Just say the name “Wayne Barber” and I start to grin.
Earlier this week, my friend ended his journey here on earth and went to be with His Savior. I already miss that big smile and infectious laugh.
Some of the funniest moments of my life involved this giant of a man. We first met in 1985 at a student camp on top of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga. And we led worship together at that camp for the next twenty+ years. Throw in Bible Conferences, revivals, and retreats over the decades, and Wayne is the preacher that I worked with the most besides the pastors of the churches I served.
I learned from this man the power of simply preaching the Word of God as God gave it to us. I learned about grace. Living grace. I learned that seeker sensitive is a vain pursuit and that to reach people with the Gospel, all you have to do is preach it – just like Jesus gave it to us. It has enough power to reach anyone.
I learned about beaver dams and oven mitts and bass fishing through Philippians. I learned that if you are snow skiing, you should stay above the 6’7” preacher or he will run over you.
I learned that you can laugh so hard at yourself with someone else that you will cry through your nose. And I learned that friends can say anything to each other.
I learned that life is hard but God’s grace is enough to get you through. And, I learned that worship is a response to the revelation of God in His son Jesus as expressed through His perfect Word.
If the Apostle Paul had lived in this era, he would have loved Wayne Barber. He was a preacher in the line of Ron Dunn and Manley Beasley – faithfully preaching the Gospel of grace. And he had learned it the hard way.
One of my favorite Wayne stories is the one when after a sermon one Sunday he asked his church member, the great Spiros Zodhiates, if he had properly extracted the Greek in the message that morning. He asked the scholar, “Did I miss it?” to which Dr. Zodhiates replied, “No, my dear Wayne – you didn’t come close to it.”
That encounter and others like it drove Wayne on to a pursuit of the text and the preaching of it like no one else. His humor and skill along with that determination to deliver the truth produced a life-changing message of grace for the rest of us.
So I’d like to take my own shot at that question from Wayne – “Did I miss it?”
No Wayne – you hit the target of preaching the Gospel of Grace head on and helped the rest of us love Jesus more. We will all be forever grateful.
See you at the Father’s house.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.