(Taken from American Preachers of To-Day by Edgar DeWitt Jones, 1933)
Truett’s printed sermons have a wide sale, especially through the South. In the homes of many humble believers will be found Truett’s books, and in the library of ministers who preach for the so-called fashionable churches, the sermons of this renowned Baptist preacher are often found. Preachers who pay a great deal of attention to sermon-making are eager to learn the secret of Dr. Truett’s power. The published sermons of Dallas’ premier preacher are not nearly so literary as those of Joseph Fort Newton or Frederick Shannon, nor have they the clever modernness and arresting human touch of Burris Jenkins, but great sermons they are, in all verity.
It is rewarding to leaf through Dr. Truett’s most recent volume, Follow Thou Me, running through the pages rapidly, stopping now and then to read a paragraph, or muse over an illustration. Those sermons were taken down in shorthand by a court reporter and are, for the larger part, a series preached in brief revival services at the Immanuel Baptist Church, Nasville, Tennessee. Some are college chapel talks, and there is one address to a group of Nashville preachers. The titles are not especially stricking, some of them are commonplace yet they deal with the mighty verities of the faith.
Especially enjoyable is Dr. Truett’s informal address to the preachers of Nashville, following a noon-day luncheon–the closing chapter. It is delightfully done and exalts the minister’s calling from beginning to end. That Dr. Truett can make wise of an occasional amusing incident is evidenced by this fragment in hsi talk to the parsons.
"The story is widely told of a preacher who spend nearly all of his time in going from one business house to another in his town, writing promiscuous letters, where ever he pasued, and then hurrying to the depot to mail them when he heard the sound of the coming train. One day, this same preacher declaimed loudly against the indifference of his people, vehemently asked them: 'What more can I do, in this town, than I am doing?' To which question, one of the men present made the brunt reply: 'Nothing more, unless you meet all the freight trains too!' The preacher is never to be a trifler for one hour with his incomparable task. He is to be the most indefatigable toiler in his community. It is said that Whitefield preached eighteen thosuand times ere he reached the age of fifty-six. Certainly the preacher is one man who should be utterly unwilling to eat the bread of idleness."
. . .
It was not possible for me to have a personal visit with Dr. Truett, but I wrote him requesting that he tell me something about his methods of sermon-making and pastoral visitation. His reply is so characteristic I am moved to include it just as he wrote it. if it be true that letters are an index to the soul of the letter-writer, and I think it is, here is a portrait of one of the most famous preachers of our day. It should be noted too that this letter was not typed, but written in longhand, as is the case with most of Dr. Truett’s correspondence.
“Your letter of the 29th ult. Came recently to hand and has been carefully noted.
“Replying, I beg to say, first of all, that I am deeply touched by your kindly thought of me in connection with the chapter in your forthcoming book on preachers. Poignantly conscious as I am of my unworthiness of any such recognition at your hands, yet, your suggestion intensifies my desire and purpose, God helping me, to strive still more earnestly, through the days ahead, to be a faithful and helpful witness for Christ to our needy world.
“Briefly answering your questions, I will say: as to Sermon Preparation. Texts and material for sermons are unceasingly suggested to me in manifold ways. These sermonic suggestions come supremely from Bible reading, and also from personal contact with the people with their manifold questions, needs and experiences. A note-book is ever with me, in which are jotted down beckoning texts, with seed-thoughts thereon, to be amplified, sooner or later, as these thoughts live and grow and unfold.
“As to Pastoral Visiting: in a large down-town church of several thousand members as in the case of our church here, the pastor’s visiting must be largely limited to cases of actual and urgent need, very much like the visitation of the physician. Very much of a pastor’s wisest and best help is given in personal counsel with the people, in his study at home, or in his office in the church building, or in both, as is the case with our work here.
“The pastor must hold himself in readiness to visit the people, wherever and whenever they need him. Exceptional cases of need call for extra pastoral consideration.
