Transcribed by Kathleen Hastings Whitlock
May 4, 1950 – Reprinted February 17, 1977
* CAL’S COLUMN *
For some time we have been dealing with matters that had a sad or sorrowful tinge to them. This time we will not come to you in heaviness, as the Apostle says. We will give some of the things of a “lighter vein” this week. Perhaps some may say that all such should be omitted from the paper or from one’s conversation. Perhaps one may go too far in such matters and the writer may be an example of veering off into the frivolous things of life. On the other hand, many, many have found that a good laugh now and then will do good “like a medicine.” And still more might be said in favor of a little nonsense now and then, as it may be relished by the wisest of men.
If the writer were unable to see anything of life except the sad, the tragic, the sorrowful, the gloomy and dark features of our earthly existence, he would have perhaps long since folded his hands in bitter discouragement and would have given up the fight. As it is, we are able to throw off these things and to see life in brighter colors.
Many are the funny things that come into preachers’ lives. Many of these at the time of their occurrence were not funny, but on the other hand, were depressing and discouraging. Some of the events in our life were terrible in a way at the time they happened, but the passing years have healed their hurt and they are now matters of merriment in a way.
Our first preaching effort was made on July 12, 1913, a hot Saturday morning just four days after we had observed the 22nd anniversary of our birth. This effort occurred at Defeated Creek Baptist church, in the town of Difficult, Tenn., on Defeated Creek. We had left home which was six miles to the west of this church, on horseback that Saturday morning, loaded to the limit as it were, with a sense of our duty and of the feeling of utter inability to discharge our obligations that lay so heavily upon us. We had stopped numerous times on the way, had gotten down from our horse and had knelt down in the road to pray and ask for Divine help and guidance. In fact about as soon as we were out of sight of a house, we dismounted and sought for help in prayer. We were on our way to Mt. Vernon church, then located at Oak Grove, a few miles east of Difficult. Our good friend, Elder C.B. Massey, had asked us to fill his appointments and we offered to preach for him at Oak Grove or to try, but we had refused to promise him that we would stop at the church at Difficult, our excuse being that it was too fine and prominent a church for us to make our initial preaching effort there. He asked that we inform the brethren at Defeated Creek that he would not be able to reach that church until the next day, which was Sunday, July 13th. We stopped in front of the church where quite a crowd had gathered, waiting for the coming of their pastor. We informed them as best we could that Brother Massey was in a revival meeting and that he could not reach the church until the next day. They then asked the writer this question. “Where are you going?” We had to inform them that we were on our way to Mt. Vernon to try to fill Brother Massey’s appointment. As soon as we had made this statement, we regretted our rashness, for immediately the brethren insisted in no uncertain terms that the writer might as well make his first preaching effort among them. Thus we found that the very thing we had tried to avoid had been thrust upon us. We say no “way around the matter and finally entered that large church house with fear and dread. We lived through two songs and a prayer and then arose to read our lesson, which was the third chapter of 1st John. At the close of the lesson we bowed down humbly and prayed for help. We then had another song and the writer chose for his first text, 1 John 3:19, “Hereby we know that He abideth is us by the Spirit which He hath given us.” We did the best we could and as we look back over more than 40 years, we still feel ashamed of that miserable effort, for it was the poorest initial sermon or any kind we ever heard anybody present or offer. We were unable to look our congregation in the face and dept our own face high up toward the ceiling at the northwest corner of that big church house. We hemmed and we hawed and we ran up and then back, struggling and struggling and finally brought our talk to a close after ten minutes ad these ten minutes seemed like as many hours. We knew that we had made the poorest of poor efforts at preaching. We have preached literally thousands and thousands of times since that day, but we never again have used that text. Every time we turn to that one verse since that time, we see ourself, a poor, timid, bashful country youth, as green as a gourd, trying to preach and finding himself in the attitude of the deacon who had said he could beat a certain young preacher preaching. The pastor had heard the remark by the deacon and jumped right up and announced that Deacon So and So would preach for the church next Sunday. It was too late then to back out, and the deacon decided he would have to go through with his boasting remarks about what he could do. He sought the pastor’s help, only to be told by the pastor that he would not help him and that the deacon would have to preach. The hour arrived and the deacon found himself faced with a large crowd of eager and expectant listeners who were waiting for the deacon to out preach the young minister. After taking the pulpit and ding a little puffing and blowing and without a word from the Scriptures, the troubled deacon said. “Brethren, preaching is hard work. If you don’t think it is, just try it.” And then he “got” down amid the feelings that he had gone too far in his remarks and regretting them. As for the the writer, he soon found out that “preaching was hard work,” even if he had made a complete failure.
Two remarks about that failure of ours have come down through many yeas of time. One of the good brethren present that day was Brother Luther M. Jones. He went home that July day and informed his wife, who had not been to church, that a new preacher had been to their church. His wife asked, “Who was the new minister?” Deacon Jones replied. “Brother Gregory>” The wife then asked, “How did he do?” and the answer will remain with us as long as we live, and it was in the following words: “Well, if he ever does make a preacher, he’s got it all to do yet.” His brother, Jim Jones, went home and told his wife of the new preacher(?) and then ensued about the same conversation as that between Uncle Luther and his wife, except for Uncle Jim’s answer to his wife’s question, “How did he do?” And his reply will not be forgotten as long as we are here in this land of labor and toil. He did not answer her in so many words, but he gave an effective reply when he said, “I do not know why Mr. Tabor church sent out such a a man.” Of course these things did not reach our ears until some time later.