by Bob Dasal
"Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching" (2 Tim. 4:2 nkjv).
Life's highest calling is God's call to preach. Stephen Olford has been in ministry for more than sixty years as a pastor, teacher, and author, but central to everything he does is being faithful to the call to preach. Dr. Olford has been called the preacher's preacher because he has challenged, influenced, and impacted thousands of preachers worldwide to preach the Word. Through his books and writings-like "Points to Ponder" in Pulpit Helps-and by personal contact, Dr. Olford has been a key influence in many ministries, including Billy Graham's.
The Lord Works in Mysterious Ways Stephen Olford was born in Africa to missionary parents in 1918. He came to the United States via the United Kingdom. In 1959 Dr. Olford became senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in New York City, serving there for fourteen years. He and his wife Heather planned on serving Calvary Church for the rest of their ministry, until the unexpected happened: In early 1971 Dr. Olford was diagnosed with a heart problem and took an eight-month leave of absence to rest and recover. He returned to his duties but the health problems persisted and in 1973, on the strong recommendation of his doctor, Dr. Olford gave up his position as senior pastor. The church first refused and then reluctantly accepted his resignation and designated Dr. Olford as Calvary's pastor emeritus.
The next few years were a time of recuperation and reflection. During this period Encounter Ministries was birthed and in 1980 the Institute for Biblical Preaching was founded.
In the summer of 1984 Jimmy Latimer, pastor of Central Church in Memphis, Tennessee, invited Dr. and Mrs. Olford to move to Memphis. Recognizing the strategic location of this historic city on the Mississippi River, the Olfords and a small staff moved the ministry there in the spring of 1985. They worked out of Central Church for approximately three years and then in June, 1988, moved to the Stephen Olford Center for Biblical Preaching. On September 15, 1999, Encounter Ministries became Olford Ministries International.
The Lord Works in Mighty Ways Since 1988, more than 2,500 pastors and Christian leaders have attended training Institutes at the Stephen Olford Center in Memphis. After many years of pastoral and global ministry, Dr. Olford believes that the ultimate answer to the problems of every age is anointed expository preaching of God's inerrant Word. The focus of the Center is to promote biblical preaching and practical training for pastors, evangelists, and lay leaders.
Dr. Olford believes the "church ought to be the conscience of the nation." The pastor's call, he states, is not to capture the spirit of the age, but to change the spirit of the age. He emphatically emphasizes that expository preaching is necessary if the church is ever going to experience true revival.
The Lord Works in Magnificent Ways Today, at the age of 85, Stephen Olford continues to preach and to equip others to preach. His son, David Olford, is the president of Olford Ministries International. Together with their wives, the two Dr. Olfords provide strong dynamic leadership to the ministry. Recently I had the opportunity to visit with the Olfords in Memphis. They were open and candid about their prayers and hopes for the future. The hour spent with Dr. Stephen Olford was a life-changing experience for me. He is a man with a burning passion for the preaching of God's Word. The hour spent with Dr. David Olford brought keen awareness and assurance the future of the ministry is in very capable hands.
Olford Ministries International has many parts, but here is a brief overview of the four major areas of work.
The radio ministry includes the half-hour weekly program called Encounter, hosted by David Olford. It features the expository preaching of Dr. Stephen Olford, and a two-minute daily feature, "Time for Truth," that provides listeners a daily nugget of truth from the Bible.
The tape ministry is extensive and literally reaches around the world. It includes studies in Proverbs, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Philippians, the Tabernacle, and the Ten Commandments. There are also cassette and video series on revival and victorious Christian living, plus instructional videos from the Institute for Biblical Preaching.
The third area of ministry is the books and writings of Stephen Olford. He is the author of many popular titles including: The Sword of Suffering, Only One Life, Heart-Cry for Revival, Not I, but Christ, The Grace of Giving, Anointed Expository Preaching, The Tabernacle: Camping with God, and The Way of Holiness. In addition there are seven volumes of expository material for preachers and laymen in print and on CD-ROM.
The fourth and very exciting area of ministry is the Institutes for Biblical Preaching. Conducted in state-of-the-art facilities in Memphis, the Institutes provide continuing education opportunities for pastors at the seminary level. The Olfords have partnered with some of the best seminaries in the world in the Institute program.
At the recent Institute I attended, there were attendees from across the United States and from several nations. Over the years, preachers from more than 25 countries have traveled to Memphis for an Institute. Many return for the second, third, fourth, and even fifth time. Plans are in the works to conduct future Institutes in India, Ghana, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, and the Philippines.
The Apostle Paul's words to Timothy, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth" and "Preach the Word" describe the urgent need of our time. Pastors called to preach the Word need continuing education opportunities and the best available is the Olford Institute. I firmly believe any pastor who is serious about expository preaching, whether he is non-degreed or has a Ph.D., would benefit from attending an Institute.
You can learn more about the Institute by writing Olford Ministries International, P.O. Box 757800, Memphis, TN 38175-7800. They can also be reached by phone at (901) 757-7977, email: OMI@Olford.org, or visit their Website at www.olford.org.
Editor's note: Brother Dasal-now Editor Dasal-gives his recommendation based on 30 years of preaching God's Word.