Pastors' Conference 1972

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Chapter 7

Tuesday morning came early for the entire Waterbury family. Sure, Glynn and Marve tried being quiet and not waking the kids, but the sounds of breakfast being prepared and the fragrance of coffee brewing in the percolator couldn’t be hidden in such a small house. Hayden was up first, and he soon made sure his sister was awake as well. By the time Emmit arrived to pick up Glynn at 6:30, Marve was frustrated by the prospect of having to keep the kids entertained until time for school.

Just making the trip to Oklahoma City was exciting for Glynn. He and Emmit purposefully avoided “church talk” as they traveled across the Will Rogers Turnpike to Tulsa and then Southwest to Oklahoma City. Glynn found the landscape dotted by oil wells and derricks fascinating. Emmit filled Glynn in on the importance of Oklahoma University football and Oklahoma State’s basketball program and how the two were almost as sacred as the gospel when playoff time rolled around. 

Where the two disagreed was in the area of music. Emmit was wholly committed to country music while Glynn preferred the R&B sound that had grown in popularity over the past few years. They both admitted that Aretha Franklin’s cover of “Amazing Grace” was soul-stirring, but while Emmit thought Elvis Presley’s Grammy for covering Bill Gather’s “He Touched Me” was a win for gospel music, Glynn thought it was self-serving and hypocritical of an artist who, in every other way, demonstrated an un-Christian lifestyle. 

The drive passed quickly enough and before he knew it Glynn was staring at the broad Oklahoma City skyline with amazement. While the city’s population was considerably smaller than Detroit’s, its footprint was wider and not as tall. Emmit wound his way through the city to the Baptist Building on North Robinson Street, just a few blocks north of where a new federal building was under construction. The four-story limestone building was largely utilitarian in its architecture and design with the polished red marble of the lobby floor being the only hint of the building’s importance. 

Emmit and Glynn entered through the Baptist Book Store on the North side of the building, as did almost everyone else because that was the entrance adjacent to the parking lot. Emmit explained that the store stocked all the Sunday School, Training Union, Vacation Bible School, and other denominational materials that churches regularly used, including various record-keeping forms that made it easier to keep up with all the details of church life. That made the store practical and justified its existence within the building. What held everyone’s attention, however, were the new books of Bible philosophy, sermons, commentary, and exposition. The vast majority of Oklahoma pastors had no formal Bible training and for them, these books were the next-best-thing to going to school. 

After browsing a few minutes and acquainting Glynn with the layout of the store, Emmit took him on a floor-by-floor tour of the convention’s primary offices, covering missions, church growth and planning, ministerial services, evangelism, estate planning, education, and music before reaching the executive offices on the fourth floor. Glynn was impressed by the men he met in each office. No matter how busy they appeared to be, each stopped what they were doing and greeted him warmly. He would forever talk about the day he met composer Gene Bartlett, head of the church music department, whose immediate instruction was that Glynn call him “Uncle Gene.” It was the convention’s executive director, however, that made the biggest impact. His secretary had apologized that he was in a meeting, a fact verified by glancing through the open door and seeing the group of men seated at a table. As Glynn glanced through the office door, however, one of the men stood and excused himself, and came through the door with his hand out, ready to shake. 

“Hi, I’m Joe Ingram,” he said cheerfully. “You’re the new pastor at Adelbert, I’m guessing. Emmit told me you’d be accompanying him this morning. We’re glad to have you! You came down from Michigan, I hear…”

Glynn immediately felt as though he’d just made a new friend. The executive seemed to completely ignore the others waiting in his office for more than five minutes as the two shared the superficial information necessary at such a meeting. Ingram struck him as one of the most sincere people he’d ever met. He ended the encounter with a smile and, “Call me if you ever need anything.”

As Ingram returned to his office, Glynn turned to Emmit. “That was a lot more than I expected,” he said. “Is he like that with everyone?”

Emmit nodded. “He tries to get to know every full-time pastor in the state. He knows many of the bi-vocational pastors as well. He may not remember your name the first time or two, but he’ll make a point to ask. And when he says ‘call me,’ he means it. I’ve never called this office but what he didn’t return my call by the end of the day.”

