Read My Mail

Recently in the message I wrote concerning the bottom-dwelling U.S. economy, I told the story of Randy and Charlene McCall, our neighbors in Columbus, Mississippi, who, after he lost his job managing factories some years back, bought a ServiceMaster franchise and did well. I did not ask their permission to tell that, but knew Randy had shared his story at the national meeting of the franchisees of that company, and felt confident he wouldn’t mind my using them as illustrations. Well, I found out a little more today….

In the early 1990s, the McCall’s franchise grew to be the largest in the USA, and that’s out of a total of 4500! These days, my buddy Randy putters around the house, the way self-respecting retirees should, and their son Chris–my son Neil’s best friend from childhood onward–runs the company and is maintaining that exalted ranking.

Randy reminded me of something I had forgotten but should not have. He writes, “Do you remember me making a copy of the first major account proposal I bid on in Columbus (it was Weyerhaeuser) on the church copier? You and I prayed before I presented the proposal. Well, for some reason I was more confident in that proposal than I had a right to be and got the account. The rest is history. Thank you.”

Then, true to form, this friend uses up the good will he had just established. Commenting on plans for me to preach at the First Baptist Church of Columbus next Sunday, he writes, “Charlene and I are scheduled to keep the nursery, so I sent out an e-mail to all church members asking if anyone would rather sub for us that Sunday than hear your preaching. We had 436 volunteers.”

This is the same so-called friend who picked up on something I said in the early worship service one Sunday when I was their pastor. I told the church, “When I talk to little children and ask about their Sunday School teacher, so few actually know their names.” I said, “Teachers, please keep reminding the children of your name.” Later that morning, during the Sunday School hour, Randy came to the church office with the records of the 5-year-old class Charlene and he led. He turned in a note that said, “A survey of the 5-year-old class reveals that 98 percent knew their teacher was Miss Charlene. However, only 38.5 percent knew the pastor’s name.”

With friends like this…you’re always humble (and forever smiling!).

I asked you for input regarding Christian fellowship in your church. A friend e-mailed me directly with the following….

“Many years ago, when I was the executive director of (the local telephone Helpline counseling center), I would travel to national meetings of our organization around the country–all by myself. When I first began to go, I was the new kid on the block and knew exactly nobody. However, within hours of my arrival, I was one of the gang–received with warmth and a great welcome, and treated as if I had always been there. That is what I think of as fellowship.””

She continued, “Then, one year the Christian Life Commission (in one of our state Baptist conventions) was building its annual meeting around the theme of the church reaching into the community. They invited various groups to attend and tell the stories of their agencies and suggest how the church might be more involved in that service to the community. Because I was the only Southern Baptist in our ministry’s leadership, the executive director asked me to go and represent us. I went. It was a three-day conference, and I spoke to small groups a number of times.”

“I had conversations with quite a number of people,” she says, “all initiated by me. However, not one person approached me to talk on their own. I thought to myself,