Vance Houston Havner 75 Years a Preacher

This is the day that …Vance Houston Havner died, in 1986.

He was born in a small community nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina (USA), October 17, 1901.

He made his “peace with God” in the woods after hearing his father preach an old-fashioned gospel message. Vance was 10 years-old at the time.

By the age of 12 he was licensed to preach by a local Baptist church – and ordained at the age of 15. Newspaper records of the “boy preacher” speaking to a 1,800 strong congregation – when he was only 12 – are incredible to read.

He found himself drifting into the ‘new’ popular liberal theology. “It did not become malignant in my case,” he later wrote, “but I did have enough of the virus in my system to preach popular sermons that converted nobody.” Then he read Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism and returned to the evangelical faith.

He married Sara Allred in 1940 – and preached on the day she died 33 years later (Just a Preacher, page 19).

His biography, Journey from Jugtown, by D. White, and his own autobiography, Three Score and Ten, tell the whole remarkable story.

After a series of Baptist pastorates, Vance Havner devoted himself to an itinerant ministry across America. He was also a regular speaker at Moody Bible Institute Founder’s Week.

His solid prophet-like preaching was combined with a homespun folksy style that earned him the nickname “The Will Rogers of the Pulpit”.

He wrote 38 books – and every one a gem!

Of this unique man of God Billy Graham writes: “I do not know of any man in my generation who has stirred revival fires in the hearts of so many people throughout the nation as Vance Havner. Great crowds of people have packed churches and auditoriums to hear him preach. Whenever I see a book by Vance Havner I immediately purchase it …”

Dr. Havner once said, “I’ve never known a time when I didn’t want to preach. The desire was always there.” In 1973, he was named “Preacher of the Year,” by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Protestant leaders called him, “The Dean of America’s Revival Preachers.” During a hospital stay in the late 1970’s, Vance was told by Billy Graham, “You can’t go home just yet. We preachers need more sermon material!”

On 12 August, 1986, this pulpit giant went home to be with the Lord for whom he had preached for 75 years.

Some Vance Havner quotes :

“We are the salt of the earth, mind you, not the sugar. Our ministry is to truly cleanse and not just to change the taste.”

“Too many churches start at eleven o’clock sharp, and end at twelve o’clock dull.”

“Plenty of church members are shaky about what they believe, while not many are shaken by what they believe.”

“Some preachers ought to put more fire into their sermons, or more sermons into the fire.”

“The church is a hospital for sinners and not a museum for saints.”

“The preacher is to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.”

Christian should attend to, “the outliving of the inliving Christ.”

“To some, Christianity is an argument. To many, it is a performance. To a few, it is an experience.”

“George Palmer said before he died: ‘I’m homesick for Heaven.’ It’s the hope of dying that has kept me alive this long.”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.