Dr. Warren Wiersbe, Bible teacher/pastor par excellence. (1929-2019)
Some years ago, when Dr. Wiersbe and I were swapping correspondence, I did him a cartoon which he put on his office wall. Now, most of the Bible study books he had published–one for every New Testament book and a lot of the Old–were part of the “Be” series. Be Real. Be Joyful. Be Faithful. His autobiography was titled “Be Myself.” So, my cartoon showed his tombstone. Under his name, it read: “Be Dead.”
At the time I thought it was funny, and he must have also. (That was at least 30 years ago, when you’re still young enough to joke about these matters. I hope someone has thrown that thing away.)
I’m not sure how or when I first heard of Dr. Wiersbe’s teachings on cassette tape. It would have been in the mid-1970s. I was serving the First Baptist Church of Columbus, MS and always searching for good resources for preaching material. His sermon tapes were a pure delight. Once I took a two-day retreat to a lake house and did nothing but listen to his tapes. At the time he was pastoring Moody Church in Chicago.
One day, sitting around talking with a couple of neighboring pastors, I was amused to hear one of them say, “I’ve found the most wonderful source of sermon material. I’m reluctant to mention it to anyone because I’m enjoying it so much.”
I said, “You found Warren Wiersbe, too, huh?” He looked as though I had slapped him. “How did you know?” I said, “A lot of us are benefiting from this man’s ministry.”
One day I called Moody Church. “Has Pastor Wiersbe written any books?” He hadn’t, but Calvary Church in Covington, Kentucky (his former pastorate) was making available a notebook containing Bible studies he had done there. I ordered it. Those notes were the genesis of all his books on the New Testament. They are precious.
In the summer of 1978 my church gave me six weeks for study. My first act was drive to Chicago for the annual Pastors Conference at Moody Bible Institute. The speakers included Dr. Wiersbe, a young John MacArthur, Vance Havner, Roger Nicole, and maybe W. A. Criswell. It was rich. I remember a hundred things about those five days.
When he got up to speak on prophecy, his assigned subject, Dr. Wiersbe began, “I used to know a lot more about Bible prophecy than I do now.”
And everyone there fell in love with the man. That kind of humility and honest confession was so endearing. (Any young preacher intimidated by the overwhelming burden of understanding Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation wants to stand up and cheer when some veteran pastor with impeccable credentials admits to not understanding it all.)
That week, Dr. Wiersbe told us that an announcement would be forthcoming about a change of direction for his ministry. A week or two later, it was announced that he was leaving Moody Church to replace Theodore Epp on “Back to the Bible,” the international radio broadcast out of Lincoln, Nebraska. God had taken His man from a church and given him to the world.
When I pastored the First Baptist Church of Charlotte, NC in the late 1980s and felt I could pay a sufficient honorarium, I tried very hard to get Dr. Wiersbe to come to our church. I got the nicest personally written or personally typed–I forget which–note explaining about the burdens of his days, the unceasing demands upon him, the travel, etc. It was similar, as a matter of fact, to a letter I received from Dr. Billy Graham also turning me down when I invited him to our sanctuary dedication in February of 1988. I’m sure I have both letters somewhere around here.
“This will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord” (Psalm 102:18).
As long as this world stands and the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, the writings of Warren Wiersbe will be used of God to bless and enrich and guide His teachers and preachers.
Be Faithful is Dr. Wiersbe’s exposition of I, II Timothy and Titus. At the conclusion of Second Timothy, the last thing we have from the writings of the Apostle Paul, Dr. Wiersbe says: “Timothy and the other devoted believers carried on (Paul’s) work! As John Wesley used to say, ‘God buries His workmen, but His work goes on.’ You and I must be faithful so that (if the Lord does not return soon) future generations may hear the Gospel and have the opportunity to be saved.”
He closed with this: “Be faithful–it’s always too soon to quit.”
Thank you, faithful brother, Warren Wiersbe. You are the gold standard. We are eternally in your debt.
I was saddened by his passing. I surely love his commentaries. So practical!