The library at Ozark Christian College used to have a regular program to remove old books and tapes from their shelves each spring. They would then take those old books and sell them or even give some things away in a room off of the library in an effort to make more space. I attended one of those sales my freshman year at OCC and before I walked out of the library I noticed a box of sermon tapes setting against the wall with my favorite word written above it, “Free.” I went and dug through the box reading titles that were of no interest to me and seeing speakers that held no appeal I was becoming discouraged. Then I read a title that sparked my interest. It was a sermon entitled “The Sermon and The Text” and was given by a guy named Fred Craddock. I remember my preaching professor mentioning his name as a good speaker and as a new preacher myself I was interested in anything that would help me prepare a sermon. With the cost being right, I stuck the audio tape in my sack and went to my dorm room. It took me a couple of months before I put it in the cassette player to listen to this simple sermon, but “wow.” To that point in my life it was one of the top 5 greatest things I had ever heard.
From that day on I began reading all of Fred Craddock’s book, listening to every sermon or lecture on tape and even driving to hear him in person. A friend and I actually wrote the college he taught at and tried to set up a meeting in person, but his schedule was always full. Over time he became the single greatest influence in my preaching life. Still 25 years after picking up that first tape I listen to his sermons on a monthly basis. I have actually memorized some of his sermons by heart. In fact, one summer in England I was helping a missionary by passing out fliers door to door for upcoming events. I literally spent 8 hours a day walking and to amuse myself I would repeat his sermons and stories while I walked. Like a writer aspiring to be like Dickinson, Poe or Twain I had hoped to someday preach like Craddock.
Last Friday I posted one of my favorite Craddock stories. Little did I know that 800 miles away the Lord was calling Dr. Craddock home. He passed away at the age of 86 after a long life of preaching and teaching. Although I only met him in person one time his shadow is cast over every sermon I preach. He was a mentor through his teaching and writing and helped to mold almost every word I say each week, at least the way I say it. I thank God for Fred Craddock and his life and ministry.
You can go to YouTube and listen to a couple of his sermons for free. You can find a few downloads online. I can even loan you a tape or CD. However it happens, if you ever get a chance to listen to a Fred Craddock sermon or lesson be sure you do not miss that opportunity. You will be glad you did and who knows, it might change your life like it changed mine.
Thanks Dr. Craddock.