I stepped into my first homiletics class about as green as can be.
I’d never preached a sermon in my life, and the thought of standing before people to speak on God’s behalf frightened me. I read everything that my professor recommended, like Haddon Robinson’s seminal work, Biblical Preaching, and I listened to the preachers he esteemed: John MacArthur, Chuck Swindoll, and David Jeremiah. I wanted to learn all that I could about expository preaching, which is a big term for a simple concept: the text sets the agenda for the message. It is what most evangelicals would describe as model preaching.
After a full semester of studying the methodology and style of these preachers, I realized that something was missing: In all of my time in that class, I was never given an African American example of a good expositor preacher.
Locally, there was a faithful African American expository named Jeffry Johnson, who had impacted the lives of many people who were influential to me in coming to faith in Christ. In preacher lingo, “he could preach the birds out of the trees.” He was powerful and eloquent, but always found his way back to the text.
Outside of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, Pastor Johnson always attributed his success in proclamation to a man named A. Louis Patterson Jr. I’m told that he impacted the lives of countless expository preachers all over the country. He and a man named E.K. Bailey modeled exposition to a company of pastors that would take their methodology all over this country. But they didn’t tell me about them in homiletics class. I don’t even know if my professor knew who he was.
It wasn’t until I took a trek down to the E.K. Bailey Expository Preaching Conference that I found the “great hall of African-American expository preachers,” and found out that A. Louis Patterson Jr. was one of the men who had blazed the trail. Men from all over paid homage to the living legend. All attested to the fact that he was the model preacher. He took a text and never strayed from it. He preached verse by verse, unpacking the text with skill and precision.
Now that he has gone on to be with the Lord, I wanted to pay my respects to a “Prince of Preachers” who looks like me. Sadly, many of my African-American evangelical seminarians don’t know who he is. If this is your first time hearing of him, know that we have a rich history of exposition. Let’s not let his legacy die with him, and let’s take up, with humility, the great mantle that he has left. To the “Godfather” of African-American expository preaching, rest in Heaven.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about A. Louis Patterson, Jr. watch his interview with H.B. Charles, Jr.