A Mentor’s Wisdom: Lessons I Learned From Haddon Robinson, R. Larry Moyer. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2018.
Summary: Forty-five sayings of Haddon Robinson with reflections by one of the men he mentored.
Haddon Robinson spent much of his life in one theological seminary or another, as a professor of homiletics (preaching), as President of Denver Seminary, and later as Interim President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. A hallmark of his work was a commitment to expository preaching of the Bible, careful application that arose from the text, and clarity of communication without distracting with stories and illustration. Many of us have used his book Biblical Preaching as a guide to expository preaching that honors Christ. He was also a senior editor of Christianity Today.
Haddon Robinson died in 2017 at the age of 86. One of those for whom he was not only professor but also mentor was R. Layer Moyer, the founder and CEO of EvanTell. Robinson helped Moyer get his start, commending him to seminary alumni and serving on his board. This year, EvanTell celebrates its 45th anniversary, and Moyer had the idea of collecting 45 quotes from his mentor, both as a tribute and to commemorate the anniversary. This book is the result, consisting of 45 quotes under the headings of “Life Lessons,” “Work Counsel,” “Spiritual Advice,” “Public Speaking and Preaching,” “Leadership,” and “Evangelism.” Following each quote is a relevant scripture text and a brief reflection, averaging two pages, often giving the context in which the author first heard this statement from Robinson.
There is a wealth of wisdom in this little book, worthy of the reflection of any Christian leader or minister. The collection begins with a profound statement worth taking a retreat day to consider: “Decide now what you want people to carve on your tombstone, and then live your life backwards from there.” A number reflected Robinson’s generous and humble character: “I want to be on your team, not on your back,” “I know what that is what I suggested; that was a bad decision,” and, when Parkinson was in an assisted care situation for advancing Parkinson’s disease, “This Parkinson’s is rough. But the people hear are great and the food is good.”
Without giving away too much of the book, the section of quotes on “Public Speaking and Preaching” summarize a life of teaching in this area:
- 25. “Learning how to speak is like learning how to think. If you think clearly, you will speak clearly.”
- 26. “God has not promised to bless your words; he has only promised to bless his.”
- 27. “The biggest problem I have had while training preachers has been, strangely enough, getting them to preach the word.”
- 28. The stance of a preacher is the stance of a persuader. You are not there to simply teach; you are there to persuade.”
- 29. When people come to church on Sunday, they want to know what you can tell them that will help them get through the following week.”
- 30. “The art of preaching isn’t hinged upon knowing what to put into your message but rather what to take out.”
- 31. “The passage has to hit you before it hits the audience.”
- 32. “When you say, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ you better be right. That is an awesome claim.”
- 33. “The problem is that too many preachers tear the passage apart in their studies and then don’t put it back together before they step into the pulpit.”
Haddon Robinson primarily left his mark through those he trained directly or influenced indirectly through his books. For that reason, his name may not be widely known. Perhaps this was because of his conviction, framed in another quote not found in this book, “There are no great preachers, only a great Christ.”
This book, useful for devotional reflection, acquaints us with a scholar and teacher whose life was shared by that conviction. We get the chance to overhear wisdom about life and ministry and to see how that wisdom, under the grace of God formed a Christ-shaped, yet one-of-a-kind life.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.