Supreme Ambition Ministries

To Know Christ and to Make Him Known – Philippians 3:10

Salvation: Frontier Style!

Circuit Riding Preacher Do you remember the moment of your New Birth? Most followers of Christ have an account of their salvation from sin that is as unique as they. None, perhaps, is quite as distinctive as the one related to me, and a few close relatives in the living room of my brother’s home immediately following the wedding of his older son. What made the story so pregnant with meaning is that it was the account of my father’s salvation told from his own lips.

Now, that might not seem like such an exceptional thing to you, but my father was one of those guys who rarely gave you a peek inside his life. For most all our lives and for whatever reason, the man we called “Daddy” proudly wore a facade both at home and in the community that never allowed others to get too close to him. So, as the family and some friends relaxed and shared a meal together, imagine our surprise as this emotionally distant man pulled the cord of the curtain of his life open and let us see into one of the most intimate experiences of his life. Following is the story as I remember it and that day will forever change how I view my father.

“It was in early Autumn in the hills of West Virginia. The leaves were beginning to gain color and some of them had begun their inevitable trek from tree to sod, forming a soft cushion for the winter snows to rest upon. In those days there was not much in the way of entertainment except at the local church. It was common to have ice cream socials and all-day meetings with dinner on the grounds. On such occasions, the church would procure the services of a circuit-riding preacher to come and hold a revival meeting. Since, entertainment was at such a shortage, both saints and sinners often found themselves at these meetings. Such was the case when I was a young man. I lived a rather loose life in those days and had a number of friends with whom I ran around. Our habit was to go to the different churches and cause such a stir that the preacher could not preach and the people could not worship. We laughed, threw spit wads and generally made such a nuisance of ourselves that we had gained quite the reputation for stopping revivals.

Added to our mischievousness was the fact that I had learned the art of making moonshine whiskey and had a still over the creek bank near our parents’ home. Now, all this took place during the days of prohibition. The possession or sale of alcohol was against the law, but for me and my friends that was only a problem, if you were caught. Unfortunately, it was our habit to test some of our ‘home-brew’ before attending these revival meetings. Otherwise we might not have the courage to cause the trouble we wanted. We thought it was all great fun. Others in the community did not have the same attitude as we.

 One memorable Sunday afternoon we heard there was to be a revival starting at the local church.  My friends and I decided to arrive early enough to make our plans as to how we were going to disturb the service.  Shortly after we arrived the evangelist arrived driving and old horse-drawn wagon.  He was wearing a black coat, black hat, black trousers and white shirt.  He slowly got down off his wagon and started towards the church.  My friends and I lined either side of the steps walking up into the church.  We figured that we’d give him a good scare before the service so that our antics inside would not take long in bringing a halt to the meeting.

About half way up the steps the old fella’ stopped and looked us right in the eye as he turned his head first to the right and then to the left.  Suddenly he surprised us by speaking to us in such a deep voice that I was sure God was speaking through him.  He said, ‘Boys, them’s apples in the back of that wagon’ (He was paid two bushels of apples for his previous revival). ‘And’, he continued, ‘When I come out of here tonight, if there is even one of them missing, I’ll kill ya’.  Daddy said that he and his friends didn’t know what to make of it but there plans did not change.

The service began and Daddy and his friends were the last to file into the church and onto the back row.  They put their plan into action.  It was so disturbing that the people could hardly sing or testify.  Finally, it was time for the old Circuit Rider to preach.  He stepped up to the pulpit.  He was an awesome specimen in his black clothes coupled with the long shadows created by the kerosene lanterns that lighted the building.  Then he did something that I’ve never seen any preacher do.  He laid his Bible down on the pulpit.  

Then he reached under the left side of his big black coat and pulled out a pistol and laid it on one side of his Bible.  He reached under the right side of his coat and retrieved a second pistol and laid it on the other side of the Bible.  Then, in a voice that seemed to almost shake the rafters, he thundered, ‘I hear tell that some of you folks don’t like preachers and you don’t like revivals.  Well, this Bible and these two pistols say that we’re gonna’ have revival.”

Daddy said that the man preached a powerful message and at the end of the service he and all his friends walked down the aisle and bowed at the altar and surrendered their hearts to Jesus.

Surely, this method of evangelism would not be taught in any seminary or Bible college.  Nor would I expect Campus Crusade For Christ or the Navigators to put this method in their training manuals.  The old Circuit Riding Preachers who roamed the hills and valleys of this great nation of ours for the first 300 years or so Adapted the Gospel the best way they knew and called to the Kingdom some rough old mountain boys that maybe never would have come to Christ any other way.  Above all else, Christianity must be real.  I will forever cherish this experience my Daddy shared with us that day.  Even if only for a moment, my brother and I got to see the man behind the facade.  Makes me long for heaven.

Oh, by the way!  When Dad arrived home that night, his parents had already gone to bed.  His mother, like most “Moms”, was lying awake waiting on him to get home.  As my Dad put his foot on the first step of the front porch, Grandma said she knew that he was a changed man.  His experience that night had changed how he walked.  Yes, I’m aware of the irony of that last statement.


October 22nd, 2011 Posted by | Biographical, Evangelistic, Revival | 4 comments