Fifty Years As a Gospel Preacher

Roy E. Cogdill
Lane Henderson, Texas

On Sunday morning, November 20, 1922, at Hobart, Oklahoma, as a boy of fifteen, I preached my first gospel sermon. That was fifty years ago and that is a long time. I was then in my last year of high school, taking some of the first year of college at the same time, and was attending a school operated by the brethren called Western Oklahoma Christian College at Cordell, Oklahoma.

From that time on I preached almost every Sunday through the rest of the school year. The next summer I preached for the church at Mountain View, Okla., and held two meetings. From this beginning, I have been constantly busy for fifty years preaching the gospel. I love to preach and think the greatest compliment ever paid me was a lady who said, "I am not going to tell you that was the greatest sermon I ever heard or that you are the greatest preacher I ever heard, but I do want to tell you that I believe you enjoy preaching more than any one that I have ever heard."

There have been several occasions in my life when the temptation came to turn aside from preaching and get into some profession or business that offered tempting financial reward, but it has never been a problem to make the decision that I would continue to give my full time to preaching the word of the Lord. A time or two in my life, due to circumstances, it has been necessary for brief intervals to "make tents" in order to provide a living for my family, but they have not been but few and there was never any difficulty in turning from such to a full time program of preaching when the emergency was ended. I am grateful for the fact that I have never turned aside from the course I began so early in life. I have received much encouragement and have been dealt with generously, for the most part, by my brethren and such has always meant much to me.

As I look back over these fifty years, they are wonderfully rewarding and for them I am very grateful. There have been, of course, many disappointments, heartaches, and trials, but these are far outweighed by the satisfaction of having spent a half-century of continued and determined effort to faithfully serve God by preaching and teaching His Word.

A man cannot honestly examine the past without recognizing that he has made many mistakes and often erred in judgment. There are many things that I would do differently, if they could be recalled. There is tremendous satisfaction though in honesty of purpose and the knowledge that there has never been a vicious attitude of heart. Then how gratifying is the knowledge that in every error and mistake there has always been the readiness to try to correct and overcome the mistake made.

I am glad and grateful, as I think back over the years, I can say, as far as I know my own heart, I have no personal malice or ill feeling in my heart against any. Whatever disappointments have come or whatever injury or indignity may have been suffered, the result has been, with any resentment, soon forgotten and no bitterness or grudge has lingered.

Perhaps the most strengthening and satisfying factor in all the memories that come flooding my mind from the past is the honest belief in my own heart that no matter what the circumstances or cost, I have stood by my convictions and have not sold out my conscience by betraying the truth or compromising with error. I have earnestly tried to preach and contend for what I have believed to be the truth through these years without compromise. As I face the future I pray that it may continue to be so. Nothing has been sadder to me than to witness some stalwart servant of the Lord live to reach such years in which he destroys all for which he ever stood. I pray that I may not do so.

That does not mean that I have not erred in what I have believed and taught. On more than one occasion I have found myself out of harmony with what I have learned to be the truth and been brought to alter my position to bring it in harmony with the truth I learned. I intend to continue to learn and whenever I learn anything that is contrary to what I have believed, I will make whatever change may be demanded by truth. I pray that God may continue to give me the strength to do so. It does mean, though, that my convictions and conscience have not been for sale. Personal popularity, the influence of even the closest of friends, personal ambition to be a "big preacher," financial advantage, nor any other personal consideration has been a determining factor in any stand taken or position occupied, or in any course of action.

On the other hand, there is the persuasion that in many cases a vastly different course would have been taken had such things entered into the decision. I have never rejoiced in making enemies but I have never weighed the preaching of the gospel by the measuring of its impression or result. Preaching it has been my obligation and the results of truth belong to God. I heard a man once brag publicly that he had been preaching the gospel for more than thirty years and if he had an enemy in the world, he did not know anything about it. Jesus seemed to think that such was not something to boast of but that it condemned.

The other side of the picture is that a great deal of misrepresentation, personal abuse, slander, loss of friendship and favor, and other attending consequences could have and would have been avoided if convictions and conscience had not been the price demanded in taking another course. Battles have had to be fought that made bitter enemies but truth cannot be sold out for the sake of friendship. "Let God be found true and every man a liar." None of these experiences has been pleasant. I love my friends as dearly as anyone and a fight has always been unpleasant to me, but serving my God and "contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints" is every Christians greatest obligation.

One of the most rewarding aspects of this half century of gospel preaching has been the testimonials that have come in the evidences of the good that have been accomplished. Some of it has been apparent but much of it will "follow after." Churches have been planted to grow and flourish. Multitudes have been converted to the, Lord. How many people have been baptized under my preaching, I do not know. I have rot kept count but God knows. The Holy Spirit did not even see fit to remind Paul of how many he had baptized at Corinth, so I guess the number is not too important. Disciples and small, weak churches have been edified and built up). Many young men and some older ones have been encouraged to preach the gospel. Much good has been done that was not immediate or visible at the time. I am constantly coming in contact with people, almost everywhere I go, who tell me that they learned the truth from some sermon they heard me preach or from something I have written. Dozens have told me that they learned the truth on present day issues from the debates I have held. I would not have known of this bad they not borne such witness personally. All of this has convinced me long ago that when truth is preached or taught, we are doing much more good than we can see or know. For all of this I am grateful.

January 11, 1973