“That’s… quite a change from Michigan,” Glynn said. “I pastored there for over ten years and can’t really say I knew anyone from the state office.”

“I’m sure there are a lot of differences,” Emmit replied. “Being Baptist in Oklahoma is easy. We don’t have to sell who we are like they do in some states. Just across the state line, up in Kansas, it’s a totally different story. They struggle just to let people know they exist. Here, that’s not a problem. I’ll admit, it’s a bit of a luxury. Other states feel more like a mission field.”

Emmitt soon excused himself to attend the meeting that had made the trip necessary in the first place. Glynn took the time to peruse the book store, looking through all the administrative materials he never knew existed. He would have to talk with the church’s treasurer to see what system she was using. If it wasn’t the one provided by the convention, then he would want her to change. The same applied to Sunday School and Training Union records. Everything he saw made so much more sense than scribbling down numbers on random pieces of paper, which was what he was pretty sure everyone in Aldelbert was currently doing. 

For the trip back, it was Glynn who was bubbly and excited, dominating the conversation with all he had seen and the changes he was hoping to make. 

Emmit encouraged the pastor to be cautious. “Norma’s been that church’s treasurer a long time. I know she uses the correct forms when she sends the Cooperative Program check each month, but she’s not going to take kindly to anyone messing with her books. Her late husband was an accountant for the county. She follows what he taught her and won’t be open to doing things differently.”

“But this method seems so much more transparent for the church,” Glynn insisted.

Emmit chuckled. “Stop and think about what you just said,” he warned. “Small churches like yours already nit-pick over every dime spent in the first place. About three years ago, that church almost got into a knock-down, drag-out fight over the cost of replacing the fluorescent light bulbs in the sanctuary. If anything, I think a little less openness might help you get things done.”

Glynn thought for a moment before responding. He hadn’t considered the downside to church members knowing how their tithe money was spent. “You may be right,” he admitted. “They really got into a fight over light bulbs?”

“That was a big one,” Emmit said. “Your predecessor had only been there a couple of months and when a bulb went out he just went over to the hardware store in Washataug and bought a couple and replaced them. He gave Norma the receipt and she reimbursed him in his next check. Of course, that got listed on her monthly statement and when Alan Mayes and some other church members saw that change in the amount of Harrel’s check, things got heated in a hurry. Took three months and a lot of meetings for things to die down.”

Glynn sat back in the car seat and sighed. “I’m really beginning to get the opinion that Alan Mayes is a bit of a trouble maker.”

“He’s either your strongest ally or your biggest enemy,” Emmit said. “He likes to say he runs the county, and that includes the church and the school.”

“The school?” Glynn asked, confused.

Emmit nodded. “Yep, he’s on the school board as well. I’m pretty sure he’s on the bank’s board of directors, too. You’ll want to be careful about crossing him.”

Glynn shook his head. This wasn’t a situation he had encountered before. Sure, there was always someone who didn’t like what the church was doing, but they could usually be placated easily enough. Someone with as much influence as Alan Mayes could keep Glynn from making any progress with the church. “So, how are we supposed to grow as a church if everything as to go through Alan Mayes?” he asked.

“The same way his wife convinced him to buy her a new car last year,” Emmit said, laughing. “Make him think it’s his idea. She kept talking about how much it cost to repair her old car and that a new one would save them money. After four or five months of that, Alan drives off in her car one morning and comes back with a new one. He called it a gift, but Trixie had out-maneuvered him. She had even talked to the car dealer in Arvel so that he would know which car to sell him. You can keep him on your side, you just have to think ahead and plan carefully. Don’t be impulsive in making any changes.”

By the time Emmit dropped Glynn back at home, the excitement of the trip had been tempered. Glynn still sounded excited when he told Marve who he had met and how they had treated him. He stayed quiet on his plans for changing the administrative processes, though. 

Marve waited until Glynn finished telling about the trip before hitting him with her own report. “I got a call from Lita’s teacher today,” she said quietly. “She’s not adapting well. Apparently, the reading and math systems they use here are considerably different from what they use in Michigan and she’s having trouble adapting. Math doesn’t surprise me so much, but you know as well as I do Lita’s a strong reader. I don’t understand what the problem is there.”

