wonder that more preachers don’t have breakdowns of various sorts.”
Dr. Branson said, “The preacher’s words fall on more deaf ears than receptive ones. His motives are more suspected, and wrongly attributed to him more often than anybody. If he is true to the Bible, no one is more hated by the world at large. No class of people in history has had to endure as much persecution, prejudice, abuse, ridicule, resistance, imprisonment as preachers. None have been so much the subject of malice, gossip, slander, false accusations, and hatred as preachers. In proportion to their numbers, none have contributed as many martyrs to any cause. Over fifty million Baptists were martyred prior to Martin Luther’s day. Always it was the pastors that were first imprisoned, tortured or killed. Pastor Constantine was stoned to death in 690 A.D., and his successor was burned at the stake. Pastor Gerhard was cruelly punished in England in the mid-1100s. The life of John Wycliffe was continually in jeopardy until his death in 1384. John Huss was burned at the stake in 1415. The great preacher Savonarola was tortured and murdered in 1498. John Bunyan was jailed in a dungeon for 12 years. His ‘crime’ was preaching the Gospel of Christ. His blind daughter had to beg and be beaten. Yet Bunyan said, ‘I must preach. I must do it.’
Roger Williams, John Clarke, and many other preachers were banished from Massachusetts in 1635. Pastor James Ireland was jailed in Virginia for preaching. While in jail his enemies tried to blow him up with gunpowder, then to smother him by burning sulphur under his jail window. Then they tried to have a doctor poison him.
In the last hundred years millions of preachers have been persecuted or jailed for preaching the Gospel. Wherever the Communists have come to power, Christian pastors have been the first targets for persecution and death. Pastor Richard Wurmbrand was scarred for life from fourteen years in a Communist prison.
Now in America, preachers are already experiencing governmental and public persecution. Pastor Everett Sileven spent 157 days in jail for teaching the Bible to children in his Sunday School. Pastor Lester Roloff was put in prison and lied about on the cover of a national magazine. His ‘crime’ was helping young people get off of drugs.”
I have been reading a book on the life of Dr. J. Gresham Machen. He was a professor at Princeton University. I broke down and cried when I read what the liberals did to this great scholar and man of God. In 1922 Harry Emerson Fosdick started to fight Dr. Machen by preaching a “sermon” he called, “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” Remember that Fosdick had Dr. John Sung committed to a mental institution for believing the Bible. Now he was after Dr. Machen. Fosdick attacked the inspiration of the Bible. He attacked the Virgin Birth of Christ. He attacked the Second Coming of Christ. He attacked faith itself – calling it narrow minded and worthless.
On the fifth page of his “sermon” Fosdick called the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, “Some minor matters of sectarian denominationalism.” At the end of his diatribe, Fosdick called for “the weightier matters of the law – open mindedness, tolerance and liberalism” (p. 5). Listen to what the “liberals” did to the greatest preachers of all time.
Chrysostom was exiled.
Luther was expelled.
Baxter was locked up in the Tower of London.
John and Charles Wesley were driven from the Anglican Church.
Whitefield was banished from every church in London.
Edwards was forced from his own church and fired.
Spurgeon was censured by the Baptist Union.
Machen was defrocked by the Presbyterian Church.
Were these men wrong? No! It was Harry Emerson Fosdick, and men like him, who are wrong!!! Please turn to John 15:19, 20 (p. 1137).
“If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also” (John 15:19, 20).
Now turn to John 16:2 (p. 1137).
“They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (John 16:2).
And then, too, the Bible says,
“All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Timothy 3:12; p. 1281).
Where can we get strength to continue to serve God?
God Gives Strength Through Progressive Steps
We studied that last week, that Joseph learned to trust God and have strength by a series of tests. That is true of anyone who wants to be an overcomer – particularly a preacher, but also everyone who wants to be an overcomer.
I have had many preachers and church members ask me how I could be so strong. Here is the answer:
Dr. Branson says, “God prepares us for greater tasks and troubles by exposing us, first, to lesser ones. Moses progressed from having Aaron speak to Pharaoh for him, to speaking himself, to leading the people out of Egypt, to facing the world’s most powerful army – unafraid.”
