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PASSING THE TORCH

March 2, 2010

(Thanks John Dobbs for the encouragement to think of the preachers who have been a part of my life and the contributions they’ve made. There are many people who pour a little of themselves into everyone’s life so it just doesn’t seem right to start with the preachers so allow me to make a list of just a few of the “un-preachers” who quickly come to mind: Dad, Mom, Mrs. Mc, Mrs. Eva, Brother Paul, Norman, Norma Kay, Brother Roy and Brother Don. Thanks I feel better now).

Growing up I knew only one preacher week after week. Glendle Slate with his mild manner stood up and did what preachers do. Our family loved the Slates and we spent a lot of personal time with them (It didn’t hurt that Brother Slate and my Dad shared the same birth date).

Brother Slate was one of the least assuming men I have known. His preaching style was mild mannered and calm. I remember on our way home from church one Sunday morning my mom saying, “I just wish he would hit the pulpit with his bible or something every once in a while.” He had two obvious passions; evangelism and challenging young men to become preachers. I’m not sure how many preachers came from the Greenbrier Church of Christ during the time of his influence but I can quickly recall five. His habit of visitation every Sunday afternoon was his routine. I remember clearly the Sunday he came up to this 15 or 16 year old boy and asked, “Will you help me visit a few people this afternoon?” I’m not sure I was much help but this man opened my mind to consider the greatest calling for life.

From there I was steered toward preaching by my brother Lee who was preaching at the time. He had attended the Sunset Mission Forum and when he came home he told me, “You ought to go to Sunset and become a preacher.” Well, I was newly married and not real happy with my job so I said. “Why not?” Soon thereafter Vicki and I were on our way to Lubbock in our bright orange VW beetle (Named George. Not sure why we name our cars.), pulling a U-Haul trailer with everything we owned inside. Before we got to Memphis I met a very nice Tennessee State Trooper up close as he came up behind me with lights flashing and siren blaring. If you have ever tried to pull a U-Haul trailer with a VW beetle you know that you can’t go very fast UNLESS, you get real close to a passing 18 wheeler and draft behind them. You can go as fast as they go if you get close enough. Well, the trooper wasn’t impressed with my need for speed but had more interest in keeping me from being squished under the back of a semi so he gave me a little reminder (ticket).

Truth is there was no obvious divine calling or spiritual longing that led me to preach. I had a job I didn’t like and well, this looked like as good of an option as any so off we go. Well, we arrived and settled in and started school. HELP! Overwhelmed is not a big enough word so just multiply it by a few hundred or so. This less than greatly motivated young church boy from Tennessee was wondering what he had done! The load was huge, the environment was amazing and the challenge was to get busy and grow up! Surrounded by soon to be heroes, only one of which I had ever met and that was a strange Irishman named Jim McGuiggan who told me to come on down during a visit to Middle Tennessee a few months earlier. Lubbock, affectionately known as “the armpit of the US” was not quite like home and everyone wore funny hats and weird pointy boots (To church mind you!). The next three years were truly “the best of times and the worst of times.” That is what growth and challenge did to this 20 year old boy. This is when I learned to love and hate the most important men in my adult life. Their challenges were over the top and their love was absolute and complete. The load they brought was unbearable while the impact was priceless!

Richard Rogers brought the verses by verse study of scripture alive. Overwhelmed by the volume but so amazed at the crumbs I was able to pick up as he enthusiastically brought the text alive.

Ted Kell with that envious deep, clear base voice spoke of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in such a way that I knew I had to understand the heart of this text if I was ever going to comprehend “the rest of the story.”

Jim McGuiggan with fire in his words as he taught the prophets brought them alive. Alive, with grace and the longing of God for his people to understand Him and know the love he had for them and the good he was trying to do for them but they “were not willing.”

There was a moment when a lot of things changed for me. I was neck deep in classes and assignments on the books of Romans (taught by Ian Farr) and 1, 2, 3 John (taught by Gerald Paden) and they all collided in my head and left me with a broken heart. I remember crying but not out of the frustration that had motivated the tears of earlier days at Sunset. This time I cried out of relief. I had learned from a lot of going to church as a kid and as a young preaching student that I would never be very good at being a Christian. There was too much to do and I simply could not be good enough to be what I had to be. But, this was different. Not only had I finally learned how to define grace I had learned how to experience grace! The day changed me and the days to come continued to enlighten my relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Still with much to learn about His grace I still feel like crying from relief.

I owe so many more (Parker Henderson, Howard Winters, Dale Larsen, etc. etc. etc.) yet they have all taught me that the one I really owe is the one they taught me to love, Jesus!

That reminds me of a song I learned from Mrs. Eva and Mrs. Mc back in Bible class at the Greenbrier Church of Christ, “Jesus loves me this I know…”

Thank You All!

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 2, 2010 5:24 pm

    Wonderful, Mark. I enjoyed gaining an insight into your journey. Thank you for sharing … and for exposing once again the beauty of grace. May it ever be.

  2. March 2, 2010 6:20 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Mark.

  3. March 3, 2010 9:41 am

    really enjoyed reading this. God bless

  4. March 3, 2010 1:43 pm

    I’m so glad you left a comment on my blog enabling me to find your blog.

    I appreciate what you have written and to see so many people with love for others and hearts of encouragement.

  5. March 4, 2010 7:01 pm

    Thank you for that story. I love how you observe “[t]ruth is there was no obvious divine calling or spiritual longing that led me to preach. ” Yet, throughout your story it is evident how God has been at work.

    Also, thanks for stopping by my blog.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  6. March 4, 2010 11:41 pm

    Mark, it’s great to see so many names of preachers who were also part of my life and ministry. Some I only knew at a distance or through books or tapes. Small world, you know. Thanks for sharing.

  7. March 5, 2010 10:44 am

    My Dad went to Sunset too. I’m sure he would recognize some of those same men. Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog! I’m glad to have found another godly man who blogs.

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