I knew Lawrence well and spent a lot of time with him. He pastored some sizeable churches and was often in demand as a guest speaker.
I must have heard him give his testimony a dozen times or more.
Lawrence did not come from a Christian family. He was around 10 years old when his family moved into that neighborhood in some east Texas town. As the family was still unloading the truck and setting things up, a man knocked at the door.
Introducing himself as a deacon in the local Baptist church, the man told Lawrence’s mother that he taught a Sunday School class of boys. “Did I see a tow-headed boy running around here somewhere?”
“That would be Lawrence,” she said as she called for him. “This man wants you to go to Sunday School with him.”
As the deacon extended his invitation, Lawrence listened and nodded. He would say later, “I had already learned the way to deal with church people was to agree with them.”
He had no intention of going to that or anybody else’s Sunday School class.
The man said, “Now, Lawrence, I’ll be by in the morning around 9 am to get you. You be ready.”
The next morning at 8 o’clock there was a knock at the door. The deacon said to a sleepy-headed boy, “Good morning, Lawrence. Get some clothes on and eat some cereal and I’ll be by in an hour to get you.”
“Now, what are you going to do with a fellow like that?” Lawrence would ask his audience.
And that’s how it happened that Lawrence began going to a wonderful church where he heard the Gospel and came to know Christ and eventually received the call to preach.
One day in church, the pastor invited the congregation to go to the individuals who had invited them to church or had had the most to do with their coming to Christ. Lawrence spotted that Sunday School teacher in the choir and started toward him.
That’s when he noticed a long string of men, young and not so young, like stairsteps, lined up to shake that man’s hand and thank him.
It was a good story. Everyone loved hearing it.
Apparently the whole thing was a total fiction.
After Lawrence died a few years back, I told his story on this website. I paid tribute to him for some things he did well and right, while intentionally overlooking and omitting a number of serious failures in his life, well-known to those who knew him over the years. There was no point in chronicling the failures. I wanted to show Lawrence the same grace which I hope to receive from anyone remembering me.
A year or two afterward, while searching his name on the internet, Lawrence’s step-daughter found the tribute on this blog. She called to thank me and said what a wonderful person he was.
Then, another year or so later, Lawrence’s brother found the same article and phoned me from Texas.
“You know there’s not a word of truth to it, don’t you?”
I asked what he was talking about.
“Lawrence’s story. It’s all a lie. Not a word of truth to it.”
I was stunned.
He said, “We were always a church family. There was no deacon Sunday School teacher who came to our house to find that ‘tow-headed boy.’ He made the whole thing up.”
All I could think to ask was “Why? Why would he do such a thing?”
The brother said, “To make himself seem bigger than he was, would be my guess.”
He added, “I’m not faulting you. You wrote what he said. But my brother Lawrence was a liar.”
The conversation ended soon after that, and I have had no more contact with any member of the family. I was left with that tribute on my blog and with the nagging question in my mind which has never been satisfactorily answered: Why would a preacher lie about something so basic and so simple? Something so completely unnecessary and so pointless.
The human heart is a funny thing.
I know one thing. Anyone who would lie about something so holy and without cause would be capable of anything.
That brings into focus the other serious failures in Lawrence’s life which, as we said, are intentionally omitted. Clearly, it was all part of a pattern. The lying seems to have been a large part of who he was.
Our Lord said people who are faithful in the little things can be trusted to be faithful also in much. Likewise, unrighteous in a very little thing, unrighteous also in much. That’s Luke 16:10, and it’s a great yardstick for measuring ourselves and discerning the character of others.
One would think that the ministry, of all professions on the planet, would be filled by the most honorable and truthful people. Unfortunately, the ministry attracts its share of truth-benders, truth-stretchers, resume-padders, numbers-exaggeraters, and outright liars as the run of the mill professions do.
I forget exactly what my new wife and I were discussing. Perhaps we were doing our taxes, an annual ordeal that always stressed me out. Since I was doing my own taxes in those early days and my record-keeping was basically non-existent, I was estimating and guesstimating in some areas. That’s when the sweet young thing lowered the boom on me.
“I will not be married to a dishonest man,” she said point-blank.
And so I quit fudging, told the truth, and paid a little more. And never forgot it.
If my 20-year-old bride was such a stickler for honesty and integrity, think how much more the Heavenly Father demands it of those who deal with eternal destinies and His matchless gospel.
“A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight” (Proverbs 11:1).
“You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight or capacity” (Leviticus 19:35).
“You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:36).
“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in HIs steps; who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth….” (I Peter 2:21-22).
Tell the truth, Christian. Speak the truth, pastor. Or please, find another profession.