Dr. A. W. Tozer said, “There are few things which excite such pity as the sight of a vain little man puffing himself up to try to hide his smallness.” I remember seeing a little man put on a black cowboy hat that was so big that it made him look like a dwarf. I also remember my son seeing a big man walking down a street in cowboy boots with a Stetson cowboy hat on – trying to look like Goliath! Though his body was big, my son laughed at him!!! A little man trying to look big! A big man with a small soul, trying to hide his inward smallness!!
Both of these men called themselves “preachers.” But they were much too small inside to do very much for God! Cowboy boots and cowboy hats do not make a man big enough inside to do much for God!
What should a preacher do when God tells him to do something he knows may actually start trouble, and may even split his church? Well, he had better really pray and get God’s leading in the matter.
Here is one that happened to me. Without telling the whole story, I will just say that I slowly began to realize that in our church in the inner city of Los Angeles the majority of the people came from bad cultures. It was all they could do to be in church on Sundays. They had no idea how to have a truly Christian home, and they couldn’t remember, or actually do, what was taught by me from the pulpit. I don’t believe in giving up easily. So I continued to preach and lead the church. Yet every few years the unruly people from the inner city caused another church split – one after the other. I did not change anything for a long time, but the problems did not go away. Finally God drew my attention to two verses of Scripture:
(1) Matthew 7:6 (p. 1003).
“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” (Matthew 7:6).
(2) Luke 10:10-11 (p. 1088).
“But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come [near] unto you” (Luke 10:10-11).
I knew within myself that God wanted our church to have a missionary outreach on our website to help preachers in the Third World. But the culture of most people in our inner city church could never (because of their culture) be able to build a church that would be strong enough to do what I knew God wanted us to have.
I have never run away from trouble. Psalm 27 has been my personal Psalm for many years. The last two verses have kept me going through thick and thin. Turn to those two verses and stand as I read them – Psalm 27:13, 14 (p. 611).
“I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord” (Psalm 27:13, 14).
You may be seated. Thus I never make quick decisions. “Wait, I say, on the Lord” (27:14).
Over the weeks and months I struggled with Psalm 27:13-14 and the two verses in Matthew and Luke. Finally I began to teach our people that it was time to leave the inner city and start a church with people from a better culture, the Chinese and other Oriental people who lived in a suburb of Los Angeles. As I taught those things I knew it would split the church. I knew that most of our people would want to stay in the inner city. A church that was barely above a storefront church would fit their culture better. You can see for yourself what their culture was by watching the news on television, with the instability and rioting that goes on every night there. I knew that our church would have to go through a big split to do what God wanted us to do.
Bingo! As we got closer to moving the church the next split started. One deacon tried to get in a fist-fight with me in front of many of our people. Another deacon began to have “secret meetings” to recruit people for a church he wanted to keep in the inner city. A third deacon took pornographic pictures of himself and his wife and put them on the Internet. The lid blew off of the church and the inner city crowd rebelled in ways that would not be believed by a preacher in a better culture and environment. I remember the day when so many people left that my young “preacher boy” thought it was the end of the church – and left himself. But God gave me perfect peace because I knew ahead of time what would happen. And then the coronavirus hit! My son Robert sold our downtown building and Dr. Cagan found another church in the suburbs which we purchased.
The two men who wore cowboy hats to look big ran off with two-thirds of our people. We have to meet in houses, with the preaching on videos, because of the coronavirus.
It is a very unusual thing for a man like me, in the 80th year of life, to start a new church. I certainly could not do it if Dr. Cagan, my darling wife, and my sons were not with us. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13; p. 1261).
Please stand as I read Psalm 23 (p. 609).
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psalm 23:1-6).
Please sing our hymn again!
Am I a soldier of the cross, A follower of the Lamb;
And shall I fear to own His cause, Or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize, And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace, To help me on to God?
Sure I must fight, if I would reign; Increase my courage, Lord!
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, Supported by Thy Word.
(“Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).
If you are not yet saved, I want you to trust Jesus Christ. He came down from Heaven to die on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sins. The moment you trust Jesus, His Blood will cleanse you from all sin. I pray that you will trust Jesus.