What constitutes a call to the ministry? Do you hear a voice in your ear? Do you fail at everything else in your life, and then try to give God a chance? Some of the worst advice I ever heard in my life came from Bob Jones III. The essence of what he said was if you were unsure of what you wanted to do in life, why not go into the ministerial class to give God a chance. Is it any wonder that so few of their ministerial graduates go into the ministry? There is an old story of a farmer that was wrestling with the call to the ministry. He looked up in the sky and saw a cloud pattern that seemed to have the letters “GPC” embedded in the clouds. Assuming it was a sign from God that he should Go Preach Christ, he asked to preach at the local church the next Sunday. After he finished his sermon, and old deacon came up to him, and said, “Brother, GPC stands for Go Plow Corn!”
It has been my experience that some of the best candidates for the ministry are laymen who become so in love with the ministry it becomes their life. My dad was such a man. My grandpa was saved as an old man, and spent much of his life hostile to Christianity. Grandma faithfully took her kids to church and both of her sons accepted Christ at an early age. To use a poker term, my dad was “All-in” in his Christianity. For those of you not familiar with the term it is when a guy sees his hand as a potential winner, and he puts all his chips in the pot. Perhaps it is a bad analogy, but the woman with the alabaster box in Matthew 26 knew this level of reckless abandon for her Savior.
Dad was absolutely fearless in sharing Christ with people. Most of us will never get over our sensitivity to people’s opinion of us, to proclaim our faith. My dad was almost oblivious to people’s opinion of him. At times this was embarrassing to me. No doubt in eternity I will see people in heaven who were reached partially through his fearlessness. Dad grew up with a lot of revivalist sensational eschatology in Conservative Baptist meetings. It often colored his preaching with kind of a macabre sense of doom and gloom. I once told him after one of his rants, that ever since I was a kid you have always wanted to see doom and gloom in prophecy. I think you could read the funny papers and come up with some type of gloom and doom.
Some of the best advice my dad ever gave me was to consistently pray for a good wife. Even in his old age he tells me that he distinctly remembers praying as a school kid in East Globe Elementary playground that God would give him a good wife. Dad was a member of the best generation of Americans, and yet he describes being one of only a handful of kids that didn’t get falling down drunk on his Senior High ditch day. The crowd around road construction camps was notoriously rough. Dad really never wanted any part of the life.
Dad says that he was misdiagnosed as a special education kid by a mistake in the testing process. Later taking tests and measurements in college he realized that he didn’t fill out a page on the test. He said he wondered why his teachers never expected anything out of him. He went on to college at Grand Canyon, and then transferred to George Peabody Teachers College, now Vanderbilt School of Education in Nashville, Tennessee. I am not sure why he went across the US, but I just think he wanted to get out of town, and Peabody was well known for education.
Dad’s heart was always in the Gospel. Even though my mom and dad attended the same church, Belmont Heights Baptist Church, in Nashville, it was unlikely that they would have met. My dad went to the church mission, and took his car deep into the slums of Nashville to pick up intercity kids to take them to hear of the Savior he loved. They would light up cigarettes, and burn holes in the upholstery of his car, but one day I believe I will meet some of those kids who heard the Gospel from a man who was fearless. One day at a church get together for young singles, Dad met my mom.
Dad struggled academically. Granted, that he took math in the days of the slide rule and the logarithm table as a double major in Math and Physics it took him four times to pass first year Calculus. Dad beat Calculus with his stubbornness. He memorized every Trigonometry identity so cold that he could quote them verbatim twenty years later when I was taking Trig in High School. He had a premonition that he would meet his wife when he passed Calculus. Celebrating his victory from his old nemesis he went to the singles get together, and there she was.
As stated in a previous blog my mom was wrestling with her salvation. At some point she realized that this guy with a car full of ghetto kids was going to be in the ministry. She ended it with the statement, “You don’t really know me.”
Dad went back to Arizona with his heart in his hands. In the meantime my mom got engaged to some guy named Al. Mom went to visit her new fiancé’s mother and found her to be a Southern Belle who had nothing in the world, but I’m better than you. Al told mom that he believed in divorce because he wished his parents would have chosen that route. Mom got cold feet and called it off. Then at a revival my mom heard God calling her one more time and she gave her heart to him.
Meanwhile my dad was nursing his broken heart. My mom wrote him to tell him that she had gotten saved, and my dad wrote her probably the most unromantic letter in human history. He said, “All this time and I never knew you.” Later a mutual friend wrote Dad a letter and said that Mom had broken up with Al. Dad went back to get some postgraduate work at Peabody. My grandma who deeply loved my mom told my dad, “You leave that old girl alone!”
Dad didn’t listen. He kept dating Little Jeanie, and then he popped the question. Mom said, “I think that one day we might get married but not right now.” Dad said, “I don’t think we will ever get married.” Mom said that it really bothered her that he thought they wouldn’t get married.
Enter my dad’s roommate. Dad described him as an ugly Cuban that dated the sharpest girls on the earth. He said to him, “Dick, you can’t reel a girl in when she thinks that she could have you at any time. Let them know that they would be lucky to get you.” This is advice that my dad gave me that I have often thought about. Dad went over to the house on a triple date with my mom and two of her roommates. That night Dad turned his back on my mom to explain how to change a tire to a flirtatious blonde roommate. I still chuckle at my mom’s offense at being totally ignored. That night she said yes. This was in October, and they were married in December. They dwelt together in peace for fifty-two years.
Years later, I am thanking God years later for a flirtatious blonde, an ugly Cuban and a Dad who never gave up on Calculus, the ministry, or a beautiful brunette who was the answer to his prayers as a kid in the school ground.