Glynn poured a cup of coffee and sat at the kitchen table. “What does her teacher suggest?” he asked.

“Maybe some tutoring,” Marve answered. “She said she’s going to try spending more time with her, be more direct in explaining what she needs to do. If that doesn’t work, though, she says it might be to Lita’s benefit to holding her back in fourth grade another year.”

“That doesn’t make a lick of sense,” Glynn said. He felt angry and defensive at what seemed to be an attack on his little girl. “She’s a good student. We know she’s a good student. Her records prove she’s a good student. The problem isn’t with Lita, it’s with the school system here.”

Marve sighed. She knew how stubborn Glynn could get when he felt a member of the family was being attacked. She loved how he always came to their defense but wasn’t so enthused at his lack of willingness to listen and compromise. Talking to him about the subject now would be futile. So, she changed the topic. “Oh, Joanne Lyles, Horace’s wife, is in the hospital in Arvel. Rose Everett said she passed out on her kitchen floor and Horace couldn’t revive her. Rose called here looking for you, thought you might want to ride in the ambulance with Hub.”

Glynn looked at his watch. “It’s 4:30 now. Evening visiting hours at the hospital start at six. What are we having for dinner?”

“I already have a chicken in the oven,” she said. “It’ll be ready in a few minutes.”

Glynn continued looking at his watch, looking at the second hand as it ticked its way around the face as though he were timing his next action. “So, we can eat and I can still have time to get over there and see her. Horace is a deacon. I don’t think I need to wait until tomorrow.”

“You’ll miss putting the kids to bed,” Marve said quietly. “You know how Hayden is about his routine.”

“You can handle that, can’t you?” Glynn asked as he leaned on the table, his hand propping up his head. “I don’t think Hayden’s going to mind for one night.”

“You won’t be here tomorrow night, either. You have a deacon’s meeting after the prayer service,” Marve reminded him.

“That’s right,” Glynn replied. “I don’t want the Lyles’ to think I’m snubbing them, though. I really think I need to go over there.”

Marve walked over from the stove and kissed the top of Glynn’s head. “Of course you do,” she said softly. “This is part of being a full-time pastor. We’re all still adjusting. I’ll take care of the kids. You go.”

The rest of Glynn’s week stayed busy. The doctor said Joanne Lyles had suffered a heart attack, that this one had been small but that there would be others if she didn’t slow down. Glynn made a trip to the hospital every day to see how she and Horace were doing. He had also ridden in the ambulance with Hub when another church member fell and broke her elbow. While at the hospital, he had discovered there were three other church members there for various reasons. He made sure he took the time to see each of them.

By the time Saturday morning arrived, Glynn realized he didn’t have a clue what he was going to preach the next day. He kissed Marve and headed to the office right after breakfast, staying there until well after dinner.

When he stepped into the pulpit the next morning, he began with an apology. “I have to admit that I stand here this morning feeling a little tired,” he started. “We are all busy people leading busy lives and being busy takes its toll on all of us, myself included. Yet, for all the things we think we have to do, there is something more important that God calls us to do. In his letter to the church at Phillipi, Paul tells them,

4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. All rights reserved.

“Who, in all of heaven, could have been any busier and more important than Jesus Christ himself?” Glynn continued. “I can just imagine that his day planner was always full, listening to and answering prayers, running the universe, managing angels. And yet, when we needed a Savior, he stopped what he was doing in heaven, came to us in human form, and delivered to us the salvation we so desperately needed. If Jesus can take time out of his schedule to minister to us, it is equally important for us to make time in our schedules to minister to each other.”

Marve’s position in the church choir put her directly behind Glynn so not many could see the look of concern on her face and those who could have seen her paid no attention. Marve knew that Glynn hadn’t been home for dinner four of the seven nights that week. She also knew that this new schedule was more than just an “adjustment.” She could already see the dark circles beginning to form around her husband’s eyes. She could feel the weariness as he fell into bed, exhausted, each night. As she listened to his sermon, she began to wonder if there was such a thing as ministering too much. 

