Moments that Shaped (Part 1)

decisions2.jpgI remember several significant decision moments that occurred early in my ministry.  These decision moments were defining.  These decisions turned out to be very important in the formative years of my ministry.

I remember the day that I had to make a decision next to Bill’s white Cadillac.

I was preaching for a little church in middle Tennessee.  We were about an hour south of Nashville.  This church met in a storefront.  The building was actually a former convenience store.  We were on a main highway leading into town.  Across the street was "the big round bank." 

One of our members was "Bill." Bill was in his 60s.  He had divorced his wife a few years back.  Anyway, he was a part of our small church.  This little group of 65 or 70 people was barely getting by financially.  It helped that Bill was a successful businessman, affluent, and that he put a sizable check in the offering each week.

One Sunday, I walked outside after the morning assembly.   Bill was sitting in his white Cadillac, smoking a big cigar.  He looked at me and did not look happy.  He motioned for me to come to his car.  I walked over to the driver’s side of his car and the electric window came down.  He took the cigar out of his mouth and said, "Let’s don’t mention the _______ anymore."  (The blank?  A derogatory slang word for anyone who was black.  Not the "n" word but nevertheless an ugly term.)

He was referring to the sermon that morning.  I don’t remember the subject or the text.  I remember the essence of what I said.  That morning,  I said something like, "Scripture calls for us to love people, regardless of race or ethnic groups.  That includes everyone!"  So, standing by his car I had to make a decision.  How will I respond to this man?  How will I respond to what I consider a racist attitude?  How will I respond to his effort to intimidate?  How will I respond to an inward fear that he might withhold his check or even leave?

At that moment, God gave me the strength to say, "Bill, I am going to have to say what I think the Bible teaches."

I then walked away from his car feeling sick.  Sick as I thought about what he said.  Sick as I thought about his effort to intimidate.  Yet, I also walked away knowing that in that moment, I had done the right thing.  

That was twenty-seven years ago.  Yet, it almost seems like yesterday.  That decision was a critical moment.  It was in that decision that something was etched on my heart reminding me of who I am.  That day has also been a reminder to me that the one I am called to please is the Lord Jesus — regardless.

Can you look back and see decisions you’ve made that turned out to be critical in your formation as a Christ-follower? 

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12 thoughts on “Moments that Shaped (Part 1)

  1. Here are two, the first at the beginning of my spiritual journey, seventeen years ago…

    — to own my own sin and continue a teenage pregnancy when my doctor offered me an abortion, hidden from my parents.

    And five years ago…

    — to honor our giving committments at the end of the year, when I was in the hospital on bedrest with the twins, and my husband was out of work.

    Both experiences shaped me and stretched me to rely on Jesus and only Jesus. And, in both experiences, God proved himself faithful.

  2. Jim, having grown up in that culture, I imagine a number of preachers have had to make that decision. And I’m sure there are those who embraced the bigotry to maintain friendships with all the "Bills" out there.My wife and I decided prior to our marriage that we would begin our marriage as tithers and try to grow in our giving from that point. I could tell you m any stories of how we had no money but we never lacked for paying our bills or giving to others who were struggling financially. 

  3. Thank you Robyn,Both sound like they must have been significant experiences and decisions.  Thanks for sharing these. 

  4. Greg,A wonderful example of a decision made in the quietness of your marriage.  Thanks so much.  Hope you are doing well.

  5. Thats a really cool story Jim, and it really highlights where ministers are distinct from other in who they "get into bed with" to put it plainly. I know that I am living in the blessing of decisions I made by the grace of God in my earlier days, and I really pray that when I come to other big decisions I’ll the kingdom-mindedness to choose Jesus instead of a person. Another issue pastorally I suppose is that as people with pastoral hearts we certainly want to be friends with people and it becomes hard to draw the line when we have to choose between the friendship and following Christ.

  6. Yes I do remember the most critical life decision I made in my Christian life.  It was the decision I made just before I chose my life partner.  It was the decision not to marry a woman who had been previously married and then divorced.  It had a dramatic effect on me then and continues to affect my Christian view today.  It’s effect had little to do with contemporary views on divorce and the Bible.  It taught me that ultimately one has to follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings as heard from conscience and the Bible and that I’d better be diligent in hearing and discovering daily what those promptings are saying.  This discipline has been life changing for me.  Not that I perfectly do what I ought, but that in my heart, I know where the source of direction comes. 

  7. My wife and I were both full time graduate students at Harding Graduate School of religion. We both had to stop our primary source of income and were faced with the decision if we could still afford to make good on an annual pledge after 70% of our income was gone. We decided we had to make good on our word so we each picked up more work (a total of 5 jobs between us and full-time graduate school and tuition for both of us).  Within two weeks of that decision we received $2000 in the mail from three sources that we did not know was coming. That really increased our faith. I don’t believe in the health and wealth gospel or think there is some equation you can work that God will always do but I do believe in God’s faithfulness and that situation really proved it to us both.

  8. A couple of years ago, i was asked to speak at a small congregation which i had visited several times and preached. however that was before i got married. On this occasion however, i was asked not to take my then fiance along while i preached because she happened to be caucasian. i made my choice and i walked away. i am now married to this wonderful girl and i am happy being a ‘mixed’ couple-whatever that is. i have not regreted that choice.

  9. Liam,I love this line:"I know that I am living in the blessing of decisions I made by the grace of God in my earlier days,"Wow.  I can relate.  I hear this in Matt’s comment as well.  Thanks!