Mar 19, 2024

Vance Havner


Vance Havner (1901-1986) was a good ole’ country boy. He grew up in the hills of North Carolina in a place called Jugtown (so-called for the people who made pottery there). He loved the outdoors, opened his heart to Christ alone in the woods as a young boy, and was subsequently baptized in the South Fork River. Preaching became his passion early in life. He sent his first sermon to a small-town newspaper when he was nine and preached his first sermon at 12, standing on a chair behind the pulpit. He was ordained at 15 and pastored two Baptist churches. He relished preaching but quickly tired of committee work. His definition of a committee is a keeper, “A committee is a bunch of incompetents, established by the unwilling, to do the unnecessary.” He took to the road as an itinerant preacher. His travels took him to Florida, where he was laid low by sickness. He married the woman who fed him chicken broth, and they set out together as a team to share Christ’s love. Vance was devastated by Sara’s death after 33 years of marriage and referenced his sadness over her death in his sermon, “Playing Marbles with Diamonds.” He closed with these words, “When before the throne we stand in Him complete, all the riddles that puzzle us here will fall into place and we shall know in fulfillment what we now believe in faith—that all things work together for good in His eternal purpose. No longer will we cry ‘My God, why?’ Instead, ‘Alas’ will become ‘Alleluia,’ all question marks will be straightened into exclamation points, sorrow will change to singing, and pain will be lost in praise.” He also offers good counsel about prayer, “If you can’t pray as you want, pray as you can. God knows what you mean.” Vance wrote a year’s worth of meditations near the end of his life, appropriately titled “Lord of What’s Left: Meditations of Hope and Inspiration.” A sentence from one of his prayers stands out to me:

Lord of the years that are left to me, I give them to Thy hand;
Take me and make me and mold me
To the pattern Thou hast planned.

Vance Havner, Lord of What’s Left: Meditations of Hope and Inspiration

Rev. Dr. Peter James served 42 years as the senior of Vienna Presbyterian Church in Vienna, VA — 21 years in the 20th century and 21 years in the 21st century. He retired in 2021 and now serves as Pastor-in-Residence at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Even as a pastor, prayer came slowly to Pete. Read Pete’s story.