Last one standing

In September 1939, Winston Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty for the second time.  A quarter of a century earlier, during the First World War, he held the same position.  To assume the leadership of the greatest navy of the world twice was an amazing thing.  To do so 25 years apart was even more remarkable.

Churchill thought of all the great officers he had worked with the first time.  They were all gone now. He alone was still living and serving. In one of his books on the Second World War, Churchill quotes this little piece from the Irish poet Thomas Moore….

I feel like one who treads alone

Some banquet-hall deserted;

Whose lights are fled,

Whose garland’s dead,

And all but he departed.

At the time, Churchill was not yet 64 years old.  Not exactly ancient.

I’m 76 years old and delighted to be standing still and serving frequently. Last weekend, I served in the First Baptist Church of Shannon, Mississippi.  This weekend, I’m in Red House Baptist Church of Richmond, Kentucky, ministering in all three services and sketching as many people as possible.  The following Thursday night, I’ll be sketching and speaking to 300 seniors in Winder, Georgia, for their annual associational thing.  That weekend, I’ll be at Jacob’s Well Church in Diamondhead, MS and Brandon Baptist Church, Brandon, Mississippi.

I’m also happy to announce that I am not the last survivor from the seminary class of the 1960s when I came through.  To be sure, many of my colleagues who sat under Dr. George Harrison, Dr. John Olen Strange, Dr. Malcolm Tolbert, and Dr. Bob Soileau are in Heaven now.  And others, while still living, are retired and in poor health and unable to carry on the kind of ministry they would like.

Dr. Paige Patterson and his wonderful wife Dorothy are still on the front lines for the Lord, far more active than I.  We sat in those classes together in the 60s.  Paige preached a revival for me at the little Paradis Baptist Church where I was serving.  He had one speed and that was “full.”  He was loud and fast and strong.  Hearing him now–as former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and longtime presidents of two of our leading seminaries–is a blessing.  Dorothy writes books and has served as editor of a best-selling Women’s Bible.  They’re most impressive.

Bobby and Sue Hood are still actively serving the Lord.  Bobby was in the music field in those days, as I recall, and served both FBC Kenner and Suburban Baptist Church in the New Orleans area.  He had me do a youth revival at Suburban and serve as pastor for the youth retreat at Camp Kittiwake in ’67, a year or two before Hurricane Camille blew it off the map.  They served as missionaries to Brazil and pastored churches in Mississippi and Alabama. Bobby has preached in my churches and led singing for a revival or two, and we’re still great friends. He may be the only preacher I know who is as active on social media as I am.

Those are just two. There are others.

I love being this age and still out in the field with my cotton sack, still able to pluck a few bolls here and there.  Weighing up time is not too far ahead, but I’m not planning to quit early.  There’ll be plenty of time to rest up after dark.

I’m not alone in the field.  New folks are arriving all the time, many of them with far greater harvest-skills and better equipment than I ever had.  But scattered across the field, there are veterans who have been out here through the heat of the day…and look it! (smiley-face goes here)  They are my champions.

When I was young in the ministry and fairly stupid, the colleagues I admired most were those who made it big, who served in prominent places, who achieved important things.  But after fifty-plus years of this, I find myself most admiring the ones who, regardless of the size of their skills and prominence of their assignments, have labored steadily for the Master.

These are our real heroes of the faith.

I’m so glad and honored the Father has let me linger here.  Driving to the Alabama farmhouse today and on to Kentucky tomorrow, I will fill the car with prayers and praise to such a benevolent and gracious Lord. Serving Him is the best thing there is.

“Thank you, Father. Ten thousand reasons to praise Thy name.”

You are looking at one thankful Alabama cotton-picker.

 

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Last one standing

  1. I absolutely agree with and love this paragraph!
    “When I was young in the ministry and fairly stupid, the colleagues I admired most were those who made it big, who served in prominent places, who achieved important things. But after fifty-plus years of this, I find myself most admiring the ones who, regardless of the size of their skills and prominence of their assignments, have labored steadily for the Master.”

  2. Great article Dr. Joe!! I studied under most of the same profs you did at NOBTS plus some others. Some of my preacher buddies were talking the other day and I made the comment, “All our heroes are dead!” To which one fellow said, “Yep, that means it’s up to us to carry the torch!” I know we are not the only ones left because there are many younger than us who are doing a great job. But we must admit that we have more years behind us than we do ahead of us, so we just need to make the best of it and finish well. I’m sure glad you’re still out there “pickin cotton.”

  3. Just now reading “The Gathering Storm” for the second time, came across those lines by Thomas Moore that Churchill quoted and after googling came upon your post. (Still amazed at the greatness of Churchill.)
    I’m a 69 year old continuing in pastoral ministry since 1976. I loved your comments and though an RTS guy am familiar with some of the names you mention.
    What a privilege it is to serve our dear Lord! And to have survived in ministry can only be attributed to His grace. Thanks for posting.

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