As Glynn prepared to leave for Pastors’ Conference the next morning, Marve asked, “You know, when you worked at the plant, you would at least take Saturdays off. Do you get any breaks or are you always going to be gone seven days a week?”

Glynn shrugged. “I don’t know. I mean, I had kinda planned on Saturdays still being my day off, but I guess it depends on what all is going on. Why?”

“I miss you,” Marve said. “The kids miss you. There were too many days last week where the only time we saw you was when you ran home to eat quickly before running back out the door again.”

“I think last week was a fluke,” Glynn said as he bent down to tie his shoes. “Joanne went home yesterday and the hospital gave me a minister’s pass so I don’t have to wait on visiting hours to check up on church members. I can work that into my day. This is the only meeting I have scheduled all week. I’ll be home so much you’ll be sick of me.” He smiled and reached over to kiss his wife. 

“You’re forgetting the associational Vacation Bible School meeting Saturday,” Marve reminded him.

“Oh yeah, I am,” Glynn admitted, “But they’re providing child care, and you’re helping with the five-year-olds, aren’t you? So, we can all go. Make it a family outing.”

Marve smiled, though her heart wasn’t exactly in it. “Sure, that could be… fun. Maybe not as much fun as you and I having dinner one night, but… fun.”

Glynn kissed Marve again and then kissed the top of Hayden’s head. “I’ll be back a little after one. Maybe we can get in some cuddle time while someone naps,” he said, nodding toward Hayden.

“Yeah, let’s see how that goes,” Marve replied. “Have a good time.”

Glynn rolled his eyes. “Yeah, let’s see who’s suffering the most for Jesus this week.”

Chapter 8

Pastors’ Conference went pretty much as Glynn had expected. Only two other pastors had anything positive to say about their churches. Some were disturbed that divorce rates seemed to be increasing among younger couples. Pastors around Arvel reported smelling “marijuana and other drugs” around the portions of the church building where high school and college students tended to congregate. Everyone had an opinion on the Equal Rights Amendment, which Congress seemed ready to pass along to the states for ratification. The general consensus was that Oklahoma would never ratify such an open-ended law but they feared what might happen if enough other states did ratify the amendment. More than anything, the pastors were concerned that it would force the churches to accept women as deacons and pastors, something the convention as a whole vehemently refused to consider.

Among Emmit’s list of announcements was a reminder that church camps were just around the corner and that the camp committee was accepting suggestions for the camp’s pastor. This was new information to Glynn. He was aware of the state convention’s campground about an hour south of Oklahoma City, but no one had bothered to tell him yet about the smaller camp utilized by churches in the Northeast corner of the state. As soon as the meeting was over, he found Emmit and started asking questions.

“I can’t believe no one in your church has mentioned Camp Universal,” Emmit said. “Ya’ll have a nice cabin down there, just down the hill from the tabernacle. One of the most convenient locations on the grounds. They usually bring a full load of kids, too.”

“Really?” Glynn asked, astonished by the news. “We’ve been having fewer than a dozen kids under 18 in Sunday school.”

Emmit thought for a second then said, “You know, I think they use Vacation Bible School kind of as a recruitment for camp. I think ya’ll normally schedule VBS like two weeks after school lets out and Junior Camp is two weeks after that and Youth Camp is two weeks after that.”

Glynn pulled the pocket calendar from his shirt pocket and checked the dates. “So, what you’re telling me is that the entire month of June is either spent at camp or recovering from it.”

“Oh, it’s worse than that,” Glynn said. “The Southern Baptist Convention falls between the two camps. It’s in Philadephia. We’ll probably try to book a block of rooms at a hotel for associational messengers. Have you talked with your church about going?”

Glynn shook his head. “I’ve never been that involved in the denomination at that level. And Philadelphia, of all places? I don’t think that would be a wise use of my time. Not this year, at least.”

“Yeah, not many of our pastors ever go,” Emmit admitted. “It’s always so far away. Denver, St. Louis, and it’s all the way up in Portland, Oregon next year! I’m not sure anyone from here can afford to make that trip!”

