Many years ago, I had the great blessing of having a mentor who was a deacon in my church in Tennessee. He talked me into starting and teaching a New Testament survey class at the church for the betterment of both new and longtime believers who potentially might receive something that he felt was lacking in our church on our Sunday evangelistic mornings — discipleship growth. I’m grateful to Carl for many of the insights he shared with me over the course of our twenty-seven year relationship as a mentor and friend, all the way to his home-going in 2019. But I’m especially grateful to him for that class he talked me into teaching, which opened my eyes to what truly was missing in not just our church, but in many churches…a sound and clearer biblical understanding of what and why we believe what we do.
Awhile after the class began to grow, the senior pastor of the congregation approached me, and asked me to kindly stop planting churches in his church, and go plant churches elsewhere, which he believed was my true calling, in following the leadership of the Lord and the Holy Spirit as a church planter. So, my family and I loaded up the wagon and headed west to plant churches for the denomination that I was raised in and was a third generation minister of. Thus, the Lord led my family to Montana and Wyoming and I am deeply grateful for what Dr. Hammer had the courage to say to me, for truly, “…that has made all the difference” in my life and ministry.
So now as a retired pastor, I have the freedom and the experience to share some things that I’ve learned — that I could not as a third generation denominational missionary and pastor. I want to share with you a short story that I heard from Deacon Carl, whose wisdom will hopefully transcend into your life as it has so deeply into mine.
Years ago, I was invited to participate in a crusade outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was extremely well attended by folks of all denominations in a large arena, and the main evangelist was very well known. The crusade began on a November Sunday morning, and when the time came for the evangelist to speak, he began to take New Testament Scriptures from almost every passage he’d chosen (that were in my opinion completely out of context) for one clearly obvious reason: to guilt and convict people which I personally did not care for, regardless of his notoriety.
Later on that afternoon, he suddenly became very ill, and I was then asked to step in and conduct the entire evening service…which I was more than eager to do. So, with my own agenda of setting things Scripturally right, I took the exact same Scriptures he’d used that morning and gave a kind of seminary lecture on those Scriptures in complete context and confidence — which really fired up some of the pastors in the ministerial association who had hired me, who in turn, fired me the next morning, paid me a double honorarium and ran me out of town. But I must admit, I had it coming…for it was my ministerial “Waterloo” and it was way overdue!
For you see, both of us, the evangelist and myself, had an agenda…His was to get “Altar-call” results, (which he was paid to do) and me to set things right, (which I was not paid to do) which now in hindsight I see both as ego-driven agendas and not led by the Holy Spirit.
A few days later, upon arriving in Nashville, Tennessee that week, I met with Carl who was a trustee on my ministry board, and he lovingly shared the following with me after listening to my bemoaning over the outcome of that event…
“Layton I know you’ve seen those signs on the sides of the road that read, ‘This section of highway is maintained by a specific organization.’ So I’d like to share this with you to ponder awhile…
“One Saturday, there were two of these organizations cleaning up different sides of the road at the same time. On one side of the road was a very straight-laced group, while on the other side of the road was a group who were much akin to let’s say…a bunch of ‘Ragamuffins.’ Then, all of a sudden, one of the members of those two different groups picked up a stone and threw it across the road in the form of a critical comment regarding the kind of job the folks were doing on the other side of the road.
“Well before too long, the folks on both sides of the road were picking up stones and throwing them at each other, breaking out all the windows in the glass houses they were standing not only in front of, but behind as well. Now Layton, both groups were responsible, good organizations which served a definitive purpose in accomplishing their mission, but had unfortunately let the differences in their methodology of cleaning up the highway lead them to throwing stones at one another which completely led them away from the task at hand that they had volunteered to do and been called to…
“So Layton, the point I’m trying to convey to you, to avoid another ‘Waterloo’ is this… ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’ For there are far too many broken windows in Christianity and ‘it’s truly wonderful when brothers and sisters get along.’ And regardless of our ego centered point of view, we all need to learn to work together to improve the view, which is God’s view…along the Higher-Way!”
Chief of all Ragamuffins,
Recovered Rock Chucker