MY PERSONAL JOURNEYI grew up in a family of consisting of six siblings. Two were younger than me. My dad was 65 years old when I came into the world. He was 72 when the youngest was born. From my point of view dad was a very religious man. He had served as a deacon in the Baptist Church and saw to it that we were in church every Sunday, and often led the family in devotions of prayer. The most convenient place of worship for my family was a Methodist Church, so that’s where we attended. At the age of ten I made a profession of faith and joined the Methodist Church along with my brother who was 12. This was the beginning of my walk with God. I cannot remember when I did not believe Jesus Christ was “the only begotten Son of God.”
When I was 14 my dad died leaving my Mom with four children still at home. Two days after I turned 17 my mom signed so I could join the U.S. Navy. After two years and four months in the Navy I re-enlisted for six more years. While home on leave I met a beautiful young lady that I had known of most of my life. We found that we had a lot in common and decided to get married. She and her family were members of the Freewill Baptist Church. With the influence of a Baptist dad and now a Freewill Baptist wife, I decided to be immersed according to the teachings of the Baptist Church.
I had expressed to my wife that I felt God was “calling me to preach.” My first attempt at preaching was at the Oak Grove Freewill Baptist Church in 1962. I had been baptized in the afternoon and attempted to preach at the evening service. Perhaps, oddly, although I was attempting to connect with God, and had made honest attempts to, there was still this emptiness. A suspicion that I was not connected. Even so, I continued on this path seeking to please God by attending church and telling others about my faith.
In 1963, just over a year since I had been baptized to join the Freewill Baptist Church, a friend challenged me on my faith response to God in becoming a Christian. He was a recent convert in the Church of Christ tradition. This friend shared with me scriptures such as, Mark 16:15-16 where Jesus told the Apostles, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” He also shared Acts 2:38 where Peter was answering the question of those that had crucified Christ and wanted to know what to do to have this guilt removed. Peter said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” This meant a lot to me. It placed in concrete terms what God was calling me to do, that was, to place myself under Christ’s authority and be immersed. The blessings promised were “forgiveness” and “the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
This also set me on a path of understanding that was not healthy. For years I interpreted the needs of others in the light of my own experience. Rather than sharing Christ I shared steps (Hear, Believe, Repent, Confess and be Baptized) that should be followed for a person to become a Christian, the right Church with the right name and the right acts of worship. This formula was what I saw as the answer for those who needed to be saved. (A note here: God’s plan of redemption is through Christ. Hearing, believing, confessing and being baptized is the order but Christ is our redeemer, not the steps.)
I had graduated from College with a degree in Bible before I saw the light (John 8:12). I had discussions with my brother-in-law, Jerry, whenever we got together. He has a Master’s Degree in English and loves debating. We covered the steps, the right Church, the right acts of worship and he was not moved. My brother, John, who is a couple of years older than me got through to my brother-in-law and opened my eyes to the powerless approach I had used. John presented Jesus to Jerry. “What do think about Jesus,” he asked. Jerry responded, “Oh, I believe he lived and died on a cross.” John asked, “Do you realize that he died on that cross for you!” I could tell that Jerry was sobered by this application. I asked, “Jerry, do you believe Jesus was buried and raised from the dead three days later?” He said, “Yes, I do believe that!” So I said, “Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God?” He answered, “Yes, I do believe Jesus is the Son of God.” Two of us saw the “light” that night. My brother, brother-in-law and I went to the little Church where I ministered and baptized Jerry that very night. I know Jerry received the gift of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit just as those on Pentecost were promised in Acts 2:38.
I saw the power of just sharing Jesus that night.