Thursday, January 8, 2009

God Opens a Door and Breaks the Race Barrier

The second real movement of God that I was a part of occurred at Fisher Street. Again there was nothing contrived about it. Instead it was a spontaneous and sovereign work of God.

Fisher Street was located close to the campus of Arkansas State University. We had a few students who attended, and no church in town was reaching a large number. It was the early 70s and university campuses and students across the country were experiencing the consequences of liberalized policies on alcohol, the rise of the drug culture and the sexual revolution.

Two students and I determined to start a Bible study on campus during the spring semester. They invited other students, but when we met in one of their dorm rooms there were just the three of us. We would knock on dorm doors and witness weekly, but there was no response. And the entire semester each week there would be the three of us studying together. After the summer break in the fall we tried again, only to find the same response. Toward the end of that semester we were discouraged and decided we wouldn't try it again in the spring. Then just before the Christmas break something happened that would change not only our Bible study, but our church and our lives.

We had knocked on a dorm door (we just going floor to floor knocking on every door) and the guy in the room wasn't that interested but he said there are two guys on the tenth floor we need to go see. We got on the elevator and went up to the tenth floor and knocked on the door number we had been given. An African-American student, Ralph Monday answered and invited us in. Once in the room we met Mansell Twilley. Ralph had led Mansell to the Lord the week before and they were studying the Bible together. We talked for a couple of hours and they asked me if I would meet with them and teach them the Scriptures. I readily agreed. But the next week was finals followed by the Christmas break.

After the break Ralph called and we set up the first meeting on a Thursday night. When I walked into him room it was filled with 20 African-American students. The room was so crammed that we had to do the Bible study standing up. That week we got permission to meet in one of the dorm lounges. When we met again there were about fifty present. We met that way a couple of week and one of the guys said there were some girls that wanted to study with us. So, I went to the BSU and arranged to use their facility. Within a couple of weeks I was meeting with 125 African-Americans students for four hours of Bible study a week, two hours on Tuesday afternoons and two hours on Thursday afternoon. We worked through the book of Romans verse by verse. As we dug into the Gospel, students started to realize they had never come to true faith and weekly there were professions of faith. We went on a retreat at a nearby camp and more than 300 students turned out. It was a weekend of many, many salivations.

As we studied and fellowshiped together and witnessed the moving of God among so many African-American students, they asked me about church and if they could come to my church. This was in the early 70s in the South and 11:00 on Sunday was the most segregated hour of the week. I told them that they should be in church and they were more than welcome to come to Fisher Street. I said it with some fear. The first couple of Sundays only a handful came. They had to wonder how they would be received by the church. After that we had fifty to seventy-five who started to attend regularly. Sometimes the number would rise to a hundred. I baptized 70 of them that semester. We didn't make a big deal about it. There was no fanfare. We didn't publicize it in any way. We were just trying to be the church.

Of course it wasn't all smooth sailing. One night I was awakened by a threatening call from the Klan. I went to the FBI early the next morning because of fear for my family. Some pastors and other people in town were very critical. Everything came to a head within the church one night during a deacons meeting. One of the men said, "I'm not comfortable with all of this. If these students keep coming, I don't think my family can stay in the church." Others started to voice similar sentiments. These were some of my dearest friends in the world. No one had tell me how critical the moment was. I responded, "Men, we are about to decide whether or not we are going to be a New Testament church." We spent three hours studying the Scriptures together and at the end decided that we were going to be a New Testament church and that everyone was going to welcome. Not everyone in the room was enthusiastic about that decision, but everyone agreed. None of them left the church. Gradually a few other churches in the area opened their doors, notably the largest Baptist church in town.

The intensive teaching times with the students continued with more and more students coming to the Lord. The fellowship was extraordinaryly close and wonderful. Some who graduated took menial jobs so they could stay in Jonesboro and remain a part of the group. It had to be addressed and so I told them that all of us have times when we are receivers, when things are being poured into our lives. But the time comes when we must become givers to others, when we must become missionaries. So it was time for them to go out, find jobs, get into churches and make a difference where ever they were.

We had a reunion fifteen later with about 125 attending. It was one of the greatest joys of my life to see that the majority of the students who had come to the Lord during those days were still walking with the Lord, serving in churches all over, and truly making a kingdom difference.

1 comment:

  1. I am amazed at these 2 latest blogs. It is amazing to me the impact that you made at such a young age. It is incredible to me what a soul winner you were at this time. Both of these stories show what an impact one person can have if we allow ourselves to be used by HIM!