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50 Years and Counting

In a few days, as of this writing, we will be celebrating fifty years of ministry. Lest you think me a wizened, little old man, (as one of my radio listeners said after he actually met me), let me disabuse you of that notion. I started preaching at age fifteen. I didn’t know anything. The most famous line from my first message was, “Jesus was a Jew—I think?” Because I wasn’t absolutely sure that Jesus was a Jew. Fortunately, my crowd knew even less than I did, or they kindly overlooked my ignorance, and the evening ended in a great time of ministry. I kept preaching. A few weeks later I turned sixteen.

I kept preaching in spite of adversity at home. I kept preaching in spite of jealousy among my peers at church. I kept preaching in spite of the fact that I didn’t know much. You don’t need to know much when you’re a hotshot sixteen-year-old preacher boy. Then I got a revelation. It hit me one day, and when it did, I literally said to myself, “You better learn to preach, because you’re not going to be young a cute forever.” Cute goes a long way in the ministry until you’re not!

So, I began to study. From somewhere a book manifested. I still have it. It must be seven hundred pages. The pages were old and yellowed when I got it. The pages are old, a dusky brown, and brittle today. It was a compendium of concordance, topical Bible, Bible dictionary, and Bible encyclopedia. It was my Bible College in a book. And I studied it. Unfortunately, studying a book or a Bible won’t make you a good preacher.

You may be reading this thinking, “I’m not a preacher, don’t want to be a preacher, never will be a preacher, and this isn’t relevant to me.” Au contraire ma frere, (or soeur as the case may be.)—stay with me a moment and you’ll discover how it applies to your life—and what it takes to live the life of your dreams.

All of my preaching was topical. Pick a topic, write down, by hand, in a semi-legible scrawl, every scripture on the topic, read each one, explain each one, and an hour later, sometimes an hour and a half later, everyone is so tired of hearing you drone on that the relief that they feel when you finish makes them say, “That was a good message.” No, it wasn’t. It was informative. It was on point. Something usable may have accidentally slipped in unawares. But it wasn’t good preaching. The meetings were small and by weeks end they were generally smaller. I just wore people out.

So, I decided to learn to preach. (Stay with me… the payoff is coming!)

I went to an R.W. Schambach meeting and picked up a couple of his messages. I studied them, not because Schambach was a great preacher, but because he connected with his crowd. I realized that half of Schambach’s appeal was his presentation. He was R.W. Schambach. I went through his prayer line to get his anointing. He slapped me so hard I had a headache. It felt so good I went to the back of the line and let him slap me again to get rid of it. (Here’s something I just thought of… I don’t get headaches to this day—Hmmm!) I used what I got. I learned to edit myself. Chose topics that related. Used stories. Learned how to present myself. Developed the art. Because good preaching is an art not a science. Years later I spent some personal time with Schambach, and told him the story.

Later that evening he preached at the ICLC, a group in which I was an officer. Everyone knew of his reputation for dipping his hand in oil and slapping it all over the person that he was anointing, so they all took their suit jackets and silk ties off. He doused every one of them. Oil dripped off of their foreheads. Until he got to me. I had purposely left my coat and tie on, and it was an expensive coat and tie! When he anointed me, he dipped his finger in the oil, rubbed a little spot on my forehead, and away I went with a fresh dose of Schambach anointing. He liked the story.

Here’s your payoff. Whatever you do in life has to be perfected if you’re going to prosper in it. That requires laying the foundation and getting the basics down. Then you have to find out what works and begin to work it. Often times that means finding a model, a person or paradigm that’s succeeding at what you want to succeed at. And if you work at it, if you develop yourself, if you keep doing it long enough, you just may find yourself in that persons presence sharing in the story.

BTW—I have never sounded like R.W.Schambach, nor have I ever wanted to. He was at the end of an era. I hope that I’m at the beginning of one.

When you join me “Behind The Door” I’m going to share some of the things that I’ve learned in fifty years of ministry. It won’t be like picking up a couple of messages. It will be better. And if I were there, I wouldn’t slap you on the head with oil—I’d place a drop on my finger and gently lay it on your forehead. That’s concentrated anointing! I’ll meet you “Behind The Door.”

Dr. Leon Stutzman

Pastor, Author, Creative Thinker, Problem Solver, More Than A Prophet, Legend, and Icon


Dr. Leon Stutzman has been called all of these things by the people that he has helped. But everyone calls him "Doc."

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