VERNON, Texas (BP) – There are many lessons Toby Castleberry, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, received after closing out a series on the Gospel of John Nov. 14.
One is to be aware of what you say, as in declaring that you will preach for 100 consecutive days. It sounds good, and more than that, God placed it on Castleberry’s heart to do so starting Aug. 7. But don’t think your own strength will be sufficient.
He said that became apparent to him near the time he talked to BP, around 30 days into the endeavor.
“It felt like I had a tiger by the tail at that point,” he said, adding that it became about the ability to focus and trust God would carry him through each sermon.
“You pray for this day, you work for this day, you study for this day and you preach for this day. I think I had six funerals during this time, and your day is already pretty crowded,” he said. “Yet, things worked out and God always provided.”
The final 10 days were tough physically, Castleberry said, something perhaps only pastors can appreciate. To the layperson, he’s only standing and talking. Exhaustion was very real, though.
“Trying to explain this is kind of tough,” he said. “It’s a ‘heavy’ kind of tired.”
The series titled “So Loved” focused on John 3:16 and began at 6 p.m. each night in addition to Sunday mornings. Calvary Baptist averages 220 in its Sunday service, Castleberry said, with nightly gatherings ranging between 75-100. Online attendance included all 50 states and 49 countries, with repeat viewers popping up in places like Russia, Pakistan, Great Britain, India and Ecuador.
The biggest number is eight, however, referring to the individuals attending in person who prayed to receive Christ. Two families also joined the church. Furthermore, a sizeable group attended at least 85 of the gatherings, with a handful hearing all 100 while sitting in Calvary’s sanctuary.
One of those with perfect attendance was Sue Mitchell, a longtime church member, who at 89 years old still drives herself and works as a real estate agent in town.
Richard Jackson was pastor at North Phoenix Baptist Church when Castleberry was saved there as a boy and now lives in Brownwood, Texas. The two stay in touch, and Jackson asked Castleberry early on how he planned to space out preaching 100 days through one book of Scripture.
To be honest, Castleberry hadn’t really thought that part through. But, his 50th sermon put him exactly halfway through, with his final message on Sunday, Nov. 14, focused on the final two verses. Sermons along the way averaged covering 7-8 verses.
He doesn’t plan on undertaking a similar feat anytime soon, but won’t shy away from it if he feels that’s what God wants him to do.
“There’s something about consistently looking into God’s Word,” he said. “It was tremendous to hear of the ways people learned and grew.
“God’s Word is perfect and the more time we can spend in it, He’ll bless it. You can’t run fast enough, jump high enough or preach long enough to explain the glory of Christ. If we had 300 nights, it wouldn’t be enough.”