“Why does the convention do that?” Glynn asked. “Are they trying to make it more difficult for us to come so they can do whatever they want?”

“Oh, I don’t think it’s anything quite that sinister,” Emmit said with a grin. “I know it’s easy to think the folks up in Nashville are forcing things down our throats but they’re really not. Now, I have been hearing some rumors about the staff at First, Dallas having some meeting with a judge down in Houston, but I think that’s just a lot of noise, too. The convention is pretty responsive to the churches.”

“So why put the annual meeting out in ten-buck-too where we don’t have many churches?” Glynn asked. “Seems to me it makes more sense to keep the meetings convenient to the most people.”

“It’s an outreach opportunity,” Emmit answered. “The week before the convention, a number of pastors and staff from all over the country go to the host state and hold revivals or conduct religious surveys to let people who have never heard of Southern Baptists know who we are and what we believe. So far, I think we’ve managed to win over more people than we’ve alienated. Of course, not many Oklahoma pastors can go because almost all of us are at one camp or another. At least, those from smaller churches are. The guys in Oklahoma City and Tulsa have staff to handle the camps.”

Glynn nodded. He was just starting to feel comfortable not going to another job every morning. He couldn’t imagine what it might be like to actually have a staff. “So, I suppose I need to ask Alan about camps, too.”

Emmit couldn’t help laughing out loud. “Would you believe Alan’s not in charge of this one? I think Buck handles it from the deacon’s side and Joanne Lyles actually does the bulk the work.”

Glynn sighed. “Not sure Joanne’s going to be up to handling that task this year. She just got out of the hospital after having a heart attack at home last week. She’s recuperating well but the doctor’s made it clear to her and Horace that she’s got to slow down and stop trying to do everything herself. Does anyone else have any experience, at least help her out?”

The Director of Missions thought for a moment. Adelbert always seemed to have a smooth-running operation so he hadn’t given them a lot of attention at camp. “I think Carmella Thomas helped cook one year, and Buck’s wife, Ramona, usually goes down to help with Junior Camp. And the pastor’s wife. Always the pastor’s wife. I don’t think there’s ever been any exception there.” He paused again, trying to think of anyone else he had seen at camp even for a day. His memory was blank. “How’s Marve settling in? Think she’s ready to martial forces to help?”

“I’m not sure I want to ask,” Glynn replied. “So far, she’s been asked if she wants to take over the WMU, the GA’s, VBS, the nursery, and the pulpit flower committee, that I know of. She’s turned them all down. Participating is one thing, running anything other than our house she’s not so enthusiastic about. She’s not much on ‘roughing it,’ either. If I ask her to take on camps I’m likely to have to duck a frying pan.” 

“My wife’s the same way,” Emmit says. “She goes and helps because it’s expected, but she does what’s needed then retreats back to her bunk. She rarely even makes it up the hill for evening service more than a couple of times.” Emmit chuckled, “She and Marve would probably get along well.”

Glynn smiled. Marve needed a friend. He could tell she was beginning to feel isolated in the small house. Still, this didn’t sound like a situation where she would flourish. “What about kids? Marve will use Hayden as an excuse to stay home if she can.”

“Oh, that’s never a problem,” Emmit said, somewhat dismissively. “Several of the pastors have young children. There are always activities to keep them busy. Same for Lita during youth camp. There’s plenty to keep them from being underfoot. They even get their own swim time at the pool.” 

A pool raised the stakes. Marve liked to swim. That might be the camp’s only selling point for her. “Okay, I guess I’ll talk to Marve and Joanne, see what we can come up with. If I show up here with a black eye next Monday, though, you’ll know it didn’t go well.”

Emmit patted Glynn on the back. “You wouldn’t be the first one, brother.”

Glynn drove home dreading the conversation he would need to have with Marve. She had already reminded him a couple of times that pastoring the church was his job, not hers. She would bristle at the notion that anything was “expected” of her without her consent. He would have to carefully time what he said, make sure she wasn’t exasperated with the kids or feeling overwhelmed by the lack of space to do anything at home. Marve was not happy with their living situation and that seemed to perpetually keep her on edge.

