When I came on the scene as a very young and inexperienced preacher
in 1940-41, the picture, as I look back now, was pretty bleak.
I had a burning desire, however, to preach what little I knew and
all I saw was a golden opportunity. I
had grown up in a southeast Nacogdoches county community called Attoyac by
the government but known as Blackjack by most people. The church was
inactive, it had fallen away. My
Grandfather Roy was a devoted Christian, but upon his passing, in the
absence of leadership, the group just fell apart.
Occasionally, a preacher would visit us and some of the men would
fix up an arbor and they would have a few nights of preaching.
This was typical of many places where the church once met. I was quite young, but I can remember these occasions.
The Christians of that time were still trying to recover from the
great division over instrumental music and the Missionary Society which
had given rise to what we know as the Christian church.
Of course, sound brethren were in the minority, lost their
buildings and had to meet wherever they could find a place.
My mother told me about the service when the organ was moved in and
used in worship. She was
about fifteen at the time. Grandfather
had taken a wagon load to Chireno, about five miles away, to attend a
gospel meeting. When they
arrived the visiting preacher had moved the organ in to be used in the
service. Strong objections
were offered by him and several other men, but to no avail.
He gathered up his tribe and returned home.
Starting over is never easy but to faithful Christians it is not
the end. God will help His devoted people rebuild.
He always has and He always will.
While Christians were still struggling to spread the gospel and
rebuild, here comes the depression. Not
a little recession, but a major depression.
This did not, however, keep the gospel from spreading, but it did
hinder in the sense that people were so poor that the churches had few
resources with which to work. As a young preacher there were many times I
kept preaching appointments and received nothing more than the few coins
that were collected in the basket. In
most places this did not improve until World War II came along.
I considered myself most fortunate because I was getting to do what
I considered to be, and still do, the most important work on the face of
this earth. You might think
the war would have stymied the spread of the gospel, but it did not.
Soldiers and defense workers, who were Christians were scattered
abroad and many of them took the message with them.
Most everyone suffered during the war, and their hearts were
humbled. The result was more
conversions and more congregations. Many
years later we had to suffer another great division because of “liberal
thinking.” The Lord has
helped us and we have made another come-back.
The question I have been asked is; “how did this vast East Texas
area get evangelized in those early times.”
First of all, things were different.
T.V. had not polluted the minds of people and air conditioning had
not enslaved everyone to their houses.
Preachers could usually get an audience. I am sorry for some of the young preachers today who have the
same burning desire to spread the Word, but they do not have the
opportunity I had. During
those days there were many little communities where the church could not
afford a local preacher and they were anxious to have the “likes of
me” to come and preach. We
not only got to spread the message of Truth, but we got to exercise
ourselves and grow as preachers.
Preachers were anxious to
preach the Word anywhere. Brush
arbors, vacant school buildings, front yards or run down buildings, it
mattered not. Many of us
preached in our regular places on Sunday morning and drove that afternoon
to preach for some small group or to establish a new congregation.
I know there are still preachers like that, but some have been
spoiled with, comfort, finances and the attitude of “what can you do for
Preachers and brethren were constantly challenging the
strongholds of religious error. Of
course, a few were obnoxious in their manner, but most were not.
Debates were common and many people saw the difference between
Truth and error. By all
means, error among brethren must be exposed, but sometimes it seems to me
that we are so busy dissecting one another that the bastions of
denominationalism go untouched and unexposed most of the time.
Preachers, for the most part, didn’t have much to gain by
preaching the gospel. They
were inclined to preach it because they had a burning desire to do so and
because they loved the Truth. I
am glad that churches support their preachers much better today than they
did in the past. Sometimes,
back then, they didn’t have much to support with and sometimes it was
ignorance of their responsibility toward those who have a right to live by
the gospel. I know I am
treading on dangerous ground when I say this, but some preachers today
have become about as “price conscious” as ball players.
The problem with this is they become “materialistic” and
“spoiled” and are inclined to preach what “feathers their nest.”
Intellectual preachers and common preachers.
They both contributed to the spread of the gospel.
Some brethren had the ability to write and produce literature which
was very helpful. As I see
it, most of the “foot work” of spreading the message from hamlet to
hamlet and sawmill town to sawmill town and rural communities was pretty
much done by the common preachers. Their
knowledge may have been somewhat limited, but they had the zeal.
Preachers need to have that burning desire.
When John the came out of the wilderness he came with a burning
desire to bring the people to repentance. Now, listen to Jeremiah;
"Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in
his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my
bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay."
(Jeremiah 20:9) Jeremiah was
warning Pashur, chief of the Temple police, of impending captivity and he
didn’t want to hear it. He
smote the prophet and put him in stocks for a while, but it didn’t stop
Jeremiah because he had a “burning fire.”
You can have all kinds of excellent scriptural programs for
evangelism, but nothing can take the place of what we read in Acts eight.
"Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching
the word." (Acts 8:4) In
a far more zealous time of the past, that is how this great East Texas
area was evangelized.