It was 1975 and I was a one of 1100 young men and women in the freshman class at Bishop College.
I had just started preaching earlier that spring, and I went to Bishop to study for the ministry.
In the black Baptist church, preaching is what credentials you and in those days, preparation for the preaching ministry meant an education, and Bishop was known for 'producing' some of the most profound preachers in the country.
At 18, I had not yet discovered very many models for preaching beyond my father, grandfather and their peers. But one day, at one of our schools chapel services, one of the trustees of Bishop and one of the most prominent preachers in our convention delivered the message. He was Dr. William J. Shaw, pastor of the White Rock Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Dr. Shaw was himself, an alumnus of our school and was a preacher of some renown, but even though I had grown up in the church, I hadn't heard him or of him, for that matter. But that day, he became first among my 'preaching heroes'.
Shaw's message that Friday was 'The Bottom Line of Excellence', in which he explained how Christ's obedience, even to the point of death on Calvary, was the model for excellence - a model for which the Resurrection was Heavenly recognition and reward.
On that day, I realized that he was the 'type' of preacher I wanted to be. Without disrespect to my father and grandfather, Shaw's smooth manner in the pulpit, his ability to make Biblical truth plain; his scholarly and yet accessible approach to proclamation was emotionally satisfying and intellectually stimulating.
This sermon is evidence that 37 years after I first heard William Shaw, he still has those same qualities; qualities that I still strive to emulate. But they are also qualities that I believe make preaching something more than mass therapy or ecclesiastical entertainment. It really is the means to which God, through the men and women He chooses, reaches out to the hearts, souls and minds of mankind to draw them to Himself. In my mind, very few have done it as well as Dr. Shaw. Even fewer have done it better.
I trust this blesses you as it has me!