That talk about camp wasn’t going to happen today, though. Neither was the nap he had been hoping for. As he walked through the back door into the kitchen, Marve handed him a sheet of lined paper with several messages on it. She kissed him on the cheek and said, “Sorry, but while you were out gossiping with your preacher buddies, a church member died. You need to go talk to Hub.”

Glynn stared at the list of messages. “Who? I didn’t know we had anyone that ill!”

“Her name is Mattie Dean, I think,” Marve answered as she turned back to the laundry stacked on the kitchen table. “Rose said she was 84, has pretty much been an invalid the past several years so she hasn’t been to church in quite a while. She may not have even known that the church changed pastors. Apparently she was once really faithful, though, and her family says the pastor of First Baptist Church is the only one that can bury her. Go, talk to Hub. He has all the details.”

Glynn groaned and slumped against the wall. He was tired. He was anxious. He was feeling that perhaps he wasn’t up to the task of being a full-time pastor. Working 40 hours on a factory floor was so much easier by comparison. He looked down the list of messages and calls he needed to return. “What did Buck want?” he asked, noticing the deacon’s name on the list.

“Something about a camp committee,” Marve answered as she continued folding laundry. “He said something about a cabin. I don’t know. Hayden was yelling the entire time.”

Glynn nodded. He wasn’t opening that can of worms just yet. He looked on down the list. “Joe Ingram called?” Glynn’s voice showed his surprise. 

Marve came over and looked at the list to job her memory. “Oh yeah, that convention guy from Oklahoma City. Yeah, you’ll want to call him back. I guess he’s in the area Thursday and wanted to know if he could drop by the church around 2:30.”

Glynn’s head began to swirl. The Executive Director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma? Here? In Glynn’s office? He had never even dreamed of such a thing. Before he could worry too much, though, he noticed Alan Mayes’ name on the list. “What did Alan want?” he asked, not expecting a pleasant response.

“Something about setting the dates for the spring revival around calf sales,” Marve said, returning again to the laundry. “He just called a few minutes ago. You can probably catch him at the diner around 3. But go, see Hub! The family’s waiting to set up this whole funeral thing! Alan can wait! Get!” She threw one of Hayden’s rompers at him playfully. He tossed it back and headed toward the bedroom.

“I need to put on a tie and jacket,” he said. “Doesn’t seem too respectful to show up looking casual.” Glynn quickly grabbed a tie and a sport coat. He looked over at the well-made bed, longingly. He had really needed that nap. He wasn’t going to get it.

The pastor rushed over to the funeral home. Sure enough, Mattie Dean had once been a powerhouse within the church, but once her husband died her health began to deteriorate and she had been completely house-bound the past seven years, dependent on a nurse and a daughter-in-law from Arvel for her care. The funeral would be Wednesday morning in the church sanctuary.

After finalizing the funeral plans, Glynn drove the 150 feet around the corner to the church office. He called Buck who confirmed that Camp Universal was a big thing and that yes, they would need to recruit help for Joanne. Buck had already talked with her and she insisted that she would still be there, but a couple of extra people would be needed to help. Buck asked if Marve might be available. Glynn waffled and said she probably could help a bit.

Glynn had completely forgotten about needing to schedule a spring revival. He drove over to the diner and, sure enough, Alan was there fussing to anyone who would listen about oil prices going up. The deacon’s concern with the revival was that it was generally scheduled for the second week of April, but this year that conflicted with the annual calf sale, an important event for every rancher in the region. Alan was thrilled at how easily Glynn was persuaded to move the revival. Glynn didn’t admit that he hadn’t given the matter any thought. 

The preacher drove back to the church wondering who he should invite to be the preacher for the week. He considered possibly one of the other pastors from the association but no one he had met so far had really impressed him much. He spent the rest of the afternoon returning the remaining phone calls. It was almost 5:00 when he dialed the number for Joe Ingram’s office in Oklahoma City. He was expecting to have to leave a message and was surprised when the secretary buzzed him on through.

“Glynn! Glad to hear back from you!” the church leader exclaimed. “Has Monday worn you out yet?”

Glynn wondered if it was experience or intuition that prompted the question. “It’s doing its best,” he answered. “I understand you’re going to be in the area later this week?”

