A TRIBUTE TO MY FATHER,
PASTOR RUDY H. GEHMAN
by Richard J. Gehman
On a hot summer’s day on
Late on the afternoon of 17th August the librarian
notified me that someone was on the phone, wanting to speak to me. When I
answered, I heard my mother’s voice speaking from
What a bomb shell. “My father is dead?” I asked in unbelief.
Yes, he had just fallen over and was gone to glory. Instantly, my studies were
dropped immediately and I returned immediately by airplane to
That last week my father was conducting
The night of the 17th was the closing exercises for
Suddenly, my mother heard a thump on the floor downstairs, so
she called down to my dad; but there was no answer. She went downstairs to see
what had happened. To her dismay, she found him lying on the floor dead. Shortly
thereafter my mother’s brother, Allen G. Woodring, retired pastor of the BFC,
and his wife, Hilda, arrived at our parsonage from their home in
I had always loved, admired and respected my dad who was my
great role model in childhood and youth. However, we soon moved on after his
death, finishing my education, getting married, and serving the Lord in
Now in retirement, forty-five years later, I wish to offer a tribute to my dad.
When reviewing the last sermons that my dad preached, I found a separate piece of paper, tucked between the sermons, with an “Epitaph” which he copied with his own hand writing, presumably to be used in his last sermon.
“Pause here my friend as you go by, As you are now so once was I. As I am now, you soon shall be, So prepare my friend to follow me.” A passerby added this: “To follow you I’ll not be content until I know which way you went.”
To know “which way” he went, this tribute will point to his life and ministry so that we might be prepared to follow him. To understand my father one must understand his roots, his life and ministry, his preaching and teaching and his character.
MY FATHER’S ROOTS
Family Background of my Dad
Who was my father? What was he like? To understand him better we must understand his parents and his childhood rearing. Because my grandfather Gehman died when I was eight years old and my grandmother Gehman died when I was twelve, I do not remember many things about them, since we visited them only once a year. But my older cousins, who had lived near my grandparents in earlier years, knew them very well. On several visits with them in 2006, they were able to share many memories they recalled. Much of the following is attributed to them.
My grandparents: My dad’s father,
Joseph (“Joe”) H. Gehman, also known in the family as “Pappy Gehman,” was born
Mammy Gehman was “very quiet” in the words of my cousins. She
did not talk much. In her old age she sat on a rocking chair in the front room
My grandfather as an entrepreneur: Pappy Gehman was preeminently a business man of the first order. He was a “go getter.” Whenever he tried something, it worked. He was engaged in many things; he was a business man who pushed ahead. Pappy was always on his heels. “Let’s go to the garden,” he said to his grandson. He scratched around in the hole where he had buried apples in the ground over the winter and had the apples ready to eat in the spring.
At first Pappy and Mammy Gehman lived on his father’s farm near
Later he moved to a farm near Bowmansville in
But Pappy had a vision and was an entrepreneur. He saved enough money to buy a large farm of 120 acres nearby with a farmhouse and a barn. When Lizzie, his first born, got married, Lizzie and Peter lived together with her parents in the farmhouse for one year, while Pappy Gehman built another house and barn nearby within sight and calling distance. When completed, the Gehman family moved to the new house where my dad lived for twelve years. Pappy then rented the old farmhouse and barn to his son-in-law, Peter Martin, for 15-20 years. After many years, when Pappy got older, he subdivided the farm into two and sold the two properties.
After selling the farm, he operated a shirt factory at Bowmansville from 1916-1921. There were 21 employees, including Pappy, a daughter and my dad. In 1921 Pappy Gehman moved to Adamstown for one year where he and my dad operated a feed mill.
Then in 1922 Pappy bought a red brick building with two stories
As Pappy began to age, he could not tolerate the dusty air in
the flour mill, so he moved to the second floor of the mill and built furniture
for sale. He took a great interest in different kinds of wood. He cut walnut
wood, stacked it to dry, and made furniture from it. Across the street from the
flour mill, he had a store to sell furniture and the picture frames he made. In
my office in
Wayne Gehman, his son, first managed the business. The other
two brothers, Monroe and my dad, also worked there. But one day
As my cousin said, “Pappy was no dumb head. He was not afraid
to grab hold of things. He watched carefully. He was a businessman who pushed
ahead.” He was also a keen observer. When Wayne, the manager of the flour mill,
suddenly passed away at the age of 39, his brother, Monroe, took over. Pappy
watched carefully. He said to Ervin, my cousin, “This thing won’t last very long
Pappy also had initiative. He dealt with problems. Mammy used to bake pies and set them on the window sill in the farm house in order to cool off; but then they began to disappear. So Pappy went to the barn below, called the workers together and warned them never to steal again. The pies never disappeared after that.
But he was also a friendly person. Everybody in
My grandfather as a Christian: Pappy
Gehman was a devout Mennonite Christian. At first he and his family were members
Some have observed that Mennonites often divided over legalistic questions of whether a Christian should wear shirts with collars and buttons, or whether they should use cars, radios or have Sunday School in church. Most people are prone to tradition and Mennonites are no exception. My cousin, Lester, remembers that when something new developed, such as a car, the radio or TV, they would ask, “What next?” “What else?”
In 1924 the Henry Unruh family moved to a farm near
Bowmansville. One Sunday he attended the
These New Mennonites laid aside many of the traditions or
customs of the Old Mennonites. Lizzie learned to play the piano and was the
first one to play the piano in the
Some years later when they moved to Denver, Pennsylvania, where
he developed the flour mill, Pappy and some of his adult children attended the
Trinity United Brethren Church founded in 1900 (now the United Methodist
Church). Pastor Brenamen was a very fundamental preacher and loved the people.
But the next pastor had a problem with adultery so the Gehmans decided to move
Following German Mennonite customs, they would bow their heads and quietly pray before the meals without anyone praying aloud. But unlike others, he read the Bible with his family and taught them while they were seated in a circle. When they prayed they would get on their knees to pray. My dad would recall that one of the songs Pappy liked to sing was, “Will the circle be unbroken when we meet in the sky?”
My cousins remember staying with Pappy. When they visited my
grandparents at Christmas time, they would have a service. They had an organ in
the house and they would sing hymns and read the Scripture. They would have
Scripture reading and prayer before going to church service. My cousin, Ervin,
observed that Pappy Gehman was “a quiet man except on religion. Then he had
strong convictions. He was not quiet about his religious faith.” Another cousin
remembers him standing in the
In many ways Pappy was a growing Christian, moving from the Old Mennonites to the New Mennonites, then to the United Brethren Church and finally to the Bible Church. Living faith was evident in their home.
My grandfather’s Christian legacy:
The faith born in the home of Pappy Gehman became evident in the life of
his children. They distinguished between tradition and true faith. When Lester,
my cousin, saw some women without a prayer head covering, he asked his mom, “Are
they Christians?” My Aunt Tillie turned around and firmly said, “Yes!” In the
home of my Aunt Tillie and Noah Martin, they bowed their heads in silent prayer
before the meal but never prayed aloud. This was the German Mennonite tradition.
Although Lester does not remember them reading the Bible or praying together in
family worship, he does remember his mother reading the Bible many times. When
Lester turned twelve years of age, his mother said it was time to join the
church. All Lester could think of was wearing plain clothes. He asked, “Does
that mean I must wear plain clothes?” She turned toward him and said firmly,
“No!” So he agreed to join the church. But he didn’t know the Bible; neither did
he know the Lord. He married at the age of 20 and soon thereafter began auditing
the evening classes of
In a remarkable way this Christian legacy of Pappy and Mammy
Gehman carried over to the next generation. All their children knew and served
the Lord. In this paper we shall not develop the Gehman legacy further except to
say that nearly fifteen of Pappy and Mammy Gehmans children, grandchildren and
great children became ordained ministers, career missionaries, or trained
Pappy spoke in Pennsylvania Dutch (Low German) most of the
time. As a boy he could speak in High German. One cousin remembers him singing
the following in German, “My brothers are already there in
The character of my grandfather: “Pappy Gehman was a quiet man. Mennonites were quiet people of the land.” Every year my father would take me and my mother to visit his one living brother and four living sisters. Aunt Lizzie, as long as I knew her, was an invalid who was either in bed or seated on a wheel chair with blankets wrapped around her legs. Her daughters, Anna, Ruth and Irene, cared for their mother ever so faithfully until Irene and Ruth were married. Anna remained unmarried and continued the dedicated care for her mother until her end. The home of Uncle Peter and Aunt Lizzie was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. When talking with Aunt Lizzie there would be moments of total silence before anything more was said. The same was true in the home of my Aunt Tillie. She was very quiet and markedly slow in all her mannerisms. Boisterous or loud talking was unheard. Quiet peace prevailed.
But the picture formed of Pappy Gehman in the mind of Anna Wivell is of a strong willed and decisive person. He was rather serious minded with no joking. His word was to be followed. On one occasion he said to his grandson, Ervin, who was ten years old, “You Ervin, follow me.” He took tobacco from a box and put it in his pocket. He said, “Don’t you ever start this.” Apparently, Pappy was addicted to the chewing of tobacco and believed it was wrong but could not stop.
On another occasion Pappy wanted one of his daughters, Hettie, to sing in church but she did not want to. Pappy was always forceful and with strong convictions. Hettie did sing in church.
He ruled the roost in the home; he was in control. Pappy would tell Mammy what to do. When they were in old age, Clayton Gehman, my cousin, visited them for a meal. Pappy got up for the meal but Mammy could not get around so well. So Pappy called her and told her to move faster.
Pappy did not believe in higher education. His last born, Katie, loved school and did well in elementary. So she determined as a child that she would grow up to be a teacher. To her dismay, when someone in the shirt factory had to leave, Pappy Gehman pulled her out of school and asked her to work in the factory. Several times she wanted to return to high school but that never came to pass. She then decided to go to Moody Bible Institute, but Pappy did not want her to go. He did not believe in higher education. Eventually, she was able to take correspondence courses from Moody.
But Pappy was also a kind man. Jacob (Jack) Weber worked for his uncle, Pappy Gehman, during one summer. He was ten or twelve years old at the time. In return for his work that summer he received one silver dollar. “I have nothing but good to say about Joe,” he commented. “He was a man of few words. He was a quiet man, not very outgoing. But he was kind and never lost his temper.” Pappy Gehman would hold his grandchildren in his lap and try to teach them German. He had white and pink mints and would give these to his grandchildren whenever they came. On occasions Pappy would get up and offer pieces of candy to his grandchildren. He would give it, and then pull it back in order to tease them. Other cousins remember the same thing; Pappy always had candy.
On one occasion, his own little eleven year old granddaughter (Anna Martin) got her hand in a meat grinder and lost three fingers. When she ran into the house she did not cry, but Pappy did. They wrapped the hand in a handkerchief and went to the hospital. He drove so fast that the speedometer never worked after that.
Later on he took Anna Mary Eckenrode into their home and cared for her. She was a ten or twelve year old girl from a broken home and he took her under his wings and provided a place of love and refuge for her. He cared for her many years. When the biological mother eventually wanted her back after many years later, he took the matter to court. Someone said, “He will win because he has the money.” He was well set financially.
Pappy was an honest man. Jack Weber, who is now 101 years old and knew Pappy Gehman as a boy, said, “He was as honest as one could be.” Another cousin remembers when he was eighteen years old and needed some money. He went to borrow money from Pappy to set up business in the Reading Farmers Market. After Pappy withdrew the money from the bank and gave it to Charles, Pappy said, “Now I want to say this! You must always remember that sixteen ounces is a pound, not fifteen ounces. Always remember that pennies make the dollars.” This became a help for him to get into the meat business.
Other memories include the time a grandson, by the name of
The area in which Pappy Gehman lived and worked was in a small
circumference of the northeastern part of
Different traits: The different
personalities and appearances of the parents were reflected in the children.
Emma (Gehman) Martin was like her father, a little emotional and quick. She was
“fiery.” Instead of walking across the room, she would literally run. When she
ironed, she did it fast with quick movements. In contrast, Tillie Gehman, who
married Noah Martin when Emma died, was slow. Tillie was a “Hollinger” while
Emma was a “Gehman.” Wayne, who died at the age of 39 from Hodgkins’s disease,
was six foot tall and a strong person.
Into this home my father was born, sharing characteristics of both parents. His face was more like a Gehman with his nose and forehead, while the Hollingers had a small chin. He was more on the quiet side and somewhat reserved and shy like the Hollingers.
Relationship of Rudy H. Gehman and “Father” William Gehman
“Gehman,” of course, is a legendary name in the history of the
Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church (MBC). The Zionsville (MBC)
In summary we lay out the first four known generations of the Gehmans:
Martin Gouman (born about 1555; married to Anni Berger)
Nicholas Gouman (born
Christian Gouman (“the elder”) (born
Christian Gouman “the elder” became the first known Gehman to
make a public confession of Anabaptist faith. He was called a ‘hardneck” because
of his refusal to give up his Anabaptist faith and was imprisoned with his son,
Christian “the younger,” on
Christian Gouman “the elder,” four-hundred years ago, is the first common forefather of Rudy H. Gehman and “Father” William Gehman.
Christian Gouman “the elder” had two sons pertinent for our genealogies:
Christian Gouman, born 1 March 1678, the forefather of William Gehman;
and Benedict Gauman, born
In outline form the succeeding generations are as follows:
Christian Gouman “the
Christian Gauman (born
Jacob Gehman (born
George Gehman (born
William Gehman (born
Ruth N. Gehman (born
Christian Gauman (born
Daniel Gehman (born about 1741; married to Veronica/Franica Gehman)
Daniel Gehman (born about February 1779; married to Elizabeth Bowman)
Joseph Gehman (born
Joseph H. Gehman (born
Rudy H. Gehman (born
Richard J. Gehman (born
Forefathers of “Father” William Gehman:
Christian Gouman “the younger”
Forefathers of Rudy H. Gehman: Benedict Gauman, born
It is of interest that Pappy Gehman, my dad’s father, lived and
worked in areas surrounding Adamstown, Bowmansville, and
While William Gehman and W.G. Gehman were “movers and shakers” in the MBC, my father was a quiet servant of the Lord, ministering faithfully in the places of God’s appointment. One older ministering brother, David Thoman, observed that my dad was “a very quiet man. I cannot remember him speaking at Conference.” Then he added, “Of course in the early years no one expressed their own opinions at Conference because H. B. Musselman and W.G. Gehman were the dominant voices.” My father and mother were humble and submissive; they both had deep respect for H.B. Musselman and the MBC leadership. Never once in my memory do I ever remember a word of criticism or complaining about the denominational leadership. Perhaps a bonding relationship grew earlier on when R.L. Woodring, my mother’s father, began serving as a young pastor under the care of H.B. Musselman. Who knows what words were spoken by H.B. Musselman that led a young Gospel Herald by the name of Rudy H. Gehman to date the daughter of R.L. Woodring? Though that is speculation, we do know that matchmaking did take place and there was mutual respect. For some reason I found in our family possessions an old Bible which had belonged to H.B. Musselman. How my parents received it, I do not know. I can only assume that this gift was an indication of the mutual respect that both H.B. and my father had for each other.
What is apparent is that God had granted the gift of denominational leadership to “Father” William Gehman and his son, W.G. Gehman; and to my father God granted the gift of pastor-teacher as the pastoral leader of particular churches.
MY FATHER’S LIFE AND MINISTRY
Early Years of Formation for Ministry
My dad was born on
Rudy was one of nine children; there were three boys and six
girls. Lizzie, the first born, was nine years older. My dad was the second
youngest and always seemed closest to his younger sister, Katie, born on
When my dad was six years old, Pappy Gehman bought a 120 acre farm nearby where my dad lived for twelve years. In my dad’s picture album, showing the farm where he grew up, he wrote the caption, “The place where I got my start.” He grew up very close to his sister Lizzie, her husband, Peter Martin, and their children (my dad’s cousins) who lived in shouting distance from the place where my dad lived.
Dad was a real boy. One evening after supper, so the story goes according to Aunt Katie, “while his sisters were doing the dishes, Rudy was also in the kitchen, shoeing a horse. Who or what represented the horse [Katie] does not know. But it seems the horse kicked. Rudy quickly stepped back right in the path of his sister who was carrying a stack of plates. Neither boy nor horse suffered from the collision, but the plates didn’t do so good. I think only two survived unbroken. Mother wasn’t exactly pleased, you may be sure.”
Dad loved climbing trees of which many could be found on the farm including apple and cherry trees. Aunt Katie wrote, “Now if trees weren’t made to climb, what are they for? Anyway, this was one of Rudy’s games. One tree had, several feet from the ground, a broken branch, part of which was protruding with a sharp, jagged point. When Rudy came down, he slipped, catching his knee on the branch, resulting in a severe cut.”
Aunt Katie continues, “Now in those days one did not consult a doctor for every ‘little scratch.’ So, very likely, the wound was thoroughly cleansed with cold water, several lily leaves applied as bandages… and that was that. This however left a permanent scar. The lily leaves? That was one of our home remedies. The petals of the Madoma lily were placed in a small jar, filled with whisky and kept on the medicine shelf. There must have been medicinal value, for this remedy for cuts was widely used.”
