When you get right down to it, most of us are timid about sharing our faith.
Among the thousands of people I’ve ever met, only a handful have had the character to put their faith out there without first running it through a popularity filter. The world is full of hard-edged egocentrics who feel it incumbent upon themselves to “tell it like it is,” but listening to most of them is painful. I’m not referring to people like that.
Gary Carter and Paris Reidhead had the courage of their convictions. One was a superstar athlete who, by the time I met him, didn’t have to prove anything. The other was a fire-and-brimstone preacher who could crush all distractions with his empowered delivery.
I had breakfast with Paris Reidhead 23 years ago at a men’s retreat. I still remember much of what he said. When he asked what I did for a living and I told him, he immediately asked if I could design a pump motor for use on a well that could “sustain 1,800 rpm when driven by oxen.” As an engineer, this sort of question rarely comes up at breakfast. Trust me. (For the purposes of this blog I won’t go into why 1,800 rpm is important—let’s just say he knew what he was talking about.)
That weekend Paris Reidhead preached on the ‘S’ word. A lot. It helped me get over the idea that Christians are “holier than thou.” Or that all our problems are solved when we come to faith. He helped me understand how God has a plan to deal with ‘S’, and that he bankrupted heaven to pay for that plan.
In a world full of self centeredness, where prosperity theology is a ubiquitous salve, Paris Reidhead’s classic sermon Ten Shekels and a Shirt is a hard, cool rain on a scorched worldview. This teaching isn’t for beginners. He uses the ‘S’ word. He yells and slams the pulpit. He convicts every listener. And he reminds me of what Jesus said in John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
So the next time you have 50 minutes to yourself, give a listen to this classic, masterful sermon. It ends up on the bottom line of why we are here.
As an amateur mechanic, I appreciate when real mechanics talk about the “old school” way of doing things. It’s a reverent term referring to doing things the tried and proven way—because it works. The old school approach is based upon real craftsmanship, with an elegance that cannot be cheaply replicated. In the best sense of the term, Paris Reidhead’s hermeneutics were old school. And he was obvously a master of homiletics.
A very special thank you to Mrs. Marjorie Reidhead for providing the above photograph of her husband. I hope I have framed his work in a way that honors his memory.