“Yes, I’m going to be over in Washataug on Thursday,” Ingram answered. “Grace Church there has encountered a rather unsettling problem and we’re going to try and meet with the church leaders and help them find a solution before it explodes on them and the community. I should be finished there around 2, though, and thought, since I’m in the area, I might head on up your way for a bit. We didn’t have long to chat when you were at the Baptist Building last week. I’d like to talk with you a bit more, see how you’re handling the transition. I expect you’re starting to feel a bit fatigued about now.”

“Yes, sir,” Glynn replied, shocked by the apparent insight. “Exhausted is probably the best way to describe it.”

There was a chuckle from the other end of the line. “I’m not surprised, Glynn. Not only is this your first full-time position, but you’ve also completely changed environments, from Michigan to Oklahoma. There’s a lot that’s similar but there are a lot of differences as well. Believe it or not, there are resources to help.”

“That sounds fantastic,” Glynn said. “I would very much appreciate the visit.”

“Fantastic! I’ll look forward to seeing you Thursday!” Ingram said. 

Glynn hung up the phone feeling slightly encouraged that perhaps there was someone who understood what he was experiencing and could perhaps offer some tips for surviving what seemed to be a constant onslaught of people needing his attention.

Thursday morning arrived and Glynn was more anxious than ever. Not only did he have Joe Ingram arriving that afternoon, he still didn’t have either sermon prepared for Sunday. He had already given up on composing anything new and was looking through the notes of sermons he had preached in Michigan, hoping to find one that could be easily revised to fit. He wanted something motivating as much for his sake as his congregation’s. 

Dr. Ingram’s dark blue sedan pulled into the parking lot promptly at 2:30. Glynn greeted him happily and the two settled down on the front pew of the sanctuary to talk so there wouldn’t be a desk between them. As Glynn laid out his worries and anxiety, the executive director was calm and reassuring. Dr. Ingram offered the assistance of the convention’s evangelism office in finding an appropriate evangelist for the spring revival and suggested that dealing with power-oriented church members like Alan Mays wasn’t much different than Jesus trying to keep a head-strong Peter under control.  

An hour passed quickly and as Glynn walked the denominational leader to his car, Dr. Ingram offered one last piece of advice. “You know, we have a disadvantage that, unlike Jesus, we cannot see into the hearts and intentions of our church members. I just came from a church that may yet not only fall apart at the seams but in the process could discredit Southern Baptists throughout the community all because of something that happened right under a pastor’s nose but he was too busy with sermon prep to notice. Preaching great sermons is what everyone expects but being a good pastor is what’s truly important. Don’t be afraid to let God have control of your sermon, Glynn. Focus on being a pastor first.”

Glynn walked back into the church and sat at his desk. He flipped through his Bible and it fell open to Jeremiah 32. His eyes fell on verse 36.

36 “Now therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, ‘It is given into the hand of the king of Babylon by sword, by famine, and by pestilence’: 37 Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation; I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety. 38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them; and I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.

Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Glynn thought of a sermon he had once read. The outline was clear enough: 

  1. An EVERLASTING covenant
  2. An UNCHANGING GOD of the covenant
  3. A PERSEVERING PEOPLE of the covenant

Glynn turned around and looked at the books on his shelf. He opened the book by Charles Spurgeon and found the sermon. The final paragraph rang home.

“To use an old figure: be sure that you take a ticket all the way through. Many people have only believed in God to save them for a time; so long as they are faithful, or so long as they are earnest. Beloved, believe in God to keep you faithful and earnest all your life: take a ticket all the way through. Get a salvation which covers all risks. There is no other ticket issued from the authorized office but a through-ticket. Other tickets are forgeries. He that cannot keep you forever cannot keep you a day. If the power of regeneration will not last through life, it may not last an hour. Faith in the everlasting covenant stirs my heart’s blood, fills me with grateful joy, inspires me with confidence, fires me with enthusiasm. I can never give up my belief in what the Lord hath said, “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.”

Glynn closed the book and his Bible feeling surprisingly refreshed. Now, if he could just do the same for his church.

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