Dad attended White Oak, a one room school house. Schools were not graded as now. Students advanced by Readers, beginning with a Primer, then First Reader on through Fifth. The latter would compare today to eighth grade. He was probably 13 or 14 when he quit school. Katie writes, “We walked to school of course, down a long lane or during winter months we could cut across the fields. Once, when there was a deep snow with a hard crust, Rudy, Tillie and I were on the way to school. I in first grade had difficulty breaking through the crust. The other two took longer steps than I could manage, so I was fussing. After awhile Rudy said, ‘We’ll fix you tomorrow morning. We’ll put you on the sled.’ So taking our homemade sled, which was against the school’s rules, we started off. At first it was fine where the field was level. But then there was a slope. The sled was coming faster. Rudy couldn’t run fast enough and he fell. The sled went to one side over the snow and I went the other way, ending up with multiple scratches on my face and hands. I had to go back home.”
“Life on the farm was, by today’s standards, not very exciting. There was, to be sure, plenty of work of all sorts. There was the care of the animals – cows to be milked and fed, feeding and grooming of the horses. There was work in the fields, planting, cultivating and harvesting. Rudy of course was part of all this.” There were many chores associated with the care of hundreds of chickens and many pigs. When Jacob Weber was at the farm one summer, he remembers that Tillie and Anna used to milk the cows.
Pappy Gehman went to the Reading Farmer’s Market twice weekly, on Tuesdays and Saturdays. “Consequently, Monday and Friday were ‘getting ready’ days. Immediately after breakfast, father and boys would go to the truck patch, gathering radishes, beets and whatever was ready. These were brought by wheelbarrow to the ‘shanty,’ a large room adjoining the summer house. The floor was concrete with running water available and two large wooden wash tubs set on boxes. Here the vegetables were washed. Two of us would be working in one tub. It wasn’t difficult to ‘happen’ to splash your partner. Depending on his mood, it was either fun or a fight. We had great times, believe me. Following the scrubbing, the ‘stuff’ would go to the cutting-bunching table, then packed in crates and stacked, ready for the truck. Sometimes we sang, sometimes we fought, but by late afternoon, all was finished.”
There was a day when the young Gehmans were weeding the garden. Their subject of conversation was their ambitions of what they would be when they would become adults. Each one expressed their opinion. Aunt Katie says, “It would be interesting to know what they were but I don’t remember because I was not yet born. Rudy was only seven years of age. However, after the others were thru, Rudy pulled himself up, standing straight and tall and announced, ‘I am going to be a preacher.’ They probably laughed, never dreaming it would come true.”
However, life on the farm was not all work. One form of diversion in the evening, especially during the winter, was singing. Aunt Katie writes, “We gathered around the little organ, singing hymns and gospel songs. We sang until the rafters rattled almost. Loving music, Rudy must really have enjoyed all of this. There were games – checkers and fig-mill cards, that is, Flinch and Old Maid. These were all home-made. The checker board was the design drawn on the back of a calendar. After playing, the calendar was placed on the wall. The ‘men’ were corn kernels – one whole and one half kernels.” Katie wrote, “I definitely remember playing these games with Rudy. He was usually the winner.”
After Pappy Gehman left the farm, he operated a shirt factory
in Bowmansville from 1916-1921. Various members of the family joined their
helping hands. As a young man my dad began working in the shirt factory with his
brothers Wayne and Monroe. In 1921 Pappy Gehman moved to Adamstown where for one
year he and my dad operated a feed mill. Then in 1922 they moved to
During that time Aunt Katie led my dad to the Lord in her bedroom when he was 21 or 22 years of age. He told Kathryn Dietz how he was saved in his sister’s bedroom. “I felt so light,” he said. ‘Ichvesis, ichvesis,’ meaning ‘I know it, I know it.’ He knew that he was saved.”
Soon after this my dad left the work with his father and went
for training for the Christian ministry, first to
Preparation for Ministry
My dad went off to
In the summer of 1924 he painted “the new farm buildings” Pappy
Gehman had built. The first sermon that he preached is dated
Although we know little of his studies at Moody, we did find among his sermon notes a four page paper that appears to be a talk that he had given at Moody Bible Institute, based on II Timothy 2:15. He begins the talk by saying that II Timothy is “a good motto of the M.B.I. and for every Christian worker.” Under the point of “Study” (“Study to show thyself approved unto God…”), he comments: “The teacher in school or the minister has to study hardest. People and children soon can tell. It requires our best effort.” Under the third point (“A workman that needeth not to be ashamed”), he comments, “This reference is to mental labor, study about God and his Word. It is to become our delight…It requires effort. It is easier to keep at physical labor than mental. It requires more will power. It is easy to have day dreams but it’s hard to think, so mental suffering is harder than physical.” The purpose of this study is so that we might not be ashamed at Christ’s coming. Prayer is needed to “rightly divide the word of truth.” “To know to what people the writing refers, by whom it was written, why it was written, when it was written. These will help us to divide it. It will not help by reading a chapter here and there. We ought to study earnestly and systematically. It is good to have a concordance or look up many references in the Bible.” We gather from this that he developed the foundations of disciplined study for sermon preparation at Moody Bible Institute.
Why he limited his Bible studies to one four-month term is unknown. With Pappy Gehman’s opposition to higher education, he may have lacked courage or conviction to pursue a diploma at Moody over his dad’s displeasure. Pappy had opposed Katie’s desire to attend high school and then prevented her from attending Moody Bible Institute. She only achieved her dreams through Moody Bible Institute correspondence courses. But his thirst for knowledge and his desire to prepare for ministry drove him to do some study. Aunt Katie also suggested that he may have taken Moody Correspondence courses like she had. She further commented, “Although his education was limited, he was a student and read a lot.” Years later, Mildred Musselman, one of his parishioners and a Steward in Coopersburg in the 1950s, wrote, “Rudy Gehman was a great student of the Bible and a good preacher and friend.”
Preacher in the
Following his brief training he began to preach in the
He was first ordained to the Gospel ministry by Rev. A.M. Fretz
Since the services in the
In February, 1915, Menno Myers was sent by Rev. A.M. Fretz, the
elder/pastor of “The General Conference of Mennonites,” to hold evangelistic
services at the
Preacher in the Gospel Heralds
My dad was then led from the “New Mennonites” of Oberholtzer’s
Church, namely, the General Conference of Mennonites, to the Gospel Herald
Society and the other “New Mennonites” of William Gehman’s Church, namely, the
Mennonite Brethren in
Presumably, my dad became connected with the Gospel Heralds
through his brother-in-law, Menno Myers, and his sister, Hettie. In the fall of
1921 M.M. Myers and Hettie (Esther) were sent to
Hettie shared the ministry with the Gospel Herald mission in
In November, 1932, Menno and Hettie Myers were transferred to
In October, 1928, the MBC Annual Conference considered the question of recognizing my father for ministry. Upon examination, they recommended that he be granted an Annual Conference License.
And thus my dad became officially recognized in the ministry of
the Mennonite Brethren in
The Gospel Heralds with whom he worked and who are pictured in
his album include: Paul E. Baer, C.L. Miller, Eugene George, Wilbur Hartman,
Herbert Hartman, E.B. Hartman, E.W. Bean, “Brother Wieand,” and Arthur Sprock.
These were all single, young men who cared for all their personal needs.
Pictures show them washing and hanging up their clothes on the top of flat roofs
within urban settings with the captions, “Washday” and “Housework.” As young men
we may assume they joked and played around. There is a picture of Herbert
Hartman on the top of a flat roof with a rope tied around his neck and with the
appearance of being hung. Another picture shows C.L. Miller lying down
precariously with his arms flung up in the air at the edge of a precipice eight
hundred feet high overlooking the
Throughout my dad’s picture album he made comments full of dry humor. A group of six men got on their hands and knees to form a pyramid, three on the bottom, two above them and my dad on the top. The inscription reads: “How light I feel! What happened in the evening?” We will never know. On the next page is a picture of “The Bluffton College Girls Glee Club” with the words, “How they did sing!” He obviously enjoyed himself at Bluffton. Under a picture of “The Lincoln Hall, Bluffton,” he wrote, “The girls envy us now. 1923-24.” In the same series of pictures he shows four young men including himself with the caption, “Happy? Well some!” Right next to that is a picture of a young girl and the caption, “Adeline, she sent a cake, but too late.” What does this imply? A picture of my dad dressed in his Gospel Herald uniform has the caption, “When I was a priest.”
But most of the pictures are of Gospel Herald ministries. They had many tent meetings. Mending the large tents, assembling and erecting the large canvas “tabernacles” were all part of their work. Large gatherings of people are pictured with the tents in the background. Groups of fifty children appear in front of a tent for their photograph. Pictures show the Gospel Heralds with their congregants and friends.
A major part of the week’s ministry was devoted to the selling of the Gospel Herald magazine. Every morning, for five days a week, they were required to do colportage ministry. David E. Thomann would introduce himself as a Mennonite missionary. Many Gospel Heralds did not like this aspect of ministry. It not only was a means of distributing Gospel literature and opening doors for witness; it was a source of income. My father sold anywhere between 12 and 30 Gospel Heralds daily, according to his scanty records.
Many baptisms of new converts are also shown in the pictures.
According to his records he
baptized 45 by immersion in the
During his three year ministry in Chester, PA, he baptized nineteen, including ten who were over 23 years of age, one being 60.
Life was not easy on the side of finance. The MBC appropriated $15 to $20 monthly for each couple. The offerings from the small missions were added, together with the little profit earned from the sale of the Gospel Heralds. From this the expenses of the mission were first paid. Whatever was left over was distributed to the Gospel Heralds. W.G. Gehman would come every month for ministry and a report.
Menno Myers describes his experience when serving in the Gospel
Heralds in the
On one occasion, “when we had nothing in the house to set on the table for the evening meal, except maybe a crust of bread, Esther was cheerful and I believe she had faith that God would supply the need in time. She set the plates, etc. on the table. Esther, myself and the three boys sat down around the table with nothing before us to eat. We returned thanks to God, and when we had done that, thanks to God the doorbell rang. One of the boys ran to the door, and believe it or not, there was a large box full of all kinds of groceries, a great deal more than could be used up in one day.”
Before becoming a Gospel Herald, my father had life-insurance. This he surrendered when joining the MBC because of the church’s stand against life insurance. In 1896 the MBC conference passed a resolution, recognizing the “great evils around us of life insurance,” and recommended that instead of life insurance churches should care for the poor of their classes through “some benevolent principles, such as supporting and visiting the sick” and the use of deacons to look after the “poor of their class.” “Whenever a class is unable to support their own poor, the deacon shall apply to the Poor Committee for assistance. In case the treasury is empty, the Poor Committee shall collect for this purpose from the various circuits.” It is of interest that in 1960 the BFC sought ways to provide insurance for pastors.
My dad was truly a humble man, full of patience and forbearance which enabled him to endure such deprivation. Pastor R.C. Reichenbach said to me, “Your father was one of the gentlest people I know. He would never lord it over you but was gentle. Whatever he said to you was very fatherly, gentle and kind. Your mother was also very sweet and quiet. She never spoke much. In the Gospel Herald Society your dad was a very sweet person to be around. His attitude was one of graciousness. He was not outspoken. He was one of the quiet men. Even in the Annual Conference he was a quiet individual. But he was faithful in serving his people.”
In October 1931, after serving in the Gospel Heralds since October 1927 and being a probationer for three years and having completed his three years’ Reading Course “creditably,” and believed to be a “sincere, conscientious and promising young man,” the MBC delayed his ordination, along with E.W. Bean and A.M. Sprock, for more experience to prove himself.
My dad continued to serve faithfully and patiently.
Marriage of Rudy H. Gehman and Dora N. Woodring
Some time during my dad’s service in
R. L. Woodring became a pastor in the Mennonite Brethren in
So when my dad married, his father-in-law and brother-in-law
were already seasoned ministers in the MBC. One year after marriage, my parents
As we have seen, my father had previously been ordained on
We have examined Probationers R. H. Gehman and A. M. Sprock and have ascertained that they have passed the reading course with credit and have had charge of Gospel Herald Society Missions for a number of years, and have showed themselves consecrated, devoted and obedient workers, adhering to the teachings of the Scriptures and being sound in Faith, we therefore recommend that they be ordained on Sunday afternoon.
Unfortunately, his father-in-law, R. L. Woodring, had suddenly
passed away on
Delayed ordination in order to be proven in ministry was
traditional MBC/BFC discipline. Some could not bear the test of extended
probation. M.M. Myers, the husband of my father’s sister, Hettie, began in the
Gospel Heralds in 1921 and was a probationer for three years, 1933-1935,
according to the Annual Conference records. But he gave up after that and
disappeared from the MBC. Perhaps he also became discouraged with the lack of
financial income for Gospel Herald workers. Or perhaps there was a combination
of reasons for his departure from the MBC. He later became the pastor of “The
Non-Sectarian Gospel Tabernacle” in
My dad was assigned to the Graterford/Harleysville circuit in
October 1935. The first sermon he prepared for Graterford was December 21.
Being conceived in
Circuits of churches: In those days
there were many circuits. They were convenient for two reasons. Many churches
were too small to support one pastor. When combined, they could give adequate
support. Furthermore, the pastors to shepherd the congregations were few. My
uncle, A. G. Woodring, pastored a circuit of three churches for twenty years
(Fleetwood, Blandon and Terre Hill) and even had surplus energy to commence a
fourth meeting point in Kutztown. When
Members of the churches: The
ministry in Graterford and Harleysville was a happy experience for my parents.
Though Graterford was a small town, most of the members were farmers who drove
in from the rural area surrounding the town. Abraham (brother of Pastor E.W.
Bean) and Sarah Bean and Chris Wismer and family were farmers across the
M. M. Ziegler was a farmer in the Harleysville area and a frequent MBC conference delegate. His large family with their spouses became a sizable core of this growing congregation. Robert Ziegler and his wife, Earnest Ziegler who married Eleanor Detweiler from Graterford, Earl and Clara Ziegler, Elva (Ziegler) and Lloyd Gepard, Mabel (Ziegler) and Norman Apple, Pearl (Ziegler) and Stan Hackman, Jean (Ziegler) and Roger Deitweiler (from Graterford) and Homer Ziegler – all became the backbone for the Harleysville MBC Church.
Other members of the Harleysville congregation that we recall were: Kathryn and Clayton Dietz, Moyers, Noah Tyson, “Rose Jelly” Jake and Arlene Moyer and his parents, Joseph Shueck, May Swartley with her husband and son, Gerald, whose clothes were passed on to me as he grew out of them.
Continuing attachment after many years:
Over the years much of the support that has come to us as missionaries has
come through those whose lives were touched by my dad, even beginning in this
first church appointment. Kathryn and Clayton Dietz, whom my father married,
followed our ministry at
Earl Ziegler, a son of M. M. Ziegler, was not the most faithful
Christian. In fact, he had a drinking problem. His wife, Clara, was deeply
troubled by his drinking. My father frequently counseled her and tried to help
them in their marriage. Clara Ziegler continued to follow us in our ministry
when she moved with her daughter to
Chris Wismer, a farmer and the delegate from the
Graterford/Harleysville circuit, was present in the MBC Conference held in
Mennonite aspects of our churches: In many ways the MBC could be characterized as “New Mennonites.” MBC members bought cars and used radios. Men and women blended into society with their clothes, not following the Old Mennonite dress styles. Nevertheless, the MBC eschewed the fancy and clung to the plain. Our two churches in Graterford and Harleysville were small and plain with simple straight back pews. No steeples adorned the building. No crosses or other Christian symbols were found inside. Nothing fancy adorned the walls; stained glass windows did not “distract” from their simplicity. At first no piano accompanied congregational singing. Then, during my dad’s ministry, they bought a piano. It was gradually introduced, sometimes being used; other Sundays the piano set silent.
The pastors in those days, unlike the former custom, wore a coat and tie without a turned collar. Likewise the weddings were simple, almost always conducted in the parsonage with only a best man and bridesmaid. No traditional wedding gown was worn except for Perma Wismer. Many couples, mostly from Harleysville, were married by my dad during those years. He also married his sister, Katie, and Harry Wealand.
Pastoral support: During the first half of my dad’s stay in Graterford, we were still feeling the effects of the depression. Most of the members were farmers. Others were blue collar laborers in factories; for example, Isaiah Copenhafer worked in the flag factory. No white collar, professional men could be found in the congregation. The members were basically lower middle class farmers and laborers.
We always had enough to eat with a limited diet. Every fall the churches would celebrate a Harvest Home festival for the pastor, meeting at the parsonage. The members brought all kinds of food stuffs, canned as well as perishable. During those years I came to love Pennsylvania Dutch foods which my mother or Aunt Estella would prepare. (Estella was the younger sister of my maternal grandmother, very close to the family, who would often come to stay with us for a time.) Sausages, scrapple, schnitz and gnep, sour kraut with pork were always favorites. Beef was a rarity, chicken more common. Going to the farms and picking apples, peaches, cherries and various berries was always a treat. But our income was limited.
