Saturday, May 25, 2013

“Preaching to the Trees” by Garris Elkins

In the late 1970’s, I was a student at Ministries Institute at Faith Center in Eugene, Oregon.  I had the privilege of listening to profound teachers each week.  Names like Roy Hicks, Jr., Ron Mehl, Jack Hayford and Jerry Cook graced our pulpit.  It was a preaching garden and each week we enjoyed it’s fruit.

In Ministries Institute we were required to prepare sermons to preach to the other students in our study group.  There is something special about a group of young men and women trying their best to honor the Word of God and at the same time not be boring to the other students. Most of our sermons sounded the same, but I think God loved it.

At the time, I was also working as a police officer in Springfield, Oregon.  I was working swing shift  – from mid-afternoon until about midnight.  Somewhere in our shift we would take Code 7 – police radio code for our dinner break.  We got thirty minutes to order and eat our meal.  Trying to order, eat and watch your back made eating in a restaurant not such a great experience.  Most of the time I grabbed something from a drive-through or brought a bag lunch and simply ate in my patrol car.

Whenever it was my turn to preach in our class I would skip eating during my meal break and would drive up into the foothills on the south side of Springfield and park my patrol car.  The area where I parked was accessed by a dirt road that ended in a wooded area surrounded by pine trees.

When I parked my patrol car, I let dispatch know that I was “Code 7” and then I pulled out my sermon notes.  I spread the notes out on the hood of the patrol car and began to preach through my sermon, out loud. Since I only had 30 minutes, I began to learn how to manage my preaching time. It’s funny to this day every Saturday morning I do the same thing with my message.  I have been doing this each week for 32 years.  I still work through a message out loud to catch the flow of what I am trying to say.

As I preached across the hood of my patrol car towards the forest my voice would echo through the trees.  I would stop from time-to-time to correct my notes and maybe add something new.  At the end of each message I would always give an invitation for people to come to Jesus.  All of this was done in my best preaching voice – out loud in full uniform, gun and all.

This morning, I was sharing this memory with my daughter and I started to chuckle.  I asked Anna, "I wonder how many stoned hippies were hiding in the trees above Springfield, Oregon in the 1970’s and possibly got saved listening to this cop, student-preacher preach the Word to the trees and then give an invitation."  I can’t wait to get to heaven and find out.


  1. Haha! I love it! Thanks Garris:) Your stories are always full of good practical things for this young man of ministry.