On her Facebook page recently a friend asked, “Tell us something you have done which no one else in our group has done.” She got the type of responses you might expect: hang gliding, jumping from planes, singing in Carnegie Hall, etc.
That started me thinking about these years of service to the Lord since He called me in 1961. I’m confident I’ve done nothing no one else has, but it may be worthwhile to reflect on some of the almost one-of-a-kind things that have taken place in my ministry. (I’ve not ever done this kind of reflection before, so we’ll see how it goes. Smiley-face here.)
For what it’s worth, here are some that come to mind…
I have drawn a comic book for the missionaries in Singapore.
In the mid-1970s, I saw a note in The Commission magazine where they were looking for a cartoonist to draw an evangelistic comic for their work in Singapore. While I mulled it over, the phone rang. My wife said, “Honey, have you seen this? They need a cartoonist in Singapore!”
I traveled to Singapore–from Mississippi, it’s the other side of the globe–and spent two weeks as a guest of the Southern Baptist missionaries as we worked with a group of locals preparing a script. Then, I traveled around, sketching scenes to use as background. I came home and drew the book–a full-length, full color, full size comic. They printed up 10,000 copies and sold them on the newsstands there. The project was completely funded by my church in Columbus, MS and we involved volunteers to help color the acetate cels with acrylics. It was a big project.
The comic’s thrust was encouraging teens to enroll in a correspondence Bible study course. The Lord alone knows what was accomplished. I still have one copy of the comic and all the original drawings. This was the late 1970s. It’s a great memory, but I get tired just thinking about all the work!
I was co- leader of an area-wide evangelistic crusade in the Mississippi Delta.
In the late 1960s, pastoring my first church out of seminary, I found that being in my mid-20s gave me a natural connection with teens. God blessed our work in Greenville, MS so much, that a friend who was a detective on the local police force, and I felt God would have us lead an area crusade directed toward the youth. I had attended the Bill Glass Crusade in New Orleans and we felt he would be perfect as the preacher.
The planning and organizing, promotion and followup, required a year or more. We went before the school board asking them to rescind a policy prohibiting religious events in the stadium. We involved sixty churches over a huge region and packed five thousand people in the stadium each Sunday afternoon and 2500 each weeknight. Hundreds of people indicated they made salvation decisions. The evangelist was Bill Glass, recently retired All-Pro defensive end for the Cleveland Browns, and the guest musician was Doug Oldham, of Gaither Homecoming series fame. We had a former Miss America one night and other well-known guests to give testimonies. Bill Carlson of Mobile, assistant to our evangelist, worked with us on every detail, running it exactly as a Billy Graham Crusade, but on a smaller basis. It was a class operation.
This may have been the largest enterprise–if that’s the word–I’ve ever initiated and seen through. We set up an office trailer in a shopping center where my wife Margaret worked as the office staff for several months, coordinating and supervising scores of volunteers. Not insignificantly, the crusade was integrated. The Mississippi Delta carried a well-earned reputation as a hot-bed of racism, and this was one year after the assassination of Martin Luther King. Old-timers cautioned us this could not be done.
I confess to looking back on that with a lot of satisfaction.
We got Congress to pass a law for the missionaries.
In the late 1970s, I was a member of the Foreign Mission Board of the SBC (not called the International Mission Board). We met at the FMB headquarters around six times a year, supporting and overseeing the work of the vast team of missionaries and their supervisors throughout the world. That’s how we came up against a new ruling by the IRS that would cost the board a million dollars a year.
The IRS ruled that missionaries serving overseas would have to pay income tax in this country, even if they also paid a similar tax in the country where they served. And since we had thousands of Gospel emissaries throughout the world, this would be an incredible hardship. The FMB would, of course, have to make sure the missionaries could handle this financial burden. The estimate was that it would cost the board a million dollars every year.
So, I joined a three man team and we went to Washington. Lynn Clayton, editor of Louisiana’s Baptist Message (state-wide weekly) and John Alley, pastor of Alexandria, LA’s Calvary Baptist, and I were the team for reasons long forgotten. We worked with the office of Louisiana’s Senator Russell Long and then walked the halls in D.C. talking to congressional leaders. Then, we went home and started working the phones. As a result, Congress passed a law protecting the missionaries from having to pay income tax here if they were assigned overseas. (Don’t press me for details. This was a long time ago. Nor can I tell you how this has played out since.)
So, what have I done since? Hmm. Good question.
Nothing no one else has done, I suppose.
Written some books. Pastored some churches. Welcomed grandchildren into the world. Led the New Orleans SBC churches to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina destroyed many of them. Shed tears as God took my wife of 52 years in January of 2015. Two years later, married the widow of a preacher friend (they had also enjoyed 52 years of marriage) and moved from New Orleans to Jackson, MS area. And life goes on, thankfully.
When one looks back at a long season of ministry, there’s a temptation to assess what he did well, what meant the most for the Lord, and what he fretted over that did not matter in the long run. But the simple fact is we do everything by faith. And that means we don’t always know the impact something will have and are not the judge of whether this thing was “gold, silver, precious stones” or “wood, hay, and stubble” (I Corinthians 3:12)..
God knows. And that’s good enough.