Whether as an avocation, or as a means of supplementing the food, my dad always had a large “truck patch” in Graterford where he grew tomatoes, potatoes, radishes, turnips, corn and other vegetables. We also had fruit bearing trees. We stored certain foods in an underground cellar in the backyard during the winter.
In 1935, when my dad went to Graterford and Harleysville, there were 62 and 60 members respectively. The yearly pastoral income from the churches was $472 and $420 respectively. Other ministerial contributions totaled $213. That was a total of $1,105.00 for the year or $92.00 per month. MBC pastors were supported not through a budget but through voluntary contributions given each month to the “Steward,” one in each of the churches. So the monthly support was not uniform or guaranteed. (To jump ahead two decades, one Steward in another church confided to my dad in that particular church that one well-to-do member chose not to contribute that month. His explanation was that my dad, who loved to do woodwork in the basement as a hobby, had come to pick up some cuttings and scraps of wood which he had from his construction business. Since my dad had received those odds and ends of wood, that was this contractor’s contribution to my dad’s monthly support. So many factors went into the monthly contributions.) Many years later I realized that my parents often waited until they were moving to another church to buy new furniture. By purchasing some large item between pastorates, they avoided the possibility of members deducing that they were rolling in cash which might lead them to reduce their contributions to the Steward.
Ministry of my father: My dad had a
My dad, like all pastors in that era, served the people as their shepherd. Visitation was paramount. He made 391 visits on average per year for ten years. Preaching was also a primary responsibility. The highest number of sermons he preached in a year was 167, the average being 127.
Prayer meetings in those days were quite a contrast to these days. They were conducted by Class Leaders who led in singing, prayer, the reading of the Word with appropriate remarks, followed by “a season of prayer” and concluding with testimonies. During the prayer, we all got on our knees and began to pray audibly but quietly all at the same time. Some led in prayer more loudly. The length of time for prayer depended on when the last one finished. The praying began with a gradual crescendo with some leaders praying quite loudly. When I prayed as a child I would pray softly enough so that no one else could hear me. Prayer ended when there was silence.
Some people have thought this manner of praying was a strange
babble – everyone praying audibly at the same time. But history offers many
examples and I have heard first hand reports in
Testimonies were opportunities to tell of something new that happened, some answer to prayer, some spiritual struggle with eventual victory, some problem or need for which prayer was requested, or some witnessing experience. A few testimonies were stereotypical but most were not. One young lady I well remember in a later church used to testify without variation each week, “I’m glad that Jesus saves, keeps and satisfies and I want to live and shine for him until he comes.” However, most prayer meetings had some fresh and encouraging word from the believers.
These testimonies were punctuated with “Amen” and interspersed with the singing of choruses. Choruses were lively and experiential of the living reality of the Lord. Recently I tried to list the various choruses that we sang in Graterford and Harleysville. Many were taken from the MBC Rose of Sharon hymnbook. I cannot remember using that hymn book in Graterford but we did sing choruses of various hymns taken from the Rose of Sharon hymnbook. In my possession is a copy of the hymnal with my dad’s signature in it. For the record sake, these memorable choruses, which made our prayer meetings so enjoyable, are placed in the endnotes.
These choruses are highly experiential and not very theological. But a Christianity that has no heart or personal relationship is a religion not worth living or preserving. Sung from the heart, these choruses were a rich contribution to the time of personal testimony.
My dad’s impact on my life: Those
years in Graterford were my own formative years, 1935-1945, ages 1-10. My
parents presented the gospel to me in family worship at a tender age of five
years when I expressed a desire to receive Christ as my Lord and Savior. For some reason my dad wanted me to wait
until Sunday night in church to receive Christ. Later in life this seemed like a
strange thing to me, but I suspect that he wanted this event to be memorable in
my mind. If so, his desire was accomplished. That Sunday night in the
Then for another strange reason he did not baptize me right
after my conversion. He wanted me to wait for some years. Once again I suspect
that he wanted me to be old enough to understand the meaning of baptism and what
I was doing. According to his own diary account, he baptized me in the
My dad conducted
Flat growth during the decade: But the Graterford and Harleysville MBC churches did not grow over that period of ten years. Membership remained essentially flat. During those ten years 40 were baptized and 34 taken into fellowship. But for various reasons there was also a similar exodus of members. Total Sunday School average attendance rose from 143 to 149 in ten years. This disappointed me when my research was done, though it is not contrary to my impression.
But then I compared the growth rate in the MBC conference. I discovered that maintaining a plateau during the decade was the norm. The Annual Year Book shows the MBC growth rate for that decade was only 293 members for the entire conference, which is a 7% increase.
A closer look is a bit more shocking. Numerous churches lost
significant numbers over the ten year period.
Sunday School attendance also was mixed. In
What could the explanation be for this lack of growth? Was it because of the years of depression and economic hard times, or World War II which sapped their energies? Was it the aging MBC leadership and their inability to adjust and adapt and grow during the changing culture? Had the fire gone out of earlier evangelistic fervor? Could it be that the educational level of the pastors was adequate for a rural settings and a lower middle class laity but was unable to attract an increasingly better trained laity in their communities?
The circuit system of pastoring more than one church surely did
not help. While it may have been financially feasible, dividing one’s attention
between two or three congregations would certainly inhibit. In 1936 there were
eight circuits with a total of 32 churches. Two circuits had three churches
each. By 1946 the number of churches had increased to 37 but the number of
circuits had increased to nine. One pastor cared for
During those first ten years, when my dad was stationed in a conference church, he also served in various capacities at the conference level. He was an active member, attending every one of the Annual Conferences. For seven years, 1936 to 1942, he was a member of the Finance Committee. In 1943 they placed him on the Committee on Examination of Presiding Elders and he remained on that committee for many years thereafter. He was also a member of the Committee on the Examination of Local Preachers, Evangelists and Missionaries in 1943. He offered the benediction several times, and opened and closed the business meetings with prayer. In 1936 he gave a twenty minute address Friday evening. So my dad was active in the annual conference, though not on the powerful boards and committees.
The first half of the 1940s marked momentous times for the MBC with the changing of the leadership. W. G. Gehman, the Presiding Elder for the Easton District for thirty-seven consecutive years and the influential head of the Gospel Heralds, had unexpectedly fallen asleep in Christ in 1941. By 1945 B. B. Musselman, the influential pastor in Bethel, Allentown, and the son of H. B. Musselman, had left the MBC pastorate in a cloud and devoted himself to the radio station he had started. In 1945, when H. B. Musselman stepped down as Presiding Elder, T. D. Gehret and P.T. Stengele were elected as Presiding Elders. After 43 years of “faithful and efficient service” as Presiding Elder, H. B. Musselman was elected Presiding Elder Emeritus.
Neither the church nor pastor had any determining voice about the posting of pastors in the MBC. Each church did send a lay delegate and they were consulted, but the final determination of appointments rested with the Presiding Elders.
During the early years of the twentieth century, when they called the roll of the pastors, they responded whether or not they “submitted themselves unconditionally to the conference.” Most responded “unconditionally,” but a surprising number responded “conditionally,” including C. H. Brunner and William Gehman. However, after H. B. Musselman became well established as the Presiding Elder, we find that everyone “submitted to the conference unconditionally.”
On that basis the Stationing, Boundary and Appropriating Committee was read aloud. At that moment each pastor, seated in the pew, learned where he would be serving the following year. That moment was one of high drama during each Annual Conference. In 1945 they resolved to determine, “Who are the preachers who are willing to minister this year, according to the direction of the Conference and our Discipline, and what is their number.” Thirty-one men answered, “Yea,” and no one answered “Nay.”.
When the Stationing and Boundary Committee was read, R. H.
Gehman was sent to
Over a period of ten years in Graterford, we had accumulated
many things. All our possessions in our Graterford two story house with an attic
and basement, accumulated over a ten year period, together with all our things
in a barn to the rear of the house were squeezed into this enormous moving van
with pieces of furniture hanging onto the rear exterior and held secure with
ropes. The truck driver expressed doubt whether all those things could possibly
fit into the second floor apartment in
It was city-life, living in an apartment. Noise easily carried
downstairs to our neighbors below us. On one occasion I was helping my father by
stamping some tracts. With one hand I pounded the stamp on the ink pad, then
stamped the tract, back and forth as fast as I could. “Stop bouncing that ball”
came a voice from downstairs.” “We’re not bouncing a ball,” we replied. “Stop
bouncing that ball,” she persisted. Obviously, there were restrictions we faced
living in an apartment. Neither did we have a front porch or land to cultivate.
I’ll always remember some time after moving to
Fortunately, there was a small piece of empty land fenced in behind the church which we could see from the kitchen window. My parents utilized that to the full with flowers and vegetables planted.
The church building was purchased by the MBC in 1942 and was not a traditional Mennonite meeting house. It was a beautiful little church structure with a steeple, stained glass windows, a pipe organ and cushioned seats – all on the older side but nevertheless quite attractive and un-Mennonite. My mother loved to play the pipe organ, including sheet music with Handel’s compositions. When my dad officiated the marriage of four Italian sisters they were dressed in elegant wedding attire. Rachel Yacovelli’s veil was six and a half yards long. My mother played “Indian Love Call” and “I Love You Truly” on the pipe organ. The MBC was metamorphosing.
We had faithful members who supported the ministry quite well.
In 1936 the 40 members contributed a total offering of $4,950.99 compared to the
$7,110.34 contributed by the 115 members in the Graterford/Harleysville
However, my dad’s total annual support in 1946 was only $1,282.25 or $106.85 per
month. From the vantage point of 2006, it is difficult to imagine how they
survived in the
Camp Meetings in Shamokin and Allentown before World War II
left an indelible mark on my mind and heart, even as a small child. I well
remember the remorse I felt when Camp Meetings were canceled during World War II
because of gas rationing. How thrilled I was when the MBC Annual Conference in
October 1946, decided to conduct two Camp Meetings in July 1947. All pastors
were required to set up the tents the week before Camp Meeting began and then to
dismantle the tents during the three days following the last camp and store
everything away for the winter. Pastors were also given administrative
responsibilities to manage the camps. It was during our days in
My father labored faithfully during those three years in
In 1948 my dad was assigned to
My parents thrived in this environment and the church grew. We
had many fine families who formed the solid core of the church.
In addition to the MBC conference church, my dad pastored the Bear Gap Gospel
Tabernacle over the picturesque mountains in a rural setting. The
During the six year ministry in
He baptized 64 people, including some 13 from Bear Gap in 1949. The Sunday School average attendance grew from 88 in 1948 to 121 in 1954. Those were the days when Sunday School was attended by many who did not attend the church service. Church membership was smaller, but grew from 81 to 92 in 1951. But then the membership began to decline to 85 due to coal mine closures. How well I remember those gloomy days in the early 1950’s when the men would exit after the Sunday evening service and stand a long time outside discussing the closing of the mines. Jobs were lost. People sought work outside the anthracite region. As a result, we lost many solid, core families through transfer to other churches. Even men who were not coal miners suffered because of the depressed economic conditions.
As a parenthetical observation, we should note, that when
Herbert Hartman succeeded my dad in
Though we had a number of unionized coal miners in the
congregation, we also had a number of men who owned businesses and others who
were white collar executives and tellers in banks and business executives. These
included the owners of two Dairies with their families. As a result, our members
contributed much more than in the sister
Missions Conferences were a highlight in
A major renovation project was undertaken to upgrade our church building. In 1949 the church property was valued at $20,000. It was a wooden frame building with an alley separating it from the Episcopal Church which had an end property on another street. The renovations included: placing shingles on the outside, plastering the inside, carpeting the whole floor, refurnishing the pews, hanging new light chandlers, buying new pulpit furniture and renovating the basement.
In our community my dad was active in various capacities. We participated with the evangelical Protestant churches in Youth for Christ. During my Commencement from High School in 1954, my dad offered the Invocation and Benediction. (The pastor of the Greek Catholic Church gave the Baccalaureate Address.)
At the conference level my dad continued to serve in his usual places of ministry. He was a member of the Committee on Examination of Local Conference Records, the Committee on the Examination of Presiding Elders (then District Superintendents when the name changed), and a member of the Board of Examiners. He prayed at the opening of the 1950 conference and offered the benediction at others. He served as a Teller on one occasion and was the Secretary of the Ministerial Convention Committee on the Program in 1952. In April 1951 he prepared and delivered an eight page typewritten paper at the Ministerial Convention on “Menno Simons and the Mennonites.”
Hurricane Hazel swept through the
The reasoning behind the assignment is unknown. What is known
is that H. L. Shelly from Coopersburg was the delegate for the circuit. As far
back as 1918, H. L. Shelly was the delegate from Coopersburg. And my mother’s
dad, R. L. Woodring, was the pastor in Coopersburg 1918-1925. H. L. Shelly knew
and respected my grandfather and my mother from those days, even as numerous
other members of Coopersburg remembered the Woodrings. Incidentally, R. L.
Woodring also preceded my dad in Graterford and Harleysville (1905-1908) and
The fall of 1954, after my high school graduation in
Back in 1925 Coopersburg MBC was a separate charge with H. L.
Shelly the delegate; and
It is of interest that in 1954, the same year that my dad was
assigned to South Allentown and Coopersburg circuit, the South Allentown, Salem
Church, had petitioned Annual Conference that “in the event that if it is
possible, that Salem Mennonite Brethren in Christ, Allentown, Penna., be
recognized as a separate charge to be supplied with its own pastor.” In response
the Stationing, Boundary and Appropriating Committee acknowledged that: “There
is a growing feeling among many of the constituents of our Churches, that there
is a definite need for a more vigorous program of evangelism and church
expansion” and that “the existence of circuits do not contribute to the best
interests of this need.” Therefore, they encouraged “Churches presently
constituting circuits, to arrive toward a goal of becoming stations with pastors
assigned to each appointment.” With the graduates of
Therefore, high on the agenda for each of these churches was to
become so well established that they could support their own pastor. In 1954 the
total contribution of Coopersburg was $11,530 (with 137 members),
By 1956 pastoral support was sufficient in
This new assignment was quite different from
There were some stable and well established families and
When the stationing report was read in October, 1958, I was in
Once again, I had very little contact with the church in actual
fact because of being in
The church responded well to my dad’s ministry. He continued to engage in a vigorous visitation ministry with an average of 460 visits each year. My cousin, Rev. Wayne Gehman and his wife, Beth, had visited my parents in August 1959 when he preached in our church. Wayne Gehman commented in a letter to my mother, “Rudy was gifted in the ministry of visitation.” My mother then responded in a letter dated 1973, “Yes, he was; the Lord seemed to use him especially along these lines. He befriended everyone, even such who were poor, or illiterate, or may have been shunned by society in general.”
Generally, his preaching was confined to Sunday mornings and evenings, so he preached an average of 84 times each year. During those two years and nine months my dad baptized 18 people, so that the Lancaster BFC grew from 39 to 50 members and the Sunday School average attendance was 103.
My mother mentioned that my dad frequently spoke of retirement. I suspect that he was beginning to feel his age. However, he was not sickly. F.B. Hertzog had inquired whether he would be willing to oversee the Home for the Aging. But my dad felt that his sympathetic personality would succumb if his ministry focused on the sickly and aging people in a Home. The Lancaster BFC was moving along well; harmony prevailed with a good spirit of unity. Presumably, he would have served there an additional number of years.
But God in his sovereign wisdom took him home painlessly and
MY FATHER’S PREACHING/TEACHING
Affirmation of My Dad’s Spiritual Gifts
The spiritual gifts manifested by my father include “the
pastor-teacher.” That he excelled as the pastor-teacher was evidenced by the
deep love and respect the members had for him. F. B. Hertzog, his Presiding
Elder when my dad passed away in 1961, took notice of the numerous members from
former churches where my father had served and who attended the memorial service
The remarks of my dad’s sister, Katie, portray the marks of a pastor, one who could shepherd the flock with love and care. “As a whole, I recall him as a rather quiet young man, not hasty in making decisions, never in a hurry. In fact, I recall telling him one time, ‘If you ever get married, be sure you get a wife who has lots of patience.’ He was always kind, sympathetic, the kind of person one could talk to. These very things were some of the reasons his life was such a blessing to so many.”
Before I was born, both my dad and mother served in
Olive Rawn, who was a young girl in Graterford when I was born, commented that, “Your dad was steadfast and always faithful. I looked up to him as one of the preachers.” Perma (Wismer) Hipszer, who is today ninety-three years old, and was married to Stanley Hipszer sixty-three years ago in Graterford by my father, said this: “Your mother had a beautiful voice for singing. She was wonderful and so was your dad. They were kind, nice and sociable. Your dad was wonderful.”
When we returned from
Material Remains of His “Study”
Memories of my father are inseparable from his office where he
studied and prepared his sermons for ministry. The same pieces of furniture and
wall hangings were found in his “study” in the various parsonages where we
“Study to show thyself approved unto God,
a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,
Rightly dividing the Word of Truth.”
