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The Hoarse Whisperer*

This morning in church, Bob Sorge delivered one of the most moving and challenging messages I’ve heard in a long time.  I am not even worthy to try and recreate the moment, so just download the mp3 and let Bob speak for himself and the Lord.   My point is not his message, which left me internally messed up most of the afternoon.  My point is Bob.

If you’re not familiar with Bob, he and his wife Marci have been in Kansas City about 10 years and a part of IHOP from Day 1.   Marci has been the IHOP Ministry Director since there were only 9 tribes of Israel.   In addition to cranking out provoking books faster than Chrysler built lemons in the 80’s, Bob travels and speaks almost every weekend.

Sixteen years ago, Bob suffered an accident during a medical procedure that injured his voice.  He speaks at a whisper now.  I’ve been in meetings of 5 people with him when he used a microphone and small amp.  Preaching to thousands, he needs to crank the gain up to 11 and then pray that feedback doesn’t kick in.

When Bob preaches, you find yourself leaning forward….first so that you can hear what he’s saying.  It’s not always easy…but once you get into the rythm of it, it’s doable.

Quickly, though, you find yourself leaning forward because you want to know what he might say next. The guy drops bomb after bomb after bomb, each delivered deliberately, with real, physical effort.  No words are wasted because words are hard for him.  The effect on his speaking is incredible.

Bob won’t ever shout his way through a weak point or rely on an oily smooth trial lawyer’s delivery to mask the fact that he doesn’t know his stuff.  His words come slowly but forcefully.  I sat there this morning in awe of this man when the thought came to me – when you can only speak at a whisper, you need to have real content.

He reminded me a little bit of David Ravenhill, the son of better known Leonard Ravenhill.   His father, mentor to Keith Green and prolific author, thundered in the pulpit.   David never raised his voice.  Although he moved widely in charismatic revival circles, he was remarkably undemonstrative, once remarking to an audience,  “I don’t dance.  I don’t shout.  I just preach.”

Back in our church planting days, I heard through the grapevine that David was going to be in our town on a Sunday night.  I also heard he was flying in Saturday night…so I wanted to see if we might get him to speak to our little congregation.  Calling what I imagined to be the corporate offices of a megaministry, I nearly dropped the phone when he answered the other end with a clipped British accent – “Ravenhill residence….”.    I had called his house.

I stammered out an invitation to speak that Sunday and he accepted, no questions asked.   Then, fearing his expectations might exceed our reality, I insisted on explaining that we were a very small church in a very bad building and we didn’t even have a pulpit and we were all in our 20’s and perhaps he wanted to think about it.

He interupted me “I don’t care what your church is like.  I will be happy to come.”

Come he did.  He stood behind a music stand  and delivered about 20 years of thinking in 25 minutes.  When he was done I was tired and inspired all at once.   His voice never raised above the level of a quiet conversation.

It was his words that had the impact, not his breath.

So it was this morning with Bob.

*Ok, let me acknowledge that this may be a new personal worst in blog titles, but I couldn’t get it out of my head and now you can’t get it out of yours.

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8 Responses

  1. I loved it this morning! So much wisdom, and just the fact that he has this trial with his voice rocks me…to know he is an anointed teacher but God has a reason that his trial is with his voice…

  2. Seriously I have two of Bob’s books and one I’ve had since 1993. It’s so dog eared and underlined… but I’ll never get rid of it. It’s not a huge book, of many words…. but they have changed the way I worship forever.

    I’ve yet to hear Ravenhill speak, but after reading a few of his books, I look forward to it. Amazing. I’d loved to have heard his father speak… or Wigglesworth… 😉

  3. Bob’s life and story always amaze me. Also, like many others Leonard Ravenhill was a huge influence on me, and for that reason I’ve always been impressed at David’s maturity and ability to be himself in spite of the pseudo worship that surrounds his father’s memory. In fact, recently I had contacted him via email wanting some advice from a mature leader not knowing if he would be to busy to respond. He replied personally and gave me his home phone number. I called him and he talked to me for several hours, never once acting like he wanted to get off the phone. He ended it with an invitation to call him again whenever I needed advice. I could share other stories where David acted like such a servant it was ridiculous. He truly has no respect for externals, but loves and serves like a true leader.

  4. Being an evangelist(not reflected on my business card) I am always facinated on how one addresses crowds to communicate ideas about which they are passionate or deeply involved in. Bob Sorge always stuns me. His singular ability is to to pick his emphasis within the words themselves not in statements of sweeping grandeur.

    Some adopt the “dialed down” demeanor till they hit 0. Others fire themselves up until they are practically doing cartwheels every time something mildly inspired proceeds forth from their mouth. Bob is in fact niether one of these. His books instruct intimacy and connotate the even greater depths to which one may achive while his preaching plainly exhibits not his methodology but his raw heart. What a champ.

    I went to your blog today to share an article I found about Stem cells but couldn’t help throwing my two cents in on Bob Sorge. Anyway check out the article, it explains how the recent discovery(in Jerusalem) of the differentiation mechanisim within stem cells impacts research from now on.

    Link:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081221220328.htm

  5. I watched last night’s service (via the webstreaming), and it was truly amazing. As a person with a chronic illness, I find Bob inspiring. Sometimes it’s hard to listen to speakers who are naturally healthy get up and talk about healing, the need for healing, or how to attain healing. I guess it takes someone who has had to live in the drama to get it.

  6. David Ravenhill came to a NZ conference in 1999 at our church. He preached on Song 5 and it was the first intimacy message I had ever heard. I was undone. I wept and wept and wept after that sermon. I’m weeping as I remember it. I got the video tape of that sermon and showed it to all my friends who would look at it and asked them to explain tto me why I kept weeping. No one else was affected the same way, although they thought it was a great message. About a year later I discovered IHOP and got the Song of Songs series by Mike. I don’t know how many times I listened to those 20 tapes and loaned them out and copied them for whoever would listen to them. They have been up and down the North & South Islands of NZ. I lost them at one point and bought the new technology of the CD’s. Those got loaned out and copied and I lost track of them, so I got the MP3 series and when Mike re-did them, I bought the new series. I’ve listened to Rhonda’s version and Gary Wiens’ versions. Now I’m going through the FSM audit course with the Roberts. There’s so much in that little 8 chapter book that I had never read before 1999 but David Ravenhill introduced it to me. And I’m still weeping.

    Bob’s book on the Secret Place is one of the best I’ve meditated on. He’s an undiscovered treasure. I’ll have to go download the MP3…

  7. As a youngster, my dad used to play us Leonard Ravenhill tapes when we drove in the car. I liked him so much I asked my dad if I could write him a letter. Dad replied sure, but he was a very busy man and I probably wouldn’t hear back.

    I wrote anyway, and not two weeks later received a beautiful card in the mail, from Leonard. This was towards the end of his life, when his handwriting was near illegible. You could see where his wife went over his letters with another pen to clear up the penmanship.

    Says a lot about a man who will write back to a ten year old girl. I’ve always thought it was cool.

  8. Randy,

    I’ve tried to find this MP3 of Bob’s message on the IHOP web site but have come up with a big goose egg! Could you help direct me to where I might find this message? Thanks for your help.

    Marc Smith

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