February 2012 Press toward the Mark
A decade ago, two influential people in my life went home to
be with the Lord. Many of you may remember
Dr. W. A. Criswell; few, if any of you, would know Mrs. Melton.
Dr. Criswell’s sermons, books, and personal encouragement
blessed and shaped my life tremendously.
As a young student-pastor, I encountered liberalism. Dr. Criswell took the time to share and pray
with me. His stand for the inerrancy of
Scripture, evangelism, missions, and expository preaching influenced my life greatly. Dr. Criswell’s example strengthened my
commitment to Southern Baptists during a time when some Southern Baptists were
departing from our historical doctrinal positions. Most of all, Dr. Criswell encouraged me by
his love for Jesus.
Mrs. Melton helped to introduce me to Jesus. At the time, we lived across the street from
the Meltons. She kept my younger sister
during the day and me after school until our parents returned from work. One day, she invited my sister and me to
Sunday School. At first, we weren’t
interested. The idea of “school” didn’t
appeal to me. She quickly explained that
Sunday School was not an all-day event.
With a twinkle in her eye and a smile as big as all
outdoors, she encouraged us to come to Sunday School and learn about
Jesus. Due to her encouragement, it
wasn’t a very difficult decision. At
that time, our family didn’t own a television.
I’m not sure if we even owned a radio.
After my sister and I rode our stick horses around the house a dozen
times or more, there wasn’t that much else to do on Sunday. So we agreed to go.
Mrs. Melton’s excitement about somebody named “Jesus” did
create some curiosity that contributed to our decision to go to Sunday
School. We had never heard about Jesus;
nor did we know what went on inside the church building. With a mixture of anticipation, excitement,
and apprehension, we joined the Melton family as they walked to church.
They took us into the church building through a side
door. The building was new and still
under construction. From the brilliant
sunshine of the outside, we stepped into a dimly lit room. Before our eyes could adjust, some other
people ushered us down some stairs into a dank basement. To our surprise, they separated us. My sister’s destination was better than
mine. They put her in a room at the foot
of the stairs, while they directed me to a room at the very back of the
basement that appeared to be as large as Carlsbad Caverns. Apprehension had driven all the excitement
out of us. We didn’t know what they did
to boys and girls in dungeons like this.
Relief replaced apprehension when we recognized our Sunday
School teachers. I think Mrs. Melton was
my sister’s teacher; Mrs. Anna Stillnecker was mine. Mrs. Anna was a distant relative. She was the sister of the husband of the
sister of my stepfather. As I said, she
was a distant relative.
Mrs. Anna (who went home to be with our Lord in 2001) would
stop sometime during the Bible lesson and ask each member of the class to share
a Bible verse. I couldn’t participate
because we didn’t have a Bible. She
wrote a verse on a piece of paper for me.
When she asked the next Sunday, I quoted John 3:16.
Several months later, my pastor shared the entire plan of
salvation with me. I repented of my sin
and placed my faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. When I asked Jesus to forgive my sins and
save me, He actually did it. My pastor (R.
A. Bone who went home to be with our Lord in 2005) shared the same Gospel with
my mother (who went home to be with Jesus in 2008). She repented of her sin and placed her faith
in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for forgiveness of sin and
salvation. Brother Bone baptized both of
us in the White River at Batesville, Arkansas into the fellowship of the
Calvary Baptist Church. Eventually, all
of our family professed faith in Jesus.
All of this occurred as a result of Mrs. Melton inviting us
to come to Sunday School with her to learn more about Jesus. With tears of joy and thanksgiving, I praise
God for Mrs. Melton, Mrs. Anna, and Brother Bone.
In Ohio, millions of people don’t know Jesus as their Lord
and Savior. Some know a lot about Jesus
while others know very little if anything.
Much or little knowledge about Jesus doesn’t solve the sin problem. Only a personal encounter with Him through
repentance and faith in the Gospel yields the only solution to the sin
problem. Jesus alone has paid the
penalty for sin. His resurrection proves
that the Father has accepted the sin-penalty payment by Jesus on our behalf.
Our Father loves all eleven million plus people in Ohio just
like He loves the whole world. Jesus
died to pay the penalty of sin for all who live in our state as well as the
whole world. Thus, salvation is
available for all who repent and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Mission Ohio is our cooperative effort to
tell everyone in our state the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Mission Ohio 2020 Vision is to reach
1,000, 000 believers in 2020 congregations by the end of 2020. We must have more local churches to reach all
the people groups in Ohio.
I remember Dr. Criswell saying once that great preachers
don’t make great churches; great churches make great preachers. Without question, churches become great
because of members like Mrs. Melton.
Mission Ohio needs thousands of missionary church members like Mrs.
Melton who will be continuously asking boys and girls plus men and women,
“Would you come to Sunday School (or Bible Study) with me to learn more about
Jesus?” Let’s press toward that Mark.