That motto we took to
Included in his office was a desk with a roll-down top. We
disposed of that when my mother had to leave the parsonage for a smaller
apartment. However, his three antique sectional bookcases which contained all
his books are now gracing my office here in
Also found in his office was a custom designed, home made
“filing cabinet” which his father, Joe Gehman, had made for his son. With a
flowery decal on the front door, shellacked with a dark varnish, it stood
approximately five feet high, three feet wide and two feet deep. Inside were
many shelves with vertical pieces of plywood to make little cubicles in which he
placed brown colored accordion-like folding envelopes with a string attached to
tie the folders together. In these folders he filed all his illustrations he
would clip. On one shelf lay the hundreds of typed sermons, duly numbered and
held together with metal rings, together with a ledger book recording the date
and place of preaching each sermon with the text and title. Because of problems
of storage I decided to discard the filing cabinet and all the many folders with
illustrations, but I preserved all his sermons in a small wooden box which he
himself had made. For forty-five years these sermons were stored in
We now want to turn our attention to the hundreds of sermons which he prepared and preached during his years of ministry.
Examination of His Sermons
My dad’s sermons for Sunday services are all typed on
three-ringed notebook paper, measuring 7 ¼ by 4 ¼ inches. The sermons are
divided into six separate collections, each being held together by two metal
rings. The sermons as they were developed and first preached are all recorded in
a ledger book with the date preached, the number of the sermon, title of the
sermon, biblical text, occasion of the sermon, and the place of preaching. The
occasion and place of preaching refers to the initial place of preaching.
Whenever the sermon was preached again, a notation is found at the end of the
sermon, but not in the ledger book. Beginning with the
62nd sermon (May 1927) found at the beginning of the second
collection of sermons, all the following sermons through the 753rd
The first collection of sermons is mostly handwritten and
prepared in ways that were obviously in the initial period of learning how to
preach. These sermons are not all in order. The first one preached, dated
In addition to these well organized, typewritten sermons which number 753 altogether, he spoke on Sunday nights and many other occasions. These talks are handwritten on many sizes of paper and tied together in six bundles. They are recorded in the ledger book as “Sermons, Talks, Speeches etc.” They number 468 with the title and text recorded in the ledger book. In this paper we shall not consider this set of talks and speeches but will focus on the main collection of sermons.
Instead of giving any detailed analysis of all the sermons, we shall make various observations. In particular, we shall consider the content of what he preached, especially issues of law and grace, faith and good works, keeping the moral law of God and observing a “separation” from the world. My interest in this arises from my own memory and impression that he had a biblical view of these subjects, without falling into a legalistic approach of separation from the world. What do the sermons indicate?
For this study we shall divide the sermons into four time periods: 1924 – 1927 (his first sermons preached among the Mennonites) found in the first collection of sermons; 1927 – 1935 (his preaching in the Gospel Herald Society); 1935-1945 (preaching in Graterford and Harleysville, his first MBC conference appointment); 1946-1961 (the remainder of his ministry in Newark, NJ, Mt. Carmel and Bear Gap, PA, South Allentown and Coopersburg, PA, and Lancaster, PA).
Sermons for 1924 – 1927
Initial Sermons in 1924: The first
collection of sermons contains 91 sermons, all handwritten and many without
numbering. One-third of them was preached before he began as the assigned
preacher in the
The church where my grandparents worshipped was the
The first sermon found in this first collection of sermons is
In a sermon entitled, “No Room for Jesus,” based on Luke 2:7 (December 28, 1924), he speaks of Herod and the Jews having no room for Jesus. Then applying this to believers today, he mentions the many things that people do to create no room for Jesus, like making a living, pleasures, forgetting to pray and being holy…and “character, especially in women, fault of men dresses [his short hand is not clear], amusements, manners, knickerbockers, painted cheeks, low necks, naked arms, short skirts, movies, beauty parades and foxtrot but lack of earnestness. No room for Christ.”
Sermons in Moody Bible Institute and Later
in 1925: Found among these early sermons are a few that he preached when
he was a student at Moody, including one he preached in the First Mennonite
Church of Chicago on
For Christmas 1925 (Dec 20) he spoke from Luke , “Our Saviour Christ and Lord,” with the main points taken from the text. This sermon is better formed and obviously derived from his reading. Quoting Gray he asks, “Do we ask, does it harmonize with modern science and theology, advanced thought, new conceptions of God, or modern theories of man? ‘The only Jesus that I know is he who died for me.’”
First Sermon as Ordained Minister:
The very first sermon listed in his ledger of sermons was preached on
Sermons on Salvation: Many of these early sermons focus on salvation. The titles reflect this emphasis: “Redemption through Blood,” “Redemption Wholly of God,” “Redemption by Power,” “Ye Must be Born Again,” “Repentance” and “Coming to Jesus.”
He preached another sermon in Bowmansville in October, 1925, entitled, “The Nature and Necessity of the New Birth.” He observes that this is not Reformation, “like painting an old ford or cleaning a drunkard. The inside has to be changed, like a broken clock.”
Another time in February, 1926, in Bowmansville, he preached
“Redemption Wholly of God,” based on
Exodus 3:7,8 and Acts 7:17-34. Having explained what “redemption” is, he uses
the deliverance of
In a sermon preached in
Sermons on Grace: A number of
sermons may be classified as doctrinal homilies on grace. Soon after his studies
at Moody Bible Institute on
‘To will is present with me, but how to perform that which I would I find not.’ This is the experience of many people. They have a longing for salvation but cannot reach it. Of what avail is food or the living water if we cannot reach it. We are without strength and know hardly what to do. The city of refuge may be within sight yet out of reach. There is no ‘good spark’ or ‘better self’ within man. The text says, ‘not of our selves.’ Human nature bears the same evidence. Sin and moral weakness trouble people. They have no strength. They feel helpless, powerless, lifeless, their bones are broken and can do nothing, they cannot control their thoughts, overcome temptation, cannot repent, they have no feeling. But Christ died for the ungodly, not for the good, the strong or the mighty but for the ungodly. God comes to where we are. He does not ask us to become better before we accept Christ but says come and he comes to where we are.
Another example of a doctrinal sermon on grace is the one
entitled, “Justification,” which he
Other Subjects: Several sermons urge
people to evangelize. One sermon, preached on
Another sermon on witnessing on
Many sermons are devoted to the deepening of believers’ faith, taking the believers deeper in their relationship of devotion and obedience to God. He spoke on prayer, love, humility, obedience and perseverance. In a sermon on “Leaven and Honey” given in Adamstown, he writes, “Honey is that which tastes so sweet, appeals to the appetetite, the eyes and flesh. The consequences are a shallow Christian life. We justify ourselves by resting on some experience…and indulge in the pleasures of the world, that honey which is unrecognized sin.”
In a sermon on “The Two
Prayers of the Prodigal and their Result” (preached
Among the first 91 sermons preached between 1924 and 1927, we
found only one on eschatology, dated
Question of Legalism: In a very early, unstructured, unnumbered and undated sermon which he delivered in Adamstown he refers to D.L. Moody. Let me give an extensive quote from that homily since it speaks to the issue of legalism.
A good rule to follow is this, ‘Whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God.’ Moody spoke of an experience with a young lady who wanted to be a Christian, with tears rolling down her cheeks. Her father and her family went to the theatre and she wondered whether she could continue going to the theater if she became a Christian. Moody said, ‘Did I ever say anything about theaters in my sermons? Why do you bring them up?’ ‘I supposed that you did not believe in them,’ she said. Moody had something better. He preached Christ. She didn’t want to give up the theater. ‘Please don’t mention the theater,’ she said. ‘Can I go to the theater if I become a Christian?’ ‘Yes,’ Moody replied, ‘you can go if you are a real, true Christian and can go with God’s blessing.’ She felt relieved and accepted Christ and left with the idea of going to the theater for the glory of God. A few days later she returned and understood the place seemed horrible. Our prayer should be given without a question. The Christian must keep clean to have fellowship with God.
In a topical sermon on “Hindrances to Prayer,” dated
In a sermon entitled, Little Things, based on I Thessalonians
4:1-10 and preached on
A person is known by the company he keeps. Company influences our lives the same as reading does. Practices, habits, desires of a Christian are opposite to an unsaved person…The Christian life must separate from the gambler, drunkard, profane, and lovers of gay and fashionable society. Under the point of ‘The Fox of Pride’ he notes: Pride is common among rich and poor Christian professors, more common among women; men are also guilty. It is possible to be proud in plain dress, but costly, extravagant dressing nourishes pride.
Structure of Sermons: The structure of the sermons in these early years is quite diverse. Every sermon has a text but the main points are not necessarily an exposition of the biblical text. The text serves as a focal point of divine truth to be taught, and then the main points, derived elsewhere, develop that main thought. So in that sense these sermons could be called topical. Yet many sermons are not really topical sermons, as I understand the meaning, since some main points make no mention of particular Scriptures supporting the points. Some sermons have been gleaned from books, we assume, so that they are structured quite well; others are without a homiletical structure. Occasional references are made to Gray, Scofield, Dr. Torrey and “Outline by D.J. Umruh.” It is common to find main points without any reference to biblical support, without citing Scripture. Other sermons are rooted in the text with main points derived from the biblical text. A few may even be described as expository sermons, though the text is not really developed as we might expect today. There is no effort made to analyze and interpret the text.
Sermons for 1927-1935
During an eight year period, my dad served in the Gospel Herald
Society in the cities of
Structure of sermons: The sermons are all rooted in the Scripture with main points taken from the Scripture in most cases. This is a significant development over the first sermons he preached. The typical sermon is the Textual Sermon with main points derived from 1-3 verses of the text. Several examples of this are given in the endnotes.
A surprising number are Expository Sermons in the formal sense of the word. The sermon is derived from a text of more than three verses and each main point is derived from that one text. However, there is no evidence of any exegetical handling of the text with exposition. Rather, the preaching points are self-evident from the essential thoughts expressed by the English text. Examples of such sermons in the endnotes will convey how these sermons are developed.
A majority of sermons, albeit, not an overwhelming majority, are Topical Sermons. Most topical sermons have a theme text-verse beneath the title of the sermon. So the main points are rooted in the theme found in the text-verse. Various examples given in the endnotes illustrate such outlines. Every “Mother’s Day” he preached on “mothers.” In May 1929 he preached on A Mother’s Place which provides a beautiful example of a topical sermon.
Sermon helps: Various sermon outlines suggest that my dad used books to develop his sermons, as is commonly done with preachers, but only a few references to those helps are found at the end of the sermons. Reference is made to Philosophy of Salvation and All About the Bible which were textbooks for the Gospel Herald Society’s Reading Course. The Scofield Notes are mentioned once. Three sermons have a notation at the end, stating that they were derived from certain books: “Sermon from Neighbor’s books, Volume 12”; and “Sermon from Riley’s (Genesis).” One sermon outline said, “Sermon from Riley’s (Genesis). Look it up before you preach it.” Obviously, he did study to prepare the sermons and that help even extended to some extent to the very sermon outlines.
It is of interest that on several occasions he alludes to a few individuals in his sermons, either as examples of certain truths or as the source of some illustration. These individuals include: C.H. Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, R.A. Torrey who was an associate of D.L. Moody, J. Hudson Taylor, Mueller, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, and Fanny Crosby; but never once does he allude to Menno Simons or any other Mennonite hero. This does not mean that my father was not a Mennonite at heart; but his biblical training and study books were from non-Mennonite sources. He was influenced by the conservative, Dispensational Protestant movement represented in the Moody Bible Institute. This is an indication that the MBC was both Mennonite and Revivalist; and since he drank weekly from the fountains of the non-Mennonite conservative, Dispensational Protestantism, one might expect that his thinking would be most heavily influenced by them.
Towards the end of this period he begins to gather “clippings” with some illustration or poem. References to illustrations in his sermon notes were found earlier, but clipping and filing apparently developed at this time. The extensive collection of illustrations was all kept in the wooden filing cabinet built by his father.
Content of sermons: Sermon titles are rather prosaic without any captivating hook to attract curiosity. But they serve functionally to convey the topic of the sermon. A list of some sermon titles found in the endnotes is illustrative of the contents of the sermons preached. Some messages are on salvation, but most are on topics for the edification of believers such as prayer, love, faith and witnessing. He preached on How to Make a Success of the Christian Life in September 1928, without any hint of legalism.
Since most sermons do not have a written conclusion, many sermons can be tweaked in the end to edify believers or call sinners to repentance and trust in Christ. The sermons that are specifically on the topic of salvation indicate a clear understanding of biblical teaching. In a sermon preached in October 1927, and entitled, “What is man that thou art mindful of him,” (Ps 8:4) he states: “Man’s whole head is sick. Many know not the difference between baptism and regeneration, between form and power of godliness. Our minds are often like a roving butterfly in services. Our imagination builds air-castles of vanity and lewdness. We remember the frivolous conversation, the party, evil pictures, but forget the invitation to come to Christ.” As I recall, my father most always gave an public invitation at the close of his sermon.
In a sermon preached in June 1928, entitled, Things that Differ: Professors and Possessors of Salvation, he states, “The difference between believers and professors is that the first work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. ). The professors work for their salvation instead of trusting in the finished work of Christ.” In another sermon entitled, Things that Differ: The Old Nature and the New Nature, he accurately describes the “old nature.”
Numbers of sermons are typological in nature, drawing lessons from Old Testament teaching or historical narratives in the New Testament to apply to Christians today. A sermon on the Kinsman-Redeemer, taken from Leviticus 25:25-48, is then illustrated by Ruth and applied to Christ. “The Two Goats” of Leviticus 16:7-10 are shown to be fulfilled in Christ who shed his blood for our sins (Romans -26) and who bore our sins away (Isaiah 53:6). “The Ark of the Covenant” from Exodus 25:10-23 is used to teach the Gospel.
In various sermons he refers to the sovereignty of God. In Lessons from God’s Call of Paul and Barnabas, preached in July, 1927, he observes that “they did not call themselves” and “others did not call them.” In a successive sermon on “Serving in His Will,” he states at the beginning, “Jesus’ Sovereign Will. He directs whom He will and where service shall be rendered. He appoints the time and manner of the death of his apostles.” In January 1928 he preached on Man’s Most Foolish Question, based on Malachi 1:2. He states, “God is almighty and Satan can go no further in his work of destruction than God permits. We have Job as an example (Job ). God often changes the purposes of Satan into good for his children (Numb 22). God will not permit us to be tempted above that which we are able to bear (I Cor ). God causes all things to work together for good to them that love Him to them that are called according to his purpose (Rom ).” He continues, “We are proud of the things we make, so is God. Whom he did foreknow them he also did predestinate. Romans 8:29. He foreknew us yet made us. This fact does not take away man’s free moral agency.”
Although there is one brief statement that indicates he took a
Dispensational approach to the interpretation of Scripture, not one of the
eighty sermons developed in
Sermons on godliness and separation from the world: Only a few sermons dealt with this subject, but some extended quotations will be helpful to highlight his thinking.
In May 1929 he preached on Self-Control. He wrote,
The Successful life is the controlled life. It is more necessary than power. Power in a steam engine must be under control. The only useful machinery is controlled machinery. I. It is essential to our highest development. We are not to be slaves to things such as tobacco, drink, opium etc. Neither to circumstances. We are to be in the world but not of the world. We are to live above the world right where we are. We must have control of our actions. Control of what we do and how we do it! The way we carry things helps in weighing us down. Control of words! Here are three golden gates through which our words should pass. ‘Is it true?’ ‘Is it useful?’ ‘Is it kind?’ Control of thoughts! These control our words and actions. Think as Paul commands in Philippians 4:8.
The following month in June, 1929, he preached a textual sermon
from Numbers 11:4-6 on The Flesh-pots of
II. Israel wept, longed for
A sermon preached in January, 1928, on The Separate People, conveys his understanding on the subject so we will present it fully in the endnote. One comment we will give here:
Anything that is in opposition to God we should leave. Any pleasures or amusements which weaken mankind, physically, mentally or spiritually are wrong. Or anything that causes a brother or sister in Christ to fall should not be indulged in. We can enjoy games, music, literature and the beauties of nature. These uplift mankind rather than weaken them. The greatest joy for the people of God comes through worship and helping others. God intends to live in us and make known to the world His love and goodness through us.
In a sermon preached in April, 1928, entitled, Does Godliness Pay? (I Tim 4:8), he observed:
The opposite of a godly life is a sinful life. Does it pay? A young man paid a few cents for a drink. It seemed cheap and profitable but he lost his health, happiness, character, and love; he became ragged, poor, wretched and outcast. All hope was gone. Did it pay? … “The way of the transgressor is hard.”
When speaking of God providing a robe of righteousness in
January, 1928, he commented: “Christ is our righteousness (I Cor ). We have put on Christ (Gal.
). We are to be clothed
with a beautiful spirit (
When preaching on The Wounds of Jesus in March, 1929, he asks the question, “To what do they call us?”
Your hand soft and fair, or rough and strong, or white and weak is Christ’s. Can it hold cards or books or anything which would mislead? I think of those weary feet, pierced and bleeding, how they trod the wine press alone, and what of my feet? Do they carry me to worldly places? There is plenty of water to carry from the wells of salvation…Our bodies are wanted, not only our intellects. Let us run errands for Jesus. As the steam engine needs steam, so we need the Spirit.
