My ministry in that church was uphill all the way. Everything was hard, it seemed. There were few rest stops, places where we could take a breather and enjoy a sense that we are accomplishing something significant for the Lord.
The church had few financial resources due to a heavy debt load, made worse by a major split in the congregation 18 months before I arrived as pastor. The ministerial staff had little money for the outreach and educational programs they wanted to do.
It was a tough time in the life of that church.
Perhaps I was tired. Or discouraged. Or needed a boost of some kind.
Anyway, one day, on the way back to the church office from lunch I prayed a prayer unlike any I’d ever prayed before.
I said, “Lord, I’m ready. I’m ready for that phone call that will change my life.”
As soon as the words came out–surprising even me, I must say; where did that come from?–I began to reflect that I have had only two or three life-changing phone calls in my life and although I had never actually voiced this prayer, I have lived with that kind of expectation for many years. A call or a letter that changes everything.
In 1973, a call from a committee chairman brought me to Columbus MS as pastor of the First Baptist Church, where I remained for nearly 13 years. In 1986, it was a call from another chairman that brought us to Charlotte’s First Baptist Church.
Sometimes, phone calls can change one’s life.
So, a few minutes after entering the office, the secretary said, “Pastor, you have a phone call. A Bob Cannon is on line one.” Bob Cannon. I knew him. He was a friend and advisor of a sort for a longtime friend in North Carolina. He had a message from her.
“Inez wants to give some stock to your church. She needs some information from the church’s stock broker to do this.”
I said, “Wait a minute. What?”
He said, “As you know, she has a considerable estate. This is some kind of excess and she is dividing it among three churches. Your church should get about $25,000 in stock.”
Inez was in the room and we chatted, with me telling her how surprising this was and how much we appreciated her wonderful generosity.
Bob commented that Inez did not have a lot of family members who “deserve” gifts from her.
I laughed, remembering one story in particular to confirm that.
Inez was concerned when the property next door went up for sale. Her neighborhood was changing and, being a senior lady living alone, she feared riff-raff moving in. So, she called her niece in another state and made her an offer. “I would be willing to buy the house next door and give it to you, if you and your family would move here.” The niece decided that was too good an offer to turn down.
Inez bought the house and the niece’s family moved in.
Six weeks later, a ‘for sale’ sign went up in the front yard. When Inez asked, the niece said, “We don’t like it here and have decided to move back home.”
They sold the house and pocketed the money.
Inez told me, “That’s all the inheritance she’s getting.”
Readers are wondering what we did with the $25,000 gift to our church. Ah, there is the fun of it.
Inez wanted me to decide where the money would go. The last thing she wanted, she said, was for a committee to get hold of this and decide.
And I did.
Several of the ministerial staff got money for their ministries. And I did something that was dear to my heart.
I bought time on a Christian radio station. For the next seven years, I did a live “phone call from the pastor” for a couple of minutes around 6:50 am. Mostly, I made the phone call from my breakfast table. A few times I pulled over to a pay phone and made the call while traveling. But it was almost always ‘live.’
I loved doing it. We soon had people visiting our church as a result. And the program paid for itself many times over. When the gift money ran out, the church put the cost of the program in the budget.
Seven years after we started the radio program, I left the pastorate of that church to become director of missions in that five-parish (county) area. That’s when we ended the radio program–much to my sorrow. I had loved doing it.
Interestingly, for the next six or eight years, strangers would speak to me in elevators or department stores, “I recognize your voice from the phone call from the pastor.” A Catholic priest said that once.
So, be careful what you think you really want, be careful what you ask the Lord for, and be careful once He entrusts it to you.
What is dear to your heart today? What if you laid it before the Father and asked Him to do it in His way, on His schedule, for His glory?