I preached at a conference recently when I heard something that gripped me. It affirmed my vision for what we do at RTS Charlotte.
A discussion arose among the leaders in a church that was looking for a new pastor. As the leaders discussed among themselves the kind of minister they should pray for and seek, one of the elders told the others: “Just remember: the man that comes here will influence your wives and sons and daughters, your grandchildren, and in fact this entire community for years and years to come.”
I heard that and thought, “That is what we do at RTS Charlotte. We send out pastors, and other Christian leaders, but especially preachers of the Gospel. They live and preach the Word of the Lord in a certain place. In that place the Word and the very life of the preacher, following in the steps of the One who sent them, influence generations of men and women, boys and girls.”
In the days of the Apostles, people brought their loved ones close to the shadow of Peter. The anointing of one preacher was so powerful that even his shadow was enough to bring transformation. Such is the power of a godly preacher. Right before I left seminary, I read the memoirs of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, the godly young pastor of Dundee, Scotland. People called him “Holy M’Cheyne” because the anointing of Christ was magnified in his life. That anointing came because M’Cheyne sought Christ above all else, in health and in the sicknesses he endured. Daily he sought Christ in His Word. In this M’Cheyne, in his mid-twenties, became so “Bibline” (to use Spurgeon’s word) that his very presence seem to shine with the Christ of the Scriptures that he devoured. It is said that people on one side of the street were affected by M’Cheyne on the other side of the street. I have no doubt that is true.
I remember when the Archbishop of Uganda preached at First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga. After the message, people lined up to greet the Archbishop. I stood next to him as each person greeted this godly Christian leader. In many cases people were overcome with emotion. They knew they stood in the presence of a man who bore the marks of persecution for the Gospel. His preaching and life bore witness to the fact that there was a fire in this man’s life taken from the very altar of God in heaven.
So it was with M’Cheyne. Many children were converted to Jesus because of the evangelistic ministry of the pastor from Dundee. Sometimes when he could not get out of the bed, due to his frequent and increasing illnesses, one of his elders would read his hand-written sermon to the congregation at St. Peters, Dundee. People knew that this young man lived and breathed Jesus Christ. He spent his life’s energy in the proclamation of the Gospel.
M’Cheyne died in 1843 at the age of twenty-nine. Six thousand people lined up to pay their respects to the young man who forever changed their lives for the cause of Christ. And he changed one soon-to-be-ordained preacher years ago who now writes these words. One man of God who loves the Lord. One woman of God committed to live for Jesus. One place. One moment in time. That is all it takes to make a difference in the lives of others.
Oh that the shadow of this consuming love for Christ might fall on us today!