With his great concern for godly character, we conclude that his approach to separation from the world was generally biblical, though we may take exception with one or two things he said. He gave several biblical reasons for separation, though he did not develop the biblical basis very extensively.
development: When he typed
his first sermon for
It appears that he began to use more illustrations during this period; at least, references to illustrations in his sermon notes are more frequent. A new development is the notation of the source for the illustration. Sometimes they are taken from books of illustrations. Especially significant are the notations made in this fashion, “F:1;37.” These notations most assuredly refer to his own personal filing system for clippings with illustrations.
Significant are the typed notes on “Preparation of a Sermon” which were tucked between the sermons. This is significant because the notes are sound and basic and would contribute much to his sermon making whenever followed. Like most of us who preach, he did not always follow the instructions of his “teacher.”
Once again we observe that all the sermon helps are from non-Mennonite sources. In one sermon he wrote, “Note the influence of Jesus, Paul, Luther, Wesleys, Moody etc.” He referred to Andrew Murray who wrote many books which were found in my father’s library. But never once does he refer to Menno Simons or any other Mennonite.
sermons: This period marks
some striking changes. Whereas, during his ministry in
For the first time he preached several series of sermons: six sermons on various characters in the Book of Esther, five sermons on the Tabernacle with typological application, and a five-part series on The Purpose of the Incarnation – to reveal the invisible God, to provide a sacrifice, to give the redeemed a High Priest, to show believers how to live, and to fulfill the Davidic Covenant.
Another new topic was Divine Healing which he develops by citing Christ’s compassion and references to healing in Scripture. Under his last point, “How to appropriate,” he mentions three steps: (1) “Faith you must have, same as for salvation. Not that God can but that He will.” (2) “Be right with God. Blessings are conditional. Text. Confess your faults, regard not iniquity…Elbow your way through the crowd of selfishness, pride, ambition, lust, worldliness etc.”
A wide spectrum of topics was preached. See endnotes for
He had several sermons on evangelism, one on Faith and Baptism, and one on the
doctrine of Scripture. A sermon was devoted to The Christian as a Missionary. The main
points were Bible based
but the sermon is developed largely through illustrations. An interesting sermon
for Mother’s Day was preached on
An observation of the sermon topics will indicate a striking
absence of theological discourse. Moreover, during this two year period there is
no single sermon on worldliness or
separation from the world. When he speaks of laying aside every weight from
Hebrews 12:1-2, he asks the question: “What are the weights? Pride, temper,
jealousy, hatred, malice, anger, the works of dishonesty and the flesh.” Nothing
is said of movies, dancing, card playing, or lipstick. Under the fourth point on
his sermon of Fellowship with God (1
John 1,2), he writes: “‘Be separated from the world.’ 2:15-17. He does not mean
the material world of flowers and trees but that love of the world which is
contrary to the love of the Father, the pleasures, the fame, the spirit of the
world, the desires and gratifications of our fallen nature. Compare the ‘Lust of
the flesh,’ ‘lust of the eyes,’ ‘the pride of life.’ This is the full extent of
his preaching on worldliness and separation from what I could find during those
two years in
The sermons continue the same pattern as in the previous two years in terms of structure and content. A wide range of topics are taught. See the endnotes for titles of sermons. But no sermon is developed on separation from the world except for one preached in April 1934 on the topic, The Believer Crucified to the World. He observes that, “Companionship of worldlings [sic] is harmful to the Christian life. Read Prov. 4:14,15…It is hard to conceive how those who claim to have a renewed heart can possibly love those who hate Him and will have nothing to do with Him.” Further he adds, “We too often think that an increase in pay means more happiness. We base our happiness on things rather than on the things of God. To obey the Lord in all things is the surest way to happiness. To look above, to set our affection on things above, to place value on heavenly things brings satisfaction.”
No doubt, however, underneath and understood by all was the assumption that certain practices were not becoming to a Christian. This can be illustrated by the sermon on Stewardship of Time and Tithing. He emphasized that time should be redeemed and spent in the fear of God. “We cannot kill time without destroying opportunity.” He continued, “One man insisted that he liked work, but did not like to work between meals. A student said, ‘What shall we do tonight?’ ‘I’ll spin a coin and see. If it comes heads, we’ll go to the movies, if tails dance, if on the edge, study.” Without any explicit teaching, the assumption is clear.
He does have a biblical understanding of the Law. In August of
1934 he preached on Christ the End of the
Instead of focusing on the Law, he focused on abiding in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. His view of sanctification was biblical. In his sermon on More than Conquerors preached in January, 1934, he speaks of the believers’ victory over sin: First, Victory over the guilt of sin. (“No condemnation. He bore our sins and penalty…”); Second, Victory over the present dominion of sin. (“‘Christ in you’ is the secret. See II Cor. 2:14. We are told, walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, yield to God, look to Christ, feed on the Word, walk after the Spirit, love not the world, make no provision for the flesh. Again we are told to mortify the deeds of the body, which means to reckon ourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God. Rom ). To walk in the Spirit is to seek hourly to live in utter obedience to the Word of God, looking to Jesus moment by moment in restful faith, depending on His faithfulness.” Third, Salvation from the presence of sin. “After the resurrection every ache, pain and weakness are gone. We will be WITH Him, LIKE Him and SEE Him. He shall change our vile bodies that it may be fashioned like His glorious body…”
There is a striking emphasis on the Holy Spirit. From the beginning of his sermons, but never mentioned in this paper, are many scattered references to the Holy Spirit. During this three year period he preached ten sermons on the Holy Spirit, including a three-part series on the Holy Spirit in the Life of Christ, in the Book of Acts and in Galatians. He preached on The Great Helper (Jn 16:7-15), The Dove as a Symbol of the Holy Spirit, Rain as a Type of the Spirit, Emblems of the Holy Spirit, and The Transforming Power of the Holy Spirit.
Certain sermons epitomize in my mind what his focus of preaching was. Preaching on the Locks and Razors, drawn from the life of Samson (Judg ), he speaks of the “seven locks of consecration” that must be preserved to retain spiritual strength. “(a) The lock of faith. (b) Daily feeding on the Word of God. (c) Prayer, a life of prayer. (d) The Holy Spirit of God dominating the life. He makes our prayer effectual. (e) A passion for souls. (g) A heart filled with joy and praise. Then he speaks of the danger of being shorn of those locks by the razor. “(a) Let us fear the razor of worldliness. (b) The razor of selfishness. (c) The razor of self-sufficiency. Our sufficiency is of God. (d) Let us hate the razor of pride. (e) Let us not be overcome by the razor of compromise.”
Another interesting sermon, entitled When Winter Comes, is based on Paul’s request in II Timothy 4:9-21 in view of the coming of winter. “Paul is in prison awaiting a long, cold winter. He desires his cloak, books, a friend and his Bible be brought to him. These are winter necessities. His surroundings are discouraging but he cries, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He learned the secret of a true life, abundant life. He was delivered from fear and worry and whining. We need to learn that too.” Then he develops the main points as follows. First, The cloak for the body. We say, ‘It is getting cold. I must get my overcoat.’ There is a part we must do. The preacher commends the ants in Proverbs 30:25 for they are wise and prepare for winter. We must keep these bodies well by eating, drinking, exercising, dressing and sleeping right. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost. Let us be wise in this respect. Second, The mind must be instructed. Books worthwhile are character forming. Tell me what you read, and I’ll tell you what you are. Good, wholesome books are needed in every Christian home. This request of Paul is a standing rebuke of such who think they can get along without getting help from others. ‘He who refuses the thoughts of other men’s brains proves that he has none of his own.’ Paul studied under Gamaliel. He knew of the writings of the Athenians as we learn from Acts 17:28.” Third, The heart needs a friend. ‘Demas has forsaken me having loved this present evil world.’ Ease, safety, worldly advantage overpowered this ‘fair-weather friend.’ We need friends to whom we can go in all kinds of trouble and triumphs.” Fourth, The Bible is needed for the soul. ‘Especially.’ “John Wesley said, ‘I am a man of one book.’ It is the preeminent, incomparable, unchanging book. To sit alone with a misspent life is miserable company.”
Another striking feature is the increased number of sermons on eschatological themes with a Dispensational slant. Seven sermons are on end-time events including a five-sermon series on “Age-End” topics: Fear, Famine, Wrath, Delusions and Apostasy. A sermon on The Coming of the Lord and the Resurrection of the Saints are also given. In addition there is a ten-sermon series on the Book of Daniel with obvious Dispensational emphases including the Seventy-Weeks prophecy of Daniel 9.
Sermons for 1935-1945
The ten year period of ministry in Graterford and Harleysville
marked a watershed in many ways. It was the longest place of ministry in his
life. Those ten years also covered the first ten years of my life, being born in
December 1935 following his transfer from
By the time my dad arrived in Graterford and Harleysville, he had been preaching for ten years. By then he had prepared 310 sermons which were available for preaching if he so felt led. During those ten years of preaching he would prepare anywhere from two to eight sermons in a month, more usually three or four. This meant that he would tap some of his older sermons for preaching so that he could preach an average of 127 sermons each year in his first circuit of ministry. Though he preached approximately 1,270 sermons during that period, he prepared only 234 sermons from scratch. However, that figure of 1,270 sermons preached includes preaching in two churches each Sunday of the year. No doubt he preached the same sermon in each church. Furthermore, he also prepared other talks each month which were handwritten on different sizes of paper, duly numbered but not dated. These he preached Sunday nights and on other occasions. These are not included in our study.
However, I have checked over them because I realized that an
important series of messages, that I keenly remember him delivering in
Graterford, is not found in his sermon notes. I vividly remember him having a
display of the Tabernacle placed on the communion table in front of the pulpit
and behind the altar railing. There were tents and the Tabernacle with the veil
and the furnishings of the Tabernacle. This is a demonstration of the importance
of visual presentations because I keenly remember being impressed by this series
of messages. Upon checking the list of “Sermons, Talks, Speeches etc.,” I found
twelve titles of these Sunday evening messages on the Tabernacle, including the
brazen altar, the laver, the door and
These “Sermons, Talks, and Speeches” are not dated so there is no indication of when they were delivered. But upon examination, I am struck how similar the topics are with the Sunday morning services. There is no noticeable difference in the kind of sermons, except that the Sunday evening services and other events were not typed or included with the Sunday morning sermons.
Content of sermons: The pattern of sermon topics during the period of 1935 to 1945 is basically the same as in previous periods. At first glance there appears to be no systematic scheme of teaching. However, upon closer examination one finds a pattern and an emphasis.
Each year he preached sermons pertaining to significant days in the Calendar year: Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Thanksgiving or Harvest Home. Messages given at funerals are also found. Comparing these to the undated and unnumbered “Sermons, Talks and Speeches” reveals that similar sermons are listed in that list as well. Numerous sermons are found on each of these events mentioned above.
Those topics which are repeated quite frequently include Christ, the cross (and communion), the Holy Spirit, salvation, the Gospel, prayer, faith, love, victory over sin, missions, marriage and family, witnessing, soul winning and eschatology.
Sermon titles on Christ include: Our Indispensable Christ; When Jesus Stood in the Sinner’s Place; Christ our Advocate; Christ the Door, Christ Better than Moses; Christ the High Priest. Once again there are numbers of sermons on the Holy Spirit, but upon reflection it is stunning that not one sermon was found in his numbered and dated sermons on God and his attributes or work of creation; nothing was preached on the Trinity, though I did find one entitled, Seven Attributes of God, in his undated sermons and talks. Nothing was preached from Genesis 1 or 2 as I recall.
My father was a man devoted to prayer, so it is not surprising that he preached frequently on prayer. For example, in April 1937, he preached on The Life of Prayer. In November 1938 he preached on the Seven Great Wonders of Prayer. These are topical sermons. He preached other sermons on prayer which were “expository” in the sense that the points are drawn from the same passage of more than three verses, such as Elijah as a Man of Prayer. Lord Teach us to Pray, based on Luke 11, is also an “expository sermon.”
Among the most preached topics was Missions. Titles included,
The Compelling Force of Missions; The First Missionaries; Missionary Work is not in Vain; Giving for Missions and The Early Church and Missions. But
equally significant is that many illustrations were given of missionaries
throughout his other sermons. He referred to the foreign lands of
Though eschatological topics are preached, they do not number as many as I would have thought. During the ten year period he prepared sermons on Two Women of Revelation, The Marriage of the Lamb, The First Resurrection, God’s Plan for this Age and Bring Back the King. It is also possible that he preached his previously prepared sermons on eschatology. In April 1944 he preached on Bringing Back the King based on II Samuel 19:10. In August 1942 he preached on Signs of His Coming. Among the signs mentioned are: Delusions (I Tim. 4:1-3), Apostasy (II Tim 3:1-5), and Fear at the things coming upon the earth (Lk ,26); obviously, a topical sermon. He concludes with an invitation, “Are you saved, ready for his coming? Seek the Lord while He may be found.” I also found a few sermons on the Second Coming of Christ in the undated, unnumbered “Sermons, Talks and Speeches.”
My dad believed in divine healing. Whenever he went on visitation to the sick, he carried a vial of anointing oil. Anointing the sick and praying for the healing of the sick were part of his ministry. In fact, I myself was healed of appendicitis after he spent a night in prayer. For many weeks I suffered from the pain of appendicitis. I lacked an appetite and just laid around. Finally, the doctor said that if I were not better by the following day, I would need surgery in the hospital. So my father prayed into the night until he had assurance that I was healed. He never anointed me with oil. After hours of praying with assurance of my healing, he approached the following day without any inquiry whether I felt better, believing that God had healed me and there was no need to inquire. The next morning I awoke and felt hungry and asked for something to eat. For weeks I had had no appetite. To this day I still have my appendix.
With this knowledge, it is interesting that he only prepared
two sermons on divine healing, one in May 1943 which could very well be the
period when I was healed. He then preached this same sermon in
He did preach various series of sermons. He preached a five-part series on the book of Colossians. In the sermon on -23, he stresses grace and warns of dependence on works. “As with circumcision, so it is with all the other ordinances, those of eating and drinking, and those connected with the observances of sacred times, all these things are but a shadow of things to come.” He goes on to say, “If any New Testament ordinances are counted upon for salvation then they are used in a wrong way. This includes baptismal regeneration, transubstantiation.”
He preached an eight-part series on the book of Ruth; and a seven-part series on the Seven Words of Jesus on the Cross. He
preached a series of five sermons preparing for Good Friday (Christ’s Last Passover,
Separation from the world: Not many
sermons have “separation from the world” as the main theme, though numerous ones
allude to it. The only one that directly addresses the topic is entitled, Separation, based on Revelations 18:4
and preached in September, 1943. The first main point is “Come out of
her.” “‘Her’ refers to a system of evil, a city called
In May, 1937, he preached on ways of Limiting God. The fifth way mentioned
is The Lack of
Separation. “If you hunger
after the things of
In November, 1937, he preached on Why Men Reject God. The third reason why men reject God is Because of their love for sinful pleasures. “The Christian life is a battle but also of joy and peace. ‘In His presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore.’ Then there are pleasures that are earthly, sensual, devilish. Many indulge in these at the expense of loosing their souls.”
In a sermon on “
In a sermon on The Second Coming in January, 1945, he writes this: “The world knoweth us not. They know not the source of our joy, meat. ‘I have meat to eat that ye know not of.’ Why we don’t go with them to their ungodly shows and listen to their ungodly music and indulge in their ungodly drinks and smoke, why we don’t read their ‘comics’ and radio programs. They don’t know us because they knew Jesus not. They rejected Him, the most religious, had they known Him they would not have crucified Him. We are a strange and peculiar people to the world. The preaching of the Gospel is foolishness to them but power to us.”
In July, 1945, he preached on Fellowship with God and How Maintained, based on I John 1:2. To keep fellowship one must perceive and confess sin, keep God’s commandments, love the brethren, be separate from false teachers and be separate from the world (v. 15-17). “Not the material world, not our loved ones in the flesh, but the world in its opposition to God. The pleasures, the fame, the spirit of the world as opposed to God and His Son…One cannot live in fellowship with God if he is not separated from the world.”
Although he takes a strong stand against certain practices, he
does have a biblical approach. He does not believe salvation depends on keeping
the law. In a sermon entitled, The Way to
the City, preached in March, 1936, he speaks of wrong ways to heaven. The
first wrong road is
Mennonite themes in the sermons: Over a period of ten years I found only one sermon with a distinctly Mennonite emphasis. In March, 1939, he preached on the Saint’s Feetwashing [sic] based on John 13 to prepare members for the following Sunday. The sermon is a forceful explanation of the practice with the following thoughts. First, It was not custom feetwashing. “Custom feetwashing was done at the door and for cleansing; this took place at the table after supper. “Ye are clean but not all” would not have been true if it was custom feetwashing, their feet would have been dirty. Judas remained unclean for Jesus knew who would betray him. Physically, Judas was as clean as the rest. The uncleanness of which Jesus spoke was spiritual, not physical.” Second, Our duty as brethren in the Lord is seen, to serve one another. He then refers to the disciples’ desire to be first and the greatest. Jesus knew what was in the heart of Peter, Judas, Thomas, James and John and therefore taught them to wash one another’s feet. “None of you are too big, so much above the others, you wash one another’s feet. I have done it…” Third, The washing of the soul in the blood of Christ is seen. “In the Mennonite confession of faith known as the Dortrecht Confession of 1632 we read, ‘a sign to remind us of the true washing, the washing and purification of the soul in the blood of Christ.’ The Church of the Brethren says, ‘the washing of the saint’s feet symbolizes cleansing from the sins committed after baptism. Baptism means or symbolizes the new birth with a complete cleansing. Feetwashing is a partial cleansing. See John 13:10. ‘Washed’ is translated ‘bathed’ in the Revised Version. The continuous application of the blood of Christ is needed. The feet represent our contact with the earth. In our daily contacts we hear and see things which tend to mar our souls.” Fourth, The authority of the custom as an ordinance. “A great portion of the Church has not understood it so, but we have. It is a command more so then the Lord’s Supper. Jesus gave the example. He said, ye ‘ought.’ We ought to obey God rather than man. ‘Happy are ye’ is a blessing promised. No other ordinance is attended by this promise. There is no Scripture to conflict with it.”
