Always Right, Sometimes Wrong: The Book, Blood, and Blessed Hope | Rogersville
I’ve often heard ministers talk about “the calling” and generally I’m not impressed at all. Most of the time, I find that those who are truly called by God don’t need to convince people of that; it is obvious to the people around them. So what is it? How does God call a person to ministry?
I think it’s more simple than mysterious. It happens when a Christian makes himself willing and available to do whatever God will require. Tom Hilterman, pastor and friend, once told me this amazing but true story.
In 1954, Charles Billington was the pastor of Akron Baptist Temple, a large, multi-ministry church. They had a very successful bus ministry and one of the largest Sunday schools in this country.
Pastor Billington learned of a small church that had become available in a community about 60 miles away. He saw an opportunity to start a new church, so the Akron Baptist Temple rented the property for a year, furnished it with chairs and hymnbooks, and assigned one of its associate pastors to start the process. new church planting process.
After several months of fruitless efforts, the associate pastor gave up and returned to Akron. Pastor Billington sent Bob Harrah, one of the church’s young janitors, with a truck to bring back the chairs and books and close the property.
When Bob entered the building, he felt the “call” and immediately phoned his pastor with a proposal. He asked if Akron Baptist Temple would be willing to continue his janitorial salary for the remaining time on the lease and give him the opportunity to try to start the new church. Pastor Billington agreed and Bob immediately started working.
Bob Harrah was thirty years old when he answered God’s call and started knocking on the doors of the community. In a house he met ladies with their mother and aunt. They visited for a while and Bob invited them to come on Sunday to the very first meeting of the new church. When Sunday came, they were the only ones in attendance, but Bob led the service anyway. He accompanied their singing with an old battered guitar. The following Sunday, again, only the six of them were present. But Bob was not discouraged. He continued to knock on doors, invite neighbors to church, and preach the gospel. God began to work in this church and soon people’s lives were changed. The church grew to about 350 members.
One of those six first ladies was Barbara Hilterman, my friend’s wife. When Bob first visited her home, the young pastor suggested that she read Romans 10:9-10. When Barbara read “…if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”, she believed God and He saved her .
At the age of 76, Bob was still pastoring this church and over the years God had spawned about fifteen other churches from this ministry. But the most amazing thing about this story is that Bob Harrah had no qualifications, no experience, no education and no idea what he was doing. He used no modern marketing techniques, no Starbucks coffee, and no opinion polls to find out what the local community wanted in a church. He didn’t even have a clever twenty-five dollar church growth plan published by a mega-church guru.
In fact, he had no books at all. A few years ago, when Tom Hilterman saw that Bob’s bookshelves were empty, he said to himself, “Every pastor should have a library to help him with his studies. So, Tom gave him some of his own books. The next time Tom came he noticed that there were still no books in Bob’s office, so he asked where they were. “Oh, I gave them,” he said, “I have the Bible; why do I need other books?
And that had been Pastor Bob’s simple style all these years. Every Sunday he would go up to the pulpit, open his Bible and begin to read the Word of God, and when he finished the passage he would always come right back to Isaiah 1:18 and read: “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow; if they are red like purple, they will be like wool. From this passage he moved the subject directly to the cross and he told his people how Jesus paid the penalty for their sins and provided for their salvation.
It’s a very simple formula and Pastor Bob has never deviated from it. He simply made himself a tool available in the hand of the sovereign God. He preached “The Book, the Blood and the Holy Hope”, and he let God do His work.
Stories like this should come as no surprise. God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. And He does, “…not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Almighty LORD. Zech. 4:6.
Note: Pastor Tom Hilterman was my friend and associate many years ago in my old church. He was a faithful servant of God. He died in 2017 at the age of 81.
Ralph M. Petersen and his wife, Kathy, are the owners of the OLDE TOWNE EMPORIUM at 212 E. Main St. in Rogersville. Comments are welcome. You can contact him at [email protected] or by phone at (951) 321 9235.