In every age, God has blessed His church by raising up gifted individualsto serve in unique and effective ways. Surely, one of the most greatly used individuals of recent years was the late Vance Houston Havner. Through a preaching and writing ministry that spanned over 70 years, Vance Havner spoke forth the truth of God's Word in a most effectual manner. A testimony to his lasting influence is seen in the frequent quoting of Dr. Havner by Christian writers and speakers everywhere. To this day, many a sermon, book, or magazine article will open with a "Havner-ism," when the author wishes to arrest his audience's attention in a positive way. The influential ministry was a result of an intimate walk with Christ, and serves as a lesson for believers today.
Vance Havner was born October 17, 1901, in the Western North Carolina locality of Jugtown. Though his ministry eventually took him to major cities throughout America, Dr. Havner maintained a love for the quiet and simple ways of his more rural past.
Even though he had exposure to a variety of educational experiences, Vance Havner was largely a self-taught individual. Much of Vance Havner's spiritual development took place as he spent time quietly alone with God. Vance loved the out-of-doors, and it was in the woods as a boy that he opened his heart to Christ. His love of God and knowledge of scripture was manifest at a very young age, and as a child he frequently drew pictures of Bible stories that were accompanied by his own handwritten commentary. Reflecting back on his call to ministry, Dr. Havner once said, "I've never known a time when I didn't want to preach. The desire was always there."
Haver's reputation grew as he traveled and spoke in increasingly larger circles. His influence extended to a national level, but Dr. Havner's approach was always to minister where God directed, regardless of the size of the church. His appeal and influence transcended denominational lines, and he spoke to many different groups of people.
In addition to preaching in many of America's most influential churches, Dr. Havner was a highly sought speaker for conferences at places such as Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. He frequently spoke at both state and national meetings of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Havner delivered chapel messages and baccalaureate sermons at colleges such as the Citadel, Columbia Bible College (now Columbia International University), Liberty University, Southeastern Baptist Seminary, and Garner-Webb College.
While speaking at Florida Bible Institute in 1939, Vance Havner met Sara Allred, whom he married in 1940. She was a dedicated Christian, and faithful helper with her husband's ministry. For thirty-three years, Dr. and Mrs. Havner traveled to many meetings together, and their labor yielded much fruit. Thousands of people made decisions for Christ in revivals and evangelistic services where Vance Havner preached. Thousands more were impacted through the many books that Vance Havner had opportunity to write. These included such titles as Why Not Just Be Christians?, Pepper 'N Salt, Playing Marbles With Diamonds, Hearts Afire, Peace In the Valley, Pleasant Paths, On This Rock I Stand, and many others. After Mrs. Havner's death in 1973, Vance Havner wrote Though I Walk Through the Valley, a book which has been a great comfort to many grieving persons. Dr. Havner lovingly wrote of Sara's "innumerable ministries as wife, homemaker, and companion."
During the 1950's, Vance Havner was asked his opinion about the Hollywood movies coming out that were based on Biblical themes. Havner noted the irony of Hollywood putting the Bible on film: "I'd just as soon hear a gangster lecture on honesty," he observed. When asked about the duties of a minister, Havner once said, "The preacher is to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable."
Throughout his ministry, Vance Havner lived and preached that a Christian should should exhibit faithfulness to Jesus in all areas of life. He taught that the Christian should attend to, "the outliving of the inliving Christ." Havner wrote, "To some, Christianity is an argument. To many, it is a performance. To a few, it is an experience."
Though Dr. Havner died in 1986, his influence for Christ continues. His ministry is a testimony to the way in which God can use one surrendered life to touch countless other lives. Those persons whose support makes the Scholarship Fund possible are doing the same, by helping surrendered servants to go forth in Jesus' name.