While this is a full explanation of foot washing, this teaching was given only once in ten years and that sermon was never preached anywhere else again. This period of ten years included World War II and the five years leading up to the World War. Yet there is not one sermon on Mennonite teaching of pacifism. Various men in the congregations became ‘Conscientious Objectors’ with one young man in Graterford, Ray Detweiler, who enlisted in the Air Force. In December of 1942 he preached a sermon entitled, There is Peace on Earth, based on Luke 2:14. His introduction alludes to the time of war. “That there is peace on earth today sounds a bit queer. Some of course think the statement is sentimental, not really true. But there is peace on earth today as a result of the first Christmas. He did not fail nor is His purpose postponed. Jesus finished the work the Father gave Him to do. Peace is here, not between nations but between God and the sinner, or God and the one saved. There is coming a time when nations shall not war any more but not till Jesus comes again. The peace the Saviour gives is to be had in the midst of conflict, trials etc. which comes in every life.” He then speaks of Peace with God (Rom 5:1), Peace in believing (Rom ), and The peace of prayer (Phil 4:6,7).
Fear is a common human emotion, but I believe that during World War II there was heightened fear. I well remember singing choruses about not fearing, and about trusting in God. In April, 1943, he spoke on Faith in God, but he never relates it to the World War. Neither does he ever address the issue of war between nations or the place of non-resistant Christians in times of international conflict. Though he preached on the Beatitudes, he did not preach on those portions of the Sermon on the Mount which contain Mennonite distinctives, namely pacifism, turning the other cheek, and opposition to swearing by oath.
He did preach two sermons on The Head Covering of Women, based on I Corinthians 11:1-16. In the first sermon he teaches the reasons for the subjection of women and the use of the head covering in order to demonstrate this in the early church. But in the second sermon he gives reasons for not insisting on wearing the veil today. He concludes that, “Today it is impossible to teach woman’s subjection by a covered head. So we hold on to the truth and let the form drop. The custom of wearing a veil to teach woman’s subjection to man has grown obsolete. Not one in a 1000 would know what it stood for, but the great truth of the chapter lives on.”
Core emphases of the many sermons: In July, 1942, he preached a sermon that captures the frequent emphases of his ministry. In the sermon entitled, How May We Know Jesus Better, based on Philippians 3:10, he gives five ways: First, We must make much of God’s book; Second, We must pray in secret; Third, We must watch over sin; Fourth, We must have the right kind of friends; Fifth, If you want to know Christ better, work for Him. The recurring emphases are on the new birth, experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit, finding victory over sin as we abide in Christ through prayer, the reading of the Word of God, being separate from the world and serving the Lord by witnessing.
As I have read over the sermons for this decade of ministry in Graterford and Harlesville, I was reminded that the Keswick Bible Conference and the Keswick teaching of the Deeper Life made a deep impact on my dad. We used to attend Keswick Bible Conference for several years as our vacation (no other vacations were given the pastors at that time). Therefore, in addition to those themes mentioned above, there is a repetitive emphasis on certain key aspects of victory in Christ.
In April, 1942, he preached on Signposts Along the Way of Salvation. In this simple topical sermon he mentions the signposts: Believe, Confess, Yield, and Grow. Salvation is through faith (believe) alone and assurance of salvation is based not on feelings but on biblical teaching. Confess (or witness to) your faith in Christ. Yielding to God is important. “God has provided victory through yielding to the Lord day by day. We often try by fighting and struggling…The Holy Spirit in the believer gives us victory as we yield to Him. Growing as Christians is important. There is great joy at the birth of a baby but there is great sadness when the child does not grow. Envying, strife and divisions are indications of failure to grow.
In October, 1943, he preached on The Ideal Life based on II Corinthians 4:7-11. First, It was a life from God (Lk ). Even as God was manifest in the flesh, “So we must be born from above…Christ must live in us if He is to be manifested in us.” Second, It was entirely yielded to God (Jn ). Jesus is our example of submitting to the will of God. “What an example to us. So we seek to live His life and do His work. Paul says, ‘Yield yourselves to God as those that are alive from the dead.’ Rom .” Third, It was a life empowered by the Spirit (Acts ). Speaking of the Spirit of the Lord being upon Jesus he writes, “He knew His disciples needed this power so He told them to wait till it would come upon them. How can we expect to live the Jesus life without it. There is no substitute for it. No excuse to be without it. The promise is to you and all.” Fourth, It was a life of unwavering faith in God. After speaking of Jesus’ faith that God was His Father, even when He suffered at the hands of men, he applies this to Christians. “How ready are we to shrink from the testing and sufferings and doubt God’s love? Who is sufficient for these things? ‘Our sufficiency is of God’ (II Cor 3:5).” Fifth, It was a life of activity (Lk ). He applies Jesus’ delight in doing the Father’s will to the Christian who should put on “His yoke and in meekness and lowliness of heart serve our fellowmen, being a friend to man.” Sixth, It was a life crowned with victory. “His miracles were all victories over human weakness, His dying was victory over the world’s sin, it broke down the barrier between God and man, His resurrection was victory over mortality, death and the grave. He knew no defeat. We may expect victory too. God always causeth us to triumph.”
Notice the frequent reference to victory which is only possible with identification with Christ. The motif of “victory” is mentioned in many sermons. In March, 1941, he preached on Crucifixion with Christ, based on Galatians 2:20. Preparing for Good Friday he says, that unless we apply the cross of Christ to ourselves, then “self is the dominating factor in life instead of Christ.” First, he considered the text and the context. “Paul says I am crucified and therefore not trying to be declared righteous by the works of the law; have ceased from my own works and trust instead. What a blessed life. A farmer remarked of George Mueller, he is a gentleman of leisure, without a care, so quietly did he walk so peacefully and stately his demeanor.” Second, Consider the first personal pronoun, the ‘I’ or self which Paul says was crucified with Christ. “The ‘I’ or self life, as John Wesley said, is touchy like wearing all the nerves of the body on the skin, if it is not honored where it thinks it ought to be, it takes on spells…All my pride – pride of person, my possessions, my profession, my preaching, my praying, my praising, my religious practicing – all my pride. ‘Forbid it Lord that I should boast, save in the death of Christ my God’ Gal. .” Then finally, Consider some testimonies. A.B. Simpson. “‘I found sin overcame me, and my temptations were too strong for me. I came to Him a second time and he whispered to me, ‘Christ in you.’ I have had victory and blessing ever since.’ Then he wrote, ‘Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow thee; Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou from hence my all shall be. If God has been pleased to use me in any fuller measure, it has been because of that hour and will be in the measure in which it is made the keystone of a consecrated, crucified, Christ devoted life.’ This he speaks of as the time when he was sanctified, a definite crisis in his life.” My father then gave another testimony of A.C. Gabelien [sic. Gaebelein] who said, “In the death of Christ I died, all nailed to the cross reckon it thus and live it out in the power of the indwelling Christ. In the life of Christ I live.”
In January and March of 1944 he preached sermons which represent a similar Keswick emphasis. He speaks of The Reign of the Old Man and the Co-Resurrection Brings us into Christ. “Our old man not only died with Christ but we also are raised with him.” He speaks of “The Impartation of a New Life,” “The Impartation of a New Nature,” “The Holy Spirit is the Author of Regeneration,” and “A New Creation is the Result.” Many other topics were preached including two on divine healing. But the core emphases given above summarize his burden in preaching.
Sources of influence for sermons:
The books which my father used to develop his sermons were of a distinct kind.
A.B. Simpson and his teaching played a prominent role. In addition to my dad’s
notation of A.B. Simpson in his sermons, at the funeral of Sister Hackman he
commented, “She trusted Jesus as her Saviour and sanctifier and coming king and
often trusted Him for her bodily needs or physical needs.” This brings to mind
the slogan used in the Christian and
Why did my dad focus on the sermon topics he did and omit so much that were from the Anabaptist heritage? I believe the reason for this strange lacuna of omitting Mennonite teaching in his preaching is due to several reasons: first, he grew up in a home where the father rejected the Old Mennonite emphasis on certain legalistic “do’s” and “don’ts” such as dress. Secondly, he was led down the road of theological understanding through the teaching of Moody Bible Institute. Whether his sister, Katie, first became interested in Moody Bible Institute where she eventually took correspondence courses, or whether she was influenced to attend Moody through my dad, we do not know. But the Moody emphasis is very clear. Furthermore, there must not have been any directive from the top MBC leadership to teach on the Mennonite topics; otherwise, I am sure my dad would have.
But more importantly, my father’s sources of sermon helps, which he chose to use, were not Mennonite but of the Moody type – Dispensational and Fundamentalist. Here and there throughout his sermons he mentions that help was taken from Peloubets Notes, Handfuls on Purpose, Neighbor’s, F. B. Myer, Lockyer’s booklet, and various other books or articles written by Ironside, Ledgters, Philpott, N.B. Harrison and others.
References in his sermons can be found of A.J. Gordon, author of The Ministry of the Spirit; Charles Blanchard, author of Getting Things from God. Frequent reference is made to A Quest for Souls. Checking the Internet I find that this book, A Quest for Souls: Comprising all the sermons preached and prayers offered in a series of gospel meetings in Fort Worth, Texas, was written by George W. Truett; J.B. Cranfill and published in 1917 by Harper. Books by Neighbor and references to C.H. Spurgeon are numerous.
So the primary influences for on my dad were definitely not Mennonite; instead, they were the conservative, Protestant, Dispensational, Keswick, what one might today call, the Fundamentalist stream of thought in the early and mid 1900s.
Sermons for 1945-1961
Scanning the sermons he prepared during the last sixteen years
of his ministry, we find similar thematic emphases as in earlier years. During
this last period of ministry he depended more on his previously prepared
sermons. During his three years in
A Concluding Critique of My Dad’s Sermons
In the words of Paul, “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep…” Even so my dad served God’s purpose well in his own generation. He was faithful in all of his service to God. Growing up in a Mennonite tradition that disparaged education, having a father who frowned on education, even preventing my dad’s sister from attending high school and forbidding her from attending Moody Bible Institute; and then entering the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church which frowned on higher education for its clergy, my dad was fortunate to have pursued high school studies at Bluffton College Academy and attending one term at Moody Bible Institute. His preaching was greatly enhanced by that. However, the sermons also reflect the limitations that stem from a limited education. He depended heavily on sermon helps and outlines from various books. There is no evidence of any exegetical study of the text, a skill he never learned in school. Neither did he exposit a text as we are accustomed to today. But he served his generation well and used the gifts that God had entrusted to him.
When evaluating the sermons one must also remember that in his day there was only one pastor to do everything. My father made twice as many pastoral visits as most pastors do today in the BFC; in fact he visited five times more than some do. Because he preached both Sunday morning and evening, and because he preached in circuits of two churches, he preached twice as many sermons as many do today.  He did all the pastoral counseling, supervised the Christian Education in the church, worked with the youth, conducted the Vacation Bible Schools, as well as the other normal pastoral duties weddings and funerals and chairing committee meetings. In most churches today there are at least two pastors, many churches with three or more assistants. My uncle, A.G. Woodring who pastored some large churches, did the work of four pastors in today’s BFC. So when you compare the quality of preaching today with the days of my father, one is comparing apples with oranges.
My dad’s theology was mainstream evangelical Protestantism with a clear understanding of justification by grace through faith alone and sanctification by the power of the Holy Spirit. His understanding of the relationship between grace and law, and salvation and works is very biblical. This teaching of justification by grace alone through faith alone through Christ alone and apart from good works may have echoed my dad’s experience of conversion when he declared, “I felt so light.” He exclaimed, “Ichvesis, ichvesis,” meaning “I know it, I know it.” He knew that he was saved through his repentance and faith in Christ alone apart from any good works. His understanding surely was enhanced through his studies at Moody Bible Institute. His clear preaching on justification very soon after his studies at Moody would seem to point to Moody’s influence on his thinking. Furthermore, the books he used for sermon preparation were all from this same evangelical stripe.
He had a great concern for total dedication to God, a complete surrender to God’s will. He reflected the Keswick teaching of the Deeper Life with its emphasis on being united with Christ, dying to self, and living the resurrected life in Christ. He believed that many Christians lack this total devotion to God. He further taught that total consecration will lead one to eschew the temptations of this world. Total consecration to God involves a life of faith, love and prayer.
His messages are Christ centered, preaching more on Christ and his death than on any other one topic. In contrast, he avoided almost completely any preaching on the distinctives of Mennonite theology of pacifism, non-resistance, affirming and not swearing by oath, and foot washing. He did believe in divine healing and preached at least once on the topic in each church where he ministered.
He is clearly dispensational in his eschatology. The only references to authors in these sermons are dispensational scholars. All the traditional marks of Dispensational teaching of the end times are found in my father’s sermons. But he did not harp on the topic, although as I indicated above, his strong belief in the imminent return of Christ made an indelible imprint on my mind.
Though I am not sure that he had a full understanding of
Perseverance of the Saints as we understand it, nevertheless he made some
surprising statements concerning assurance of salvation. Never once do I
remember reading of the possibility of loosing one’s salvation. He taught in one
message that the believer is secure and concluded the message by singing
“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.” Elsewhere he says that, “If we truly
confess and are willing to forsake sin we will have assurance of salvation.”
During one funeral he spoke of the deceased by saying, “A know-so present
salvation was the experience and testimony of our sister.” But in all
probability he received greater clarity on the subject during his ministry in
I found no evidence of legalism or an unbiblical approach to the separation from the world. Legalism is the belief that one earns and merits salvation by doing good works and obeying the law. Pharisaism elevates “the traditions of the elders” so that they must be kept equally with the law of God in order to merit salvation. “This religion of merit [Pharisaism] based on works led to a sense of self-righteousness and necessitated ‘separation’ from all who failed to live accordingly to avoid temptation and defilement. Consequently, this life style came to be one of rigorous, legalistic separatism.”
Quite the contrary! My father emphasized salvation by grace alone through faith alone in the redemption provided by Christ on the Cross. Salvation for him was not a works-righteousness. His teaching on Ephesians 2:1-10 and Romans 3:9-20 clearly anchored him in the theology of the Protestant Reformers who taught justification by grace through faith alone. As early as 1926 he preached from Ephesians 2: “The text says, ‘not of ourselves.’ Human nature bears the same evidence. Sin and moral weakness trouble people. They have no strength. They feel helpless, powerless, lifeless, their bones are broken and can do nothing, they cannot control their thoughts, overcome temptation, cannot repent, they have no feeling. But Christ died for the ungodly, not for the good, the strong or he mighty but for the ungodly. God comes to where we are. He does not ask us to become better before we accept Christ but says come and he comes to where we are.”
He did maintain an emphasis on separation from the world from the beginning to the end of his ministry, but his emphasis is on the separation from the impurity and sinful lust of the world that are manifest in certain practices. His understanding was that certain “worldly” practices were unacceptable for Christians because of their impurity. His earlier references to jewelry dissipated over the years. One might fault him for believing that women are more prone to pride than men. This seems to be rooted in his association of pride with dress, jewelry and cosmetic make-up, though he also taught that one can be proud in his plain dress. However, this teaching is found only in the very early days of his ministry before he ever entered the Gospel Herald Society and the MBC. He does not teach any second degree separation which was so common among the Fundamentalists.
Today I have very few remnants left of my Mennonite heritage.
Theologically, I believe in “just war” but emotionally I could not carry a gun
and kill. I would be a chaplain or a non-combatant. If I were a child again, I
would love to play with a water pistil. Though I have never felt guilty of
breaking Christ’s command when we ceased “washing the saint’s feet” in the
But I do embrace the Mennonite and Fundamentalist concern for separation from the world. I find myself at odds with contemporary Christians who seem to delight in entertainment that exalts sensuality, violence and self. I am appalled that Christians should find enjoyment when watching those things that God hates and listening to music that is so unbiblical. If God hates fornication, adultery, violence, pride, and greed, why should Christians find enjoyment in such things? I am disturbed that pastors do not preach concerning these issues!
