Saturday, July 11, 2015

Congratulations to the West Virginia School of Preaching Class of 2015 by David R. Kenney

Editor’s note: David Kenney has graciously agreed to be the speaker at our graduation, June 12, 2015, and to have a synopsis of his remarks printed in this issue of Publishing Peace. Due to printing deadlines, these remarks are therefore being sent to press before the graduation.  We like to have speakers who have some connection with one of our graduates.  Warren Kenney would have been an excellent choice, due to his mentor-ship of graduating Marcus Stenson. Since Warren passed this past year, we asked David, who has a special connection of his own, and who is in his own right exceedingly helpful to WVSOP.
In Memory of Warren F. Kenney
July 11, 1944 to January 8, 2015
Congratulations to THE WEST VIRGINIA SCHOOL OF pREACHING Class of 2015
By David R. Kenney
June 12, 2015
To Luke Taylor, Shawn Traster and Marcus Stenson:  my sincerest congratulations on your completion of the noblest study and work a man can ever pursue.  You have excellent teachers who you should work to keep as your advisors, counselors, and mentors as you go on to further work in the kingdom of Christ.  As long as you are following the King of Kings, know that His loyal subjects will help you in everything that is right.  To the elders of the Hillview Terrace congregation, the Director and faculty of WVSOP:  congratulations on another fine effort to prepare men to take the gospel into a lost and sin-sick world.  Twenty years of training workers for the Master will not go unnoticed!  To those parents and dear friends of these three graduates, we appreciate your love, support and encouragement of these young men.  They will need your love, support and encouragement even more in the future.
Tribute to Warren F. Kenney
I know some wish that my father could be here for this august occasion, and I wish that he could be too.  While he cannot, I did bring my dad’s King James Bible that he used for very special occasions on this very special occasion.  I did not come here to eulogize my father; however, if he were here, I am confident he would emphasize his motto of preaching.  He took his “mission statement”, although I am not sure he would use that term, from Paul’s statement to Timothy, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:16, KJV.)  I will give you three areas that I know he would want to impress upon you.
Take Heed to Thyself.  Dad would emphasize that it is imperative that a preacher of the gospel have the highest moral and ethical standards, both publicly and privately.  One cannot expect to convince others of adherence to divine standards that he himself is not convicted to follow.  Fidelity to one’s marriage and family would be no less important than the preacher’s talk and walk in other areas of life and service.  Be sure to protect yourself and your reputation.  Be sure to protect your family and their reputation as well.
Take Heed to Doctrine.  Dad would equally emphasize that the work of a preacher includes dedication to the doctrine, teaching and study of God’s word.  He preferred to use the term “Study” rather than “Office” in reference to where he studied and prepared lessons.    He had many books about THE BOOK, and he certainly made no apologies for that.  J. W. McGarvey considered his books “my friends”, and dad often told me how much he appreciated McGarvey’s sentiments.  He would remind others that books to a preacher are like tools for a mechanic.  A mechanic without tools is not much of a mechanic.  Do not neglect your commitment to be life-long, dedicated and devoted students of the Scriptures.
Save Them That Hear Thee.  Notice that salvation in this context is contingent on the preacher taking heed to himself and to his teaching.  There will be congregations and members that will want you to counsel on various matters.  Be very cautious about this.  Keep in mind that referring someone to more highly-trained professional may be the best counsel you can provide.  On dad’s study at the Central Church of Christ in Martinsburg, WV was a sign that he had posted on his front door for those who wanted to approach him for counseling.  He often counseled people on marital, family and personal matters, but regardless of the situation these rules were nonnegotiable: “If you have come to seek my advice:  #1. Are you willing to admit you have a problem?  #2. Do you believe the Bible has the answer to your problem?  #3. IF we can find the Bible’s answer to your problem, are you willing to do it?  If you answer no to any of these, let’s just visit with each other for a little while for I have nothing else to offer.  – Warren F. Kenney”
Dad would impress upon you that preaching is of the most important work, the Lord’s work.  That does NOT mean that the work of shepherding the flock is unimportant.  No.  As Alexander Campbell once wrote, “If the office of a bishop be ‘a good work,’ the office of an evangelist is no less so” (Millennial Harbinger, October 1835.)  There is no greater work than the Lord’s work.  There is no greater field than the Lord’s field.  There is no greater message than the Lord’s message.  There is no greater church than the Lord’s church.  Preaching the gospel is more important than any secular pursuit!  Not that a person could work in a secular field and not please God too; but preaching deserves the highest respect, the deepest conviction, the strongest devotion and the greatest effort.  If you cannot bring yourself to that commitment, then you will struggle, stumble, and may even fall or fail.  Others may not value your work.  Some may even make remarks in jest, and you will have to endure the endless supply of stereotypical preacher jibs and jabs.  But you cannot allow yourself to believe other fields of work are on the same plane as the Lord’s work!
Remember ― “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:16, KJV.) 
One final word of exhortation that my father always gave me that I want to share with you —Remember, not all accounts are settled in this life!  May God richly bless you and keep you.  The Lord will certainly remember, and He will certainly reward!  Congratulations!  Thank you for inviting me on this very grand occasion!
Originally published in Publishing Peace, Moundsville, WV:  West Virginia School of Preaching, Vol. 11, No. 7, July 2015.

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