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Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Power of Influence

This week the first pastor I served with after seminary graduation passed away. He had a profound impact on my life. I am so glad that years ago I wrote him a letter telling him so. He didn't realize the impact he had on my life because he was just faithful in passing on the faith. He wasn't trying to pick up all the glory along the way.

I gave my life to Christ the day before Easter 1973. I was a college freshman. The semester was almost over. However, because Baptist had been instrumental in my salvation, I went to the Baptist Student Center (We called it the BSU back in those days.). Bob Burch was the BSU Director. He led a noon Bible Study. He said that God was leading someone to lead a Bible study through the book of Romans when he or she went home for the summer.

I didn't know much about the Bible. I hadn't been a Christian for a month. I didn't know that Romans is probably the most theologically deep book in the Bible. I just said, "I can do that." So I went home, asked the Baptist church if I could use a room during the week for a Bible study and started teaching the book of Romans. I made notes in my Bible. I read it carefully but I didn't know about things like commentaries. Man, I didn't even know that the thing was originally written in Greek. There is no telling the heresy I taught.

The summer ended and I didn't connect with any church. I just slept in and drifted farther and farther away from the Lord. Eventually, no one would have detected that I was a Christian.My life became miserable in the next eighteen months.

The Christmas holidays came almost two years later and I had to stay in the college town because of work. All my friends left. In fact, the apartment complex was completely vacant except for me. I dint' have a tv so I read books each night. One night, very late, I was reading Of Human Bondage when I began to lament over my dismal life. There was no joy in my life and in my anguish I threw the book against the wall. I sat on the edge of my bed wondering what I would do next.

After a few moments I decided I would simply read another novel. I had bought several classics and stored them in my closet. I started rummaging through this pile of books when I came across my Bible. I got it out and turned to the only book in it that I had really ever read. Funny but the Bible actually opened to that book without my effort. I suppose that is normal when it is the only part of a book you have read.

There in the margins were my penciled notes. I remembered the joy in which I led that Bible study and came to my senses. I knelt down and began confessing my sins. The Lord visited me that night and I told Him that I didn't want to come back to this place again. I wanted Him in the center of my life.

I wouldn't have taken me back but He did.

School started and I went to the BSU again. There was a new BSU director. I decided I couldn't make the Christian life without help and determined that I would get involved. I did. God began doing wonderful things in my life.

I met my wife at the BSU. I was at a BSU training conference when I decided to apply as a Campus Evangelism Coordinator after graduation from college. That experience was instrumental in my call to the ministry. Of course, that meant that I would go to seminary for training a few years later.

Just before I graduated from seminary, I got a call from Calvary Baptist Church in Knoxville, TN.  They needed a summer intern. A friend of mine was on staff there. He recommended me. I prayed about it and got a very clear word from the Lord that I would be on that church staff. A couple of weeks later the friend called and said they had chosen someone else. I was confused.

But God continued to confirm that I would be on that church staff so much that my wife and I flew to Knoxville on our own to visit the church. It was there that I met the pastor of the church. He was Bob Burch, the former BSU director who said that someone should lead a study in Romans that summer after I was saved. I had never met him before.

Four months later Calvary decided to fill a new staff position at the church. They, again, considered me. This time they called me to the church.

Bob taught me how to do weddings. I pattern my preaching after his. He was very influential in who I am today.

He couldn't have known any of this when he did what he did. He just passed on his faith. Bob never took the place of the Holy Spirit. He did have an amazing power though. He had the power of influence because he was faithful to what the Holy Spirit led him to do.

I just hope and pray that I will always be that faithful.

2 Timothy 2:2 (NIV)
2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. 


Deb Willbefree said...

This post warmed my hert, made me smile and nod. This post is so full, that I'm not sure how to comment.

First, of course, you have my condolences on the passing of your friend. Regardless of the official role he had in your life, it is obvious that he was, indeed, a friend.

Despite the joy in knowing that he is now joyfully before His Lord, there is a loss for you. I'm glad that you can look back and know that you told him how he impacted your life.

And the story of finding him at the church you visited, the church you knew you would be a part of. :D I love those testimonies! :D God is aware of us...all the time...and has no problem directing circumstances on our behalf.

Isn't it cool that God let you in on a bit of what was going to happen in advance? I love that. What a faith-builder. You did, indeed, hear from God.

I can imagine your surprise when you saw who the pastor of that church was. Where's a camera when you need it?

Romans. If could only choose 1 chapter of the Bible to read, it would be Romans 8.

How can you beat a chapter that starts out with "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" and ends with "Nothing...nothing..nothing can separate us from the love of God thru Christ Jesus our Lord" and has "All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose" in the middle?

(Uh-hmmm. That, of course, is Debby's paraphrase. chuckle. But it's close enough.)

Thank you for this post.


denyse twagira said...

Thank you for your post,
your humbleness into repenting when u ask God's guidance again..
really it did inspired me