Therefore, I can say that one major contribution of my Mennonite heritage is this deep conviction that the Church must be “separate” from the world. We are “in the world but not of it.” I am concerned that instead of the Church being salt and light in this world today, the Church has imbibed the values of this world by indulging in its entertainment to the extent that the Church has lost her saltiness and her light is diminished. There seems to be so little difference between so-called “born again Christians” and non-believers according to statistical studies. This I find appalling. In this area, the faith of my fathers remains strong.
However, I do regret that my dad did not teach more on the biblical principles that should guide one when confronting the issues of worldliness. Though he alluded to some biblical teaching of purity, he did not develop it. In particular, I am thinking of movies and dancing. I don’t even recall much teaching on drinking of alcohol and drunkenness. Neither does he ever preach from I John 2:15-18. In his sermons he assumes that that we all know these things are wrong and Christians should not engage in them, but nowhere are biblical principles taught with any clarity that would inform the congregants on why certain practices should be avoided. Abstaining from certain “worldly” practices is more of a tradition which is understood and accepted rather than a belief supported by biblical study. This I find both strange and regrettable because I recall reading small booklets found in his library that taught biblical principles that should guide a Christian in his choice of entertainment. If this pattern was followed by all the pastors in the M.B.C., this may have contributed in part to the present day’s perilous situation where people have plunged into “worldly entertainment” without any biblical foundation to discern its dangers.
While this is, I believe, a weakness in my dad’s approach to “worldliness,” I do not believe the present generation of pastors in the BFC is any more balanced. Carl F. H. Henry in the mid-1940s lamented that evangelicals only preached on personal salvation and did not address social-economic issues of culture; instead of engaging the culture with biblical teaching, they withdrew from it. Evangelicals, or Fundamentalists as they were called then, separated from the culture and did not address the bigger social issues of the day. My dad’s preaching surely falls into this category.
Because of the influence of the “new Evangelical” movement, evangelical Christians are addressing social issues of the day and are engaging the contemporary culture. They seek to participate in it so as to transform the culture. But they have now neglected to address the questions of entertainment that are so pervasive. Pastors today simply assume that we are “in the world” but not “of it” because no one preaches on the perils of worldliness.
What is the result? The
Pastors and members in the
Andy Crouch observes, “Is Hollywood’s Oscar an achievement to be pursued or an image of gold to be defied? Is Burger King just fast food, or is it the king’s rations? The fundamentalists of 100 years ago had firm opinions on such questions; their grandchildren seem to have adopted a posture of nearly universal consumption of American culture at its best and worst.”
We need to give some serious thought to this legacy from our past and where we have gone astray.
MY FATHER’S CHARACTER
Personal Memories of My Dad
The features, traits and characteristics of my father’s personality were shaped during his formative years of early life. Knowing my dad’s parents can help one understand my father better. As they say, “Like father, like son.” My father grew up on a farm and he loved farming. As the saying goes, “You can take a farmer out of the farm, but you cannot take the farm out of the farmer.” During my first twenty years, we always had a “truck patch,” sometimes big and sometimes small. In Graterford we had a big “truck patch” with potatoes, tomatoes, corn, radishes, turnips and other vegetables; we also had many flowers. Giving color to the yard and somewhat hiding the farm, my parents planted xenias, marigolds and other colorful flowers in a wide sweeping row at the upper end of the “truck patch.” Other flowers giving color to our large yard were tulips, daffodils, peonies and other perennials.
When we moved to
My dad loved to do carpentry, though nothing big or fancy like
his father had made. Neither did he have large woodworking machines. In my
corner of the basement in
He also loved to go hunting. Most every hunting season in my earlier years he would take his gun and go out into the country for a day to shoot rabbits and small game. For some unknown reason he never took me along. Nor did he involve me in the farming of the “truck patches.” Today neither hunting nor farming can be counted as any interest of mine.
By nature he tended to be more like his mother than his father. He was quiet, a bit slow, very kind and gentle. I could not think of a kinder, gentler person than my dad. He was most patient and would not discipline harshly. He did not shout at me when disobeying. On one occasion, I remember that he took me into the basement in Graterford for some discipline. He talked to me and tried to explain what he would do to me if I continued to disobey, and in the process slapped his face in order to demonstrate what he would do. By so doing, he broke his own glasses accidentally. On another occasion he took me down into the basement for discipline. Whatever he was doing, I do not remember. But I do remember my mother calling down from upstairs, “Spank him harder.”
We were Mennonites but my mother frequently reminded me that we
were not “Old Mennonites.” She had the highest respect and admiration for my
dad’s sisters and families who were Lancaster County Mennonites, but in our
church we were not “Old Mennonites.” Nevertheless we were Mennonites. During
World War II, I cannot remember our family listening to any news about the war.
In contrast, when I visited our neighbor’s house, I remember hearing the radio
broadcasts about the war. During my childhood they came out with water pistils.
I thought they were neat, but my parents would not allow me to have any. My
parents never voted in elections until 1960 when John Kennedy ran for the
Presidency. We never had TV in our house until we lived in
So in many ways my dad reflected his parents and his childhood rearing in ways that we all do. His character was not only shaped by his personal godliness but by his genetic makeup from his parents and his rearing at home. His concern for godly living not only reflected his personal prayer life and study of the Scriptures but his Mennonite background. And in so many ways I find myself influenced by those same factors – and I think for the good.
A Final Tribute
Several years after my father passed away, I composed a tribute to him which was published in the Fellowship News in June, 1966. I will repeat this as a concluding Tribute, for it describes the kind of person I knew him to be.
“My rich heritage is the godly example of my Christian parents. In thinking of my dad several adjectives come to mind.
“He was a patient man. Nothing seemed to disturb or ruffle his temperament. In my youthful restlessness I occasionally became impatient over his constant control of self. When traffic moved slower than usual, when circumstances did not move rapidly, when people became irritable, he remained supremely patient. Never once do I remember him loosing his temper.
“Never rude or brusque, he was always courteous and considerate. He was truly a gentleman. When treated roughly by others, he responded gently, for he never returned evil for evil. This courtesy sprang from a deep humility. He never paraded himself, spoke arrogantly or boastfully. At times he felt inadequate, but he never presumed upon others. He spoke sparingly and always with humility.
“Never do I remember him envious. He was content with his lot in life. When circumstances were unpleasant, he never chafed at the secondary causes but accepted his lot as the will of God. He did not complain or become embittered. He had learned the lesson of accepting the unpleasant turns of life as well as the pleasant ones as the perfect will of God. He never took matters into his own hand to shape and direct so as to bring personal gain.
“Above all, I remember my father as a man of prayer. He was faithful in maintaining a close walk with the Lord. He loved God above all else. My mother tells of many times he spent in long prayer on behalf of the unsaved, the church and his family. Days of fasting were not uncommon. During the years he prayed with great concern that God would lead his son in His perfect will.
“His interests were varied. Our yards were always colorful with flowers and usually marked by a garden with lush vegetables which he carefully tended. He enjoyed relaxing in the basement with some wood-working tools. Always with a desire to learn, he read much and took many correspondence courses.
“The key to my dad’s influence in my life
was his accessibility. He was
available so that I could know him. He took me into his confidence on many
things that many fathers would not. When visiting members, he frequently took me
along. While preparing for
“For this rich heritage I am eternally indebted to the God of my father.”
 Anna (Gehman) Wivell – my cousin, daughter of Wayne Gehman; Interview 20 July 2006.
Clayton Gehman – my cousin, son of Wayne Gehman; Interview 19 July 2006
Erwin Martin – my cousin, son of Emma (Gehman) and Noah Martin; Interview 18 July 2006.
Alvin Martin – my cousin, son of Tillie (Gehman) and Noah Martin; Interview 18 July 2006.
Lester Martin – my cousin, son of Tillie (Gehman) and Noah Martin; Interviews 18-20 July 2006.
Charles Martin – my cousin, son of Lizzie (Gehman) and Peter Martin; Interview 20 July 2006.
Wayne Martin – my cousin, son of Lizzie (Gehman) and Peter Martin; Interview 20 July 2006.
Ruth Martin – my cousin, daughter of Lizzie (Gehman) and Peter Martin; Interview 20 July 2006.
Irene Martin – my cousin, daughter of Lizzie (Gehman) and Peter Martin; Interview 20, July 2006
 Recalled by my cousin, Lester Martin; Interview 18-20 July 2006.
 Anna Wivell; Interview
My cousin, Charles Martin, said Pappy
“belonged to our church.” Interview:
 Information on the
Personal interview with Jacob (Jack)
Weber, age 99, on
 This was inferred by comments my dad made and was confirmed Erwin Martin who had a close relationship with Pappy Gehman. However, Anna Wivell does not remember anything of this.
 Anna Wivell; Interview
Jacob Weber and Clayton Weber are second
cousins of mine; both were active laymen in the MBC. Clayton Weber was an active
member in the MBC in Fleetwood and Oley and was the builder of many churches,
including the Christian Education extension of Fleetwood BFC and the church
building of Oley; Interview with Jack (99 years old) and Clayton (92 years old)
 The Genealogical information on the Gehman History is derived from the following books:
The Gehman-Gayman Family History by Anna M. Gehman. (Mohnton, PA: by the author, 1954).
The Gayman/Gehman/Gahman Family History
compiled by Richard L. Miller (
Particular attention was
given to pages 10-18 of Richard Miller’s book which contains research by Richard
Warren Davis on the early Gehman history in
Gehman Family Directory, Part III:
The Descendants of Jacob and Anna Maria (Fretz) Gehman by Paul F. Gehman (
 The name, “Gehman,” has been recorded in registries and documents in many different forms. They include such spellings as: Gayman, Gahman, Gaymon, Geman, Geaghman, Geeman, Geaman, Geiman, Gemon, Gauman, Gaumann, Geuman, Geyman, Gouman and Goumann. The most popular spelling for the surname in English is “Gayman. The “Pennsylvania Dutch” preferred version is “Gehman.”
The name, Gehman, means “the man who walks” in German, so I am told. This is an appropriate name for the author of this paper who walks four miles daily and has been jogging or aerobic walking for well over thirty years.
 The earliest known Gehman was Martin Gouman who was born in Grosshochstetten, Canton of Bern, Switzerland about AD 1555. His wife, Anni Berger, gave birth to Nicholas Gouman.
 The wife of Nicolas Gouman, Catherina Gouman, gave
birth to Hans Gouman on
 The wife of Hans
Gouman, Barbli Gfeller, gave birth to Christian Gouman on
Benedict Gauman was an Anabaptist living
at Corgemont, Jura (
This information, that Christian Gauman emigrated to the United
States, landing in Philadelphia 1 October 1754 on the ship Phoenix is derived from The Gehman-Gayman Family History by Anna
M. Gehman (page 6), which is then repeated by Richard Miller in The Gayman/Gehman/Gahman Family (page
15). However, when checking the “original lists of arrivals in the
 Life and Experiences of Mrs. Esther H. Myers by M.M. Myers. Privately published about 1950.
 Aunt Katie (Gehman) Wealand, sister of my dad, wrote a letter on Mach 16, 1972 at my request on the early life of Rudy H. Gehman. Many of these comments are from that letter.
 Aunt Katie (Gehman) Wealand, Letter dated Mach 16, 1972.
 Aunt Katie (Gehman) Wealand, Letter dated Mach 16, 1972.
 Aunt Katie (Gehman) Wealand, Letter dated Mach 16, 1972.
 Aunt Katie (Gehman) Wealand, Letter dated Mach 16, 1972.
 Kathryn Dietz, Interview on
My aunt, Katie, states in a letter dated
March 16, 1972, that he studied at “
 Confirmed by a telephone conversation with the Registrar at Moody Bible Institute in December 2006.
Letter from Mildred Musselman, dated
 The information on Menno and Hettie Myers is largely derived from a small booklet that he published in memory of his deceased wife, Hettie (Esther), entitled, Life and Experiences of Mrs. Esther H. Myers by M.M. Myers. Privately published about 1950
 Life and Experiences of Mrs. Esther H. Myers by M.M. Myers. Privately published about 1950, page 22.
 The minutes read, “W.G. Gehman, President of the Gospel Herald Society, presented the names of A.M. Sprock, E.W. Bean, R.H. Gehman, C.L. Miller and C.O. Reed as Applicants for Annual Conference License. Resolved, That these brethren be referred to the Committee on Examination of Applicants for Annual Conference License.”
Some time later during the conference the report of the Committee on Examination of Applicants for Annual Conference License was submitted.
“We, the Committee on Examination of Applicants for Annual Conference License, beg leave to report that we have examined the brethren A.M. Sprock, E.W. Bean, R.H. Gehman, C.L. Miller and C.O. Reed and recommend them to this Conference for Annual Conference License.
B. Bryan Musselman, C.H. Brunner, F.M. Hottel, Committee.
David E. Thomann; Interview on
 Life and Experiences of Mrs. Esther H. Myers by M.M. Myers. Privately published about 1950,
Interview with R.C. Reichenbach, retired
MBC pastor and former Gospel Herald,
 The minutes of the 1931 Annual Conference Year Book read: “We beg leave to report that we have interviewed E. W. Bean, A. M. Sprock and R. H. Gehman, who have completed their three years' Reading Course creditably and have labored acceptably in the Gospel Herald Society for a number of years. We believe them to be sincere, conscientious and promising young men of good character but owing to the fact that they have not had the opportunity to labor in the Church, we recommend that their ordination be deferred for the present. B. Bryan Musselman, E. N. Cassel, C. H. Brunner, Committee.”
Letter from Mildred Musselman, dated
 Life and Experiences of Mrs. Esther H. Myers by M.M. Myers. Privately published about 1950, page 6.
 We may assume that he began preaching at his first charge in Graterford and Harleysville two months earlier. But now as a seasoned preacher, he was able to use sermons from his “sermon barrel” while settling down in his new home and responsibilities.
Pictures in the photo album include:
Perma (Wismer) and Stanley Hipzer, Evelyn (Detweiler) and Donald Bechtel, Robert
Zieglers, Kathryn and Clayton Dietz, Stan and
All the following statistics and
conference data were obtained from the Annual Conference Yearbooks of the
Mennonite Brethren in
 “Jesus never fails, Jesus never fails. Heaven and earth may pass away. But Jesus never fails.” (George Palmer used to start his radio program with this chorus during World War II.)
“Cheer up ye saints of God, there’s nothing to worry about; Nothing to make you feel afraid, nothing to make you doubt. Remember Jesus never fails so why not trust him and shout. You’ll be sorry you worried at all tomorrow morning.”
“No, never alone, no never alone; He promised never to leave you, never to leave you alone. No, never alone, no never alone; He promised never to leave you, never to leave you alone.”
“Jesus is good to me, Jesus is good to me, so good, so good; Jesus is good to my soul.” (Rose of Sharon, p. 628)
“Oh there’s honey in the rock my brother, there’s honey in the rock for you. Leave your sins for the blood to cover. There’s honey in the rock for you.” (Rose of Sharon, p. 194)
“Singing makes the burden lighter, singing drives the care away; With a pray’r and song the path is lighter, Keep singing all the day; Singing in the early morning, Singing as the moments fly. And others who hear you, Will answer by and by.” (Rose of Sharon, p. 438)
“Have faith in God, the sun will shine, Though dark the clouds may be today. The Lord has planned your path and mine. Have faith in God, have faith always.”
“Down in the dumps I’ll never go. That’s where the devil keeps me low.
“So I’ll sing with all my might and I’ll keep my armor bright. But down in the dumps I’ll never go.”
“Wide, wide as the ocean, High as the heavens above; Deep, deep as the deepest sea, Is my Saviour’s love. I, tho’ so unworthy, Still am a child of His care. For His word teaches me that His love reaches me ev-‘ry-where.” (Rose of Sharon, p. 454)
“A little talk with Jesus makes it right, alright. A little talk with Jesus makes it right, alright. With trials of every kind, praise God I always find, a little talk with Jesus makes it right, alright.” (Rose of Sharon, p. 722)
“Oh our Lord is coming back to earth again, Yes, our Lord is coming back to earth again. Satan will be bound a thousand years, we’ll have no tempter then, After Jesus shall come back to earth again.” (Rose of Sharon, p. 78)
“His yoke is easy, his burden is light, I found it so, I found it so. He leadeth me by day and by night where living waters flow.”
“O what He’s done for me! O what He’s done for me! If I tried, to eternity, I never could tell all He’s done for me.” (Rose of Sharon, p. 487)
“Coming again, yes, coming again; Jesus, my Saviour, He’s coming again. Heavenly Bridegroom, down from the sky, Coming to take us with Him on high.” (Rose of Sharon, p. 633)
“I’ll be present when the roll is called, Pure and spotless thro’ the crimson flood; I will answer when they call my name; Sav’d thro’ Jesus blood.” (Rose of Sharon, p. 529)
“And when the battle’s over we shall wear a crown! Yes, we shall wear a crown! Yes, we shall wear a crown! And when the battle’s over, we shall wear a crown In the new Jerusalem. Wear a crown, wear a crown, Wear a bright and shining crown. And when the battle’s over, we shall wear a crown In the new Jerusalem.” (Rose of Sharon, p. 373)
“He careth for you, He careth for you. Through sunshine or shadow, He careth for you.”