“In our work here, our Church Visitor, whose time is given wholly to visiting the people, is of unceasing and untold help in aiding both pastor and people in the matter of pastoral visitation and personal conferences. Indeed, all our paid church workers, together with our many unpaid and voluntary officers and teachers in our various church organizations, give much time to personal visiting, and in enlisting others to visit.
“Let me add that my work seems of such humble consequence, whether, as preacher or pastor, that acute embarrassment is given me, when I am asked any questions concerning it.”
If Dr. Truett has any weakness, foibles or faults, they are certainly not known to his congregation to his fellow-ministers. Nor has he any critics worth noting, if we except an extreme individualistic fighting fundamentalist parson in the Lone Star State, who has publicly attacked Truett for his “modernism,” of all things. I questioned Dr. Dawson as to any possible weakness of this preacher-celebrity.
“None,” he replied, “unless it is his love for apples. He munches apples most of the time.” Which is delightful and reassuring.
This title “Pastor” as applied to George W. Truett and used quite generally among his own people has puzzled me. For it is as a preacher that he is preeminently known. He is preaching all the time, preaching in his home church, preaching in conventions, preaching in evangelistic meetings throughout the land, and yet they call him “Pastor.” Why? Resolved to make some investigation, I turned to Dr. J. M. Dawson, of the First Baptist Church, Waco, Texas, from which Dr. Truett was called to Dallas. Dawson and Truett are warm friends. They cross each other’s paths frequently. They are intimates. Said Dawson:
“Dr. Truett has the shepherd heart. He is naturally a pastor. By the very nature of things he can not to-day do much house-to-house visitation, but he manages to keep in contact in one way or other with his large membership. He has never lost the individual in the mass. He writes in his own hand a volume of letters annually—to every home in his congregation where there has been a bereavement, a birth, a son or daughter graduating from school or college. He especially loves to write a happy little note of congratulation to a wife whose husband has come into the church, or vice versa. No honor ever comes to one of his members but Dr. Truett calls up by telephone, or writes a letter of congratulation. No adversity overtakes any one of his flock without a friendly and comforting letter from the pastor. But of all the letters Dr. Truett writes he has never written one that he wouldn’t face all the world with on the judgment day. Nothing could induce him to write a letter that would be a sword in a wound, or a sword in the hand of an enemy.”
A venerable Texan who has been a member of the First Baptist Church, Dallas, during Dr. Truett’s entire ministry loves to reminisce after this manner:
“It was a few years after he became our pastor in Dallas, thirty-five years ago on a Saturday, one of the bleakest of wintry days, that a call came for him to hold a funeral in the country fifteen miles out. ‘You must not go, my dear,’ his wife began to remonstrate gently. ‘It is a hard all-day trip in the buggy, and you know how much is dependent upon you to-morrow.’ ‘I understand,’ he demurred, ‘but I must go. I was entertained in that home when I held the country meeting; they are my friends, and they need me.’ She protested more vigorously, but to no avail. Over her entreaties he started, and to protect him, I went along with him. I saw him comfort that stricken family where the little wife and mother had died; I heard his words of consolation and courage in the church and by the cemetery; I watched him as he put his arm around the broken-hearted husband while they lowered the coffin of the little woman into the grave that was as big as a cavern; I heard his benediction and tender farewell words as he took leave of the loved ones—I tell you George Truett was the greatest man that day I ever saw!”
“Pastor” Truett then is not a minomer. He deserves this eloquent title, more eloquent, I hold, than “preacher,” “clergyman,” “dominie,” “rector,” “chaplain,” or “minister.” Curious is it not, and praiseworthy altogether that a man known throughout America as a preacher of unusual gifts, should be known best in his home city as a shepherd of souls, a friend of suffering human beings? And the explanation is at hand—the man, the man is greater than any sermon he ever preached. Truett is like that!
2ProphetU is an online magazine/website, started by Warren Wiersbe and Michael Catt, to build up the church, seek revival, and encourage pastors.