Rick, I actually started preaching late, so I never went through the “hell fire and damnation” period. My preaching was molded by my courses at SBTS and then being a member of Crescent Hill Baptist Church when John Claypool was pastor. Dr. Claypool had more influence on me than any other source. My favorite two small books of his are: God the Ingenious Alchemist: Transforming Tragedy Into Blessing and Tracks of a Fellow Struggler. Also I was influenced by his book that was taken from the Lyman Beecher Lectures at Yale The Preaching Event.
I was also blessed with being able to take George Buttrick for a Homiletic course at SBTS. We had to write a final sermon for the course, and Dr. Buttrick had each student come to his house with wife or husband if there was one. The student stayed with Dr. Buttrick while the spouses went to have tea with Mrs. Buttrick. Dr. Buttrick went over our sermons line by line telling us the strengths and weaknesses of the sermon. I remember him picking out a word and quoting Mark Twain: “The difference between the <i>almost right</i> word and the <i>right</i> word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
I was blessed.