Interestingly enough, I have a little motto given to me in 1940 by my Sunday School teacher in Graterford, Miss Bean, which says, “He careth for you.” This must have been a popular chorus sung at that time. It was during the European war leading up to World War II and this was a comforting chorus.
My dad had the unusual opportunity of
officiating the marriage of four sisters by the Italian name of Yacovelli,
including Dorothy Yacovelli who married Harold Wagner; and Ann Yacovelli who
married Fred Wagner; Norma who married Alfred Henry Topolinski and Rachel who
 Stalwart members included the families of Edward J. Weber, Fred and Ann Wagner, John and Alice Hendricks, the Gogels, the senior Moran family which included their younger boys, George and Robert who were my age mates, and John and Edna Moran and Alva Moran, Alfred and Norma Topolinski.
 Some of the core families whom I remember include: John Boehmer’s, Lewis Mauer’s, Willard and Mary Mauer, Roy and Faye Williams, Martha Galliger, Harold Snyder’s, Monroe Kreisher’s, Harry and Katie Shutt, Ken and Sarah Malik, Mrs. Estock and Shirley Estock, the Minnig’s, Dietrick’s, Lee’s and Klinger’s.
 That he gave the paper is definite. It is in my possession. The place of delivery is not certain.
 Aunt Katie (Gehman) Wealand, Letter dated Mach 16, 1972.
Richard (Dick) Hartzel; Interview on
Olive Rawn, retired missionary; Interview
 Perma (Wismer) (90 years old) and Stanley Hipszer (88 years old); Interview 17 June 2003.
Shirley Estock and Emma Aurand; Interview
 The titles of these sermons are: “The Scarlet Line” (based on the account of Rahab in Joshua 2:8-21 and dated April 5, 1924); “Gideon as a Man” preached in Chapel Prayer Meeting on May 5, 1924); “Psalm 128:1” (June 15, 1924); “Witnessing for Christ” (July 13, 1924); “The Temptation of Christ” (August 10, 1924); “The Conversion of Paul” (August 3, 1924); “Worshipping the True God” (August 31, 1924); “The Believer’s Oneness with Christ” (October 5, 1924); “Power and Authority” (October 19, 1924); “Thanksgiving to God” (November 30, 1924).
 Sermons on “Leaven: Sin-Sincerity” (May 30, 1925), “What Hath Man Wrought” (June 14, 1925) and “Wages of Sin and the Gift” (July 11, 1925) all contain a homiletical outlines though not consistently the same.
 Several examples of outlines for Textual Sermons are here given:
Conditions for a Successful Revival based on II Chronicles 7:14.
I. My People;
II. Shall Humble Themselves;
III. And Pray;
IV. And Seek my Face;
V. And Turn from Their Wicked Ways;
VI. Then Will I Hear from Heaven.
Does Godliness Pay? based on I Timothy 4:8.
(a) It pays from a business standpoint.
(b) It pays in peace of mind.
(c) It pays in joy.
(d) It pays in hope.
II. “For the Life which is to Come”
The Seven Clauses of the New Covenant based on Hebrews 8:10-12
II. “and write them in their hearts.”
III. “I will be to them a God.”
IV. “They shall be my people.”
V. “All shall know me.”
VI. “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness.”
VII. “I will remember their sins and iniquities no more.”
Seeking the Lord based on Isaiah 55:6
I. The Lord is Near
II. He is to be Found
The Glory that Excelleth based on II Corinthians 3:9
I. The Ministration of Condemnation was Glorious.
II. The Ministration of Righteousness or of the Spirit was more Glorious.
 Several examples of outlines for Expository Sermons are here given:
The Spirit Filled Life based on Ephesians 5:18-21
I. A Melodious Heart. v. 19
II. A Thankful Heart. v 20
III. A Humble Heart. v 21
Philemon based on the epistle to Philemon
I. The Apostolic Greeting. vv 1-3
II. The Character of Philemon. vv 4-7
III. Intercession for Onesimus. vv 8ff
The Resurrection based on I Corinthians 15:13-20
II. “Then our preaching is vain.”
III. “Then your faith is vain and ye are yet in your sins.”
IV. “Then they also which are fallen asleep in Jesus are perished.”
V. “But now is Christ risen from the dead.”
Six Things Accomplished Through the Cross of Christ based on Hebrews 9:12-26
I. Eternal redemption. v 12
II. Pure your conscience from dead works. v 14
III. Put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. v 26
IV. By which will we are sanctified. v 10
V. By one offering he hath perfected.
VI. Boldness to enter into the Holies. v 19
Seven Christian Graces based on II Peter 1:1-4
I. Add, add, add Virtue to Faith
II. Knowledge. Add, add.
III. Add Temperance
IV. Add Patience
V. Add Godliness
VI. Add Brotherly-Kindness
VII. Add Charity or Love
 Several examples of outlines for Topical Sermons are here given:
Man’s and God’s Thoughts and Ways with the text-verse taken from Isaiah 55:8,9
I. Man’s Thoughts
II. God’s Thoughts
III. Man’s Ways
IV. God’s Ways
Acquaintance with God with text-verse from Job 22:21
I. The Nature of Acquaintance with God
II. The Means of Acquaintance with God
III. The Season for Getting Acquainted with God
IV. Results of being Acquainted with God
V. The Reason why you should get Acquainted with God
The Story of the Blood in the Old Testament with the text-verse from Hebrews 9:22
I. The Story of God and Man
II. The Story of a Substitute
III. The Story of the Blood in the Old Testament
Symbols or Figures of the Bible
I. A Critic. Hebrews 4:12
II. A Lamp or Light. Psalm 119:105, 130
III. A Mirror. II Corinthians 3:18; James 1:25
IV. A Laver. Ephesians 5:26
V. Food. Job
The Life of Prayer
I. The Avenue of Prayer. John 14:13
II. Prayer and Fellowship. John 14:23
III. Prayer and Petition. Philippians 4:6
V. Prayer is a Cure for Worry. Philippians 4:7
V. Prayer – Preparation for Service. Acts 13:2
VI. Prayer – the Source of Power. Matthew 6:6
VII. Calls to Prayer. Hebrews 4:16
I. The Importance of Repentance
II. Its Necessity
III. What it is
IV. How is Repentance Shown
V. How Repentance is Effected or Produced
Mother’s Place preached on
I. Her place in the home (Tit 2:5)
II. Her place is that of obedience and love for her children (Tit 2:4,5)
III. Her place is that of exaltation (Eph -23)
IV. Her place is that of honor (Ex )
 “Walking by Faith”; “Prayer”; “Worship”; “Repentance”; “The Resurrection”; “The Story of the Blood in the Old Testament”; “The Three Tenses of the Christian”; “Conditions of a Successful Revival”; “The Report of the Spies”; Serving God with What We Have”; “The Report of the Spies”; “Serving God with What we Have”; “Walking by Faith”; “The Kinsman-Redeemer”; “They Sins are Forgiven Thee”; “Spiritual Gifts”; “Procrastination”; “Does Godliness Pay?”; “The Strength of Quietness and Confidence”; “The Man God Uses”; “The Two Ways”; “Christ Better than Angels and Moses”; “The Seven Clauses of the New Covenant”; “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself”; “How to Know the Lord’s Will”; “Six Things Accomplished though the Cross of Christ”; “Seven Christian Graces.”
 The outline and content of the sermon entitled, How to Make a Success of the Christian Life:
I. Begin right (2 Cor ). “Do not mix good works and Christ.”
II. Confess Christ Openly Before Men (Mt ). “Seize every opportunity to confess Him, not only when you join church.”
III. Study the Word (1 Pet 2:2). “Read it for food and on your knees evening, morning and out loud.”
IV. Pray Without Ceasing (1 Thess ). “Begin the day, stop work to pray and close the day with prayer. Pray specially in times of temptations. Keep the Devil trembling. Pray for wisdom, strength and the Spirit.”
V. Go to Work for Christ (Mt 25:29). “Give tracts, invite people, speak for.”
VI. Give Freely (Prov ). “Give systematically; a tenth is a good start.”
VII. Keep pushing on (Phil ). “Don’t brood over sin; ask forgiveness and go on. Forget the victories of the past and be not proud but go on. Don’t belittle yourself. Christ is in you.”
Under the first point,
second point, II. “The New Nature,” he states the following based on
Scripture: “Born of God, yet not like God in every respect” (Jn ); “A new creature. With it comes
power to overcome the Devil (II Cor ); “Renewed in knowledge (
Finally, in the third
point, III. “The Secret of Victory” he states the following based on
Scripture: Romans 7 is the picture of
a man in whom the two natures are striving, and who has not learned the
secret of victory, but Romans 8 gives the secret of conquest, showing a life in
the power of the Spirit and victory.” “Crucified with him” (Rom 6:6,7); “Reckon
yourselves to be dead unto sin’ (Rom ); “Spirit of Jesus makes us free. No longer in
 “This is an unpopular doctrine. The church and the world are walking arm in arm.”
Illustrations. Abraham called to live in
III. “The Attitude of the Separate People Toward the World. The command in the text. Anything that is in opposition to God we should leave. Any pleasures or amusements which weaken mankind, physically, mentally or spiritually are wrong. Or anything that causes a brother or sister in Christ to fall should not be indulged in. We can enjoy games, music, literature and the beauties of nature. These uplift mankind rather than weaken them. The greatest joy for the people of God comes through worship and helping others. God intends to live in us and make known to the world His love and goodness through us. If we refused to live for God as Christians we become unhappy, dry, songless, cheerless etc. Like a river whose steady stream was held back for a time by means of a dam which had been built. We must let God live in us and we shall be a happy, peculiar people zealous of good works.”
 Following are a sample of the notes taken from the “Preparation of a Sermon.” “Each one must learn from experience.”
Prayer and waiting in prayer.
Choosing the text, and theme. Remember the audience. Jowett remembered 12 of rich and poor, learned and ignorant. We learn needs through visits. Remember what you did preach. Measure up to the ‘Whole council of God.’ Choose simple texts rather than hard ones or odd ones.
Gathering sermon material. The preacher has eyes to see and ears to hear; if he fails to use them, it is just too bad. We may gather a lot of material by observation, from nature and experience. Carry a notebook. But if one depends on this he will soon become stale. One needs to read history, biographies, lives of preachers, and missionaries, books and sermons, articles. Systematic filing is essential. One should have a lot more material than can be used.
Arrangement of material. Pick out the best and arrange it in logical order…Begin with the known and lead to what is unknown. Leading to a climax. Leaving the best for the last. Arrangement is necessary so that people may remember. Stick to one theme, and not to half a dozen. A preacher said, “I did not know what I was going to preach when I entered the pulpit.’ An elderly man replied, ‘And no one knows what you have preached about after you came down.’
Content. A preacher should know the historical setting of a text, geography of the Bible, customs, the author, and to whom written and the time all these add to the explanation and understanding of a text. An introduction to arouse attention and lead to the theme is often needed.
Divisions. There should be 3 or 4 points. Not too many. Not too prominent. Illustrations should illustrate, give light like window in a house.
 “Jacob’s Character,” “Christ Better than Prophets and Angels,” Jehovah’s Vineyard,” “The Apostles’ First Miracle,” “Redemption,” “Redemption and Experience,” “The Christian Race,” “Ascension Promises,” “Faith,” “God our Highest Goal,” “Manifesting the Life of Christ,” “God’s Indwelling,” “Psalm 23,” “The Secret of a Great Life,” “Price and Provision of Sin,” “The Believer’s Standing and State,” “The Way of Life,” “Studies on the Holy Spirit,” “Thankfulness of Jesus,” “Why Men are not Saved,” “Fruitfulness,” “The Prodigal’s Father,” “Life’s Most Important Question,” “A Quest for Souls,” “Preparation for Meeting God,” “Even as He,” “Defeating a Man-Made Program,” “Answered Prayer,” “God of Patience, Hope and Peace,” “Bible Study on Trees,” “Christian Unity,” “Stoning Jesus,” “What Following Christ Means,” “The Secret of a Shining Face,” “Fellowship with God,” “True Worshippers,” “God’s Care for His Own,” “Compassion.”
 “The Ideal Life,” “Mary, the Mother of Jesus,” “The Star of Bethlehem,” “Christian Giving,” “The More Excellent Way,” “The Church as the Body of Christ,” “The Call of God,” “The Greatest Business,” “The Attitude of Jesus as the Crucifixion Drew Near,” “Branches, Disciples, Friends,” “Lame Feet Under the King’s Table,” “A Careless Church,” “Foreign Missions,” “Reconciliation,” “The Christian’s Walk,” “Repentance and Confession,” “The Rock of Ages,” “When Winter Comes,” “Jesus, the World’s Saviour,” “The Preeminent Name,” God’s Supply for Us,” “When Fire did not Burn,” “Joseph, a Type of Christ,” “Stewardship,” “Stewardship Time and Tithing,” “Parable of the Husbandman,” “The Gospel Express,” “The Uplift of the Cross,” “Believing is Seeing,” “Faith,” “The Vision and Voice of the Resurrected Lord,” “The Power of the Resurrection,” “Beauty for Ashes,” “The Believer Crucified,” and many more.
 The Life of Prayer
I. The Avenue of Prayer; II. Prayer and Fellowship; III. Prayer and Petetion; IV. Prayer, a Cure for Worry; V. Calls to Prayer.
 Seven Great Wonders of Prayer
I. The Wonder that we may pray; II. That we may pray naturally and simply; III. That we may pray definitely; IV. That we may pray everywhere; V. That we may pray about everything; VI. That we may pray all the time; VII. That we may pray boldly.
 Elijah as a Man of Prayer
I. The prayers of the false prophets; II. The first prayer of Elijah; III. The prayer for rain. It was (a) A humble prayer; (b) A definite prayer; (c) A persistent prayer.
 Lord, Teach us to Pray
I. Grade School praying; II. Christ’s College course in prayer; III. Confession before importunity; IV. Expect rebuff; VI. God will not give bad gifts. Each point is drawn or inferred from the text, though much of their development is from elsewhere in Scripture.
He mentions “eleven missionaries in this dark
 Rev. & Mrs. Snyder, Rev. & Mrs. Cadman, Rev. & Mrs. Cressman.
 Bringing Back the
King is based on II Samuel 19:10. The introduction begins, “This verse
reminds us of our King Jesus who is coming back again” and the introduction ends
with the words, “This poor troubled, tired, sin cursed world needs Him so badly
to return.” His three main points are:
 Some of my earliest memories as a child are the living reality of Christ’s near return. Once I dreamed that Jesus returned and was sitting on our wooden bench on our front porch, a bench I vividly remember to this day. Once I was at our neighbor’s house and saw in the sky a white silver streak which I now know is made by the jets flying at a high altitude and emitting a stream of exhaust. I quickly ran to my mother and said, “Jesus is coming back! Jesus is coming back!” How would such a reaction occur unless my mind was saturated with this belief of Christ’s near return? My mother noted some of my earliest sayings when I was only three and a half years old. “If Jesus comes for me then Richard can’t go to school and Richard wants to go to school and campmeeting. Does Jesus have a red school house up there? How Jesus get down? On a step-ladder? Jesus fall in grass. If Jesus take Richard up, then Richard does not know where mama is.” I can only conclude that my parents taught me at home about the second coming of Christ, because my father’s sermons do not reflect the persistent emphasis that I would have thought was necessary to make such a vivid impression on my mind.
 Because of the interest in this subject as former Mennonites, we shall provide a full record of this second sermon on the head covering.
“IV. Nature teaches the same truth [of women being in subjection]. The law does not demand short hair for the man and long hair for the woman but there is something that tells us that such is right, it is nature. The law does not forbid a woman to work with pick and shovel but we know it is not right. Such a sight is revolting. Long hair takes the woman from the machine shop, the threshing machine and the mines, nature tells us that work belongs to those having short hair. Ignore this distinction with it goes woman subjection, sent her to the plow, to the mines to the ditch. Educate the man for manhood and the woman for womanhood.
Reasons for not insisting
on wearing the veil. Aside from the veil there was little or nothing to
distinguish the man from the woman in the dress they wore. The custom of wearing
the veil was local and limited because nothing, nothing is mentioned in any
other epistle. It was more pagan than Christian. The people at
Today when a citizen enters the presence of a ruler, he lifts his hat as a sign of subjection; when youth stands before adults, he lifts the hat. The uncovered head is a sign of subjection. Thus today it is impossible to teach woman’s subjection by a covered head. So we hold on to the truth and let the form drop. The custom of wearing a veil to teach woman’s subjection to man has grown obsolete. Not one in a 1000 would know what it stood for, but the great truth of the chapter lives on.”
We attended Keswick until they forbad children from
attending the pastors’ week. Thereafter, we began attending the Harvey Cedars
Bible Conference on the Atlantic coast of
 According to
the MBC yearbooks, for example, my dad made an average of 391 visits during his
ten year ministry in Graterford and Harleysville and preached an average of 127
sermons per year. During his three
year ministry in
 In this
 Baker’s Dictionary of Christian Ethics by Carl F.H. Henry editor (Baker Book House Company, 1973), page 385.
 “The Importance of Knowing What’s Important” by Andy Crouch in Christianity Today, December 2006, page 38.