It is the third method of spreading the gospel during the ‘campaigns’ conducted by brethren that I want to mention concerning the numerical growth of the church. As early as the 1950s I remember brethren conducting these ‘campaigns’ which were really what we call ‘gospel meetings’ but instead of one congregation having them, several area churches would cooperate in the moral and monetary support of such efforts. That was true in the city of Montgomery. The congregations united together and would select an evangelist like Jimmy Allen of Harding College (University), V. P. Black or Harvey Starling to do the preaching. It was beautiful how brethren worked together for a common cause, the proclamation of the gospel of Christ. These ‘campaigns’ would be held in large buildings like the civic center in downtown Montgomery as well as in other mutual facilities. It was wonderful to witness the unity among brethren during those years. I love the passage in Psalm 133:1: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (KJV). Oh, how I long for the return of such unity as was found among us in such worthy causes during that era of time.
I want to mention some of the ‘campaigns’ that I worked in with the cooperation of other gospel preachers and interested brothers and sisters in Christ. I don’t recall the exacts dates of the one that was conducted in Abbeville, Alabama but Roger Dill (who was preaching in Opp) and I drove over daily to assist in this good work. Perry Lucas was the local preacher. The town is located in southeast Alabama. The congregation was relatively small as were most of the congregations in the rural area of the state. We knocked on doors and set up Bible studies as we had opportunity. The fellowship with our brethren was wonderful. One day while all the workers were sitting in the living room of the preacher’s house where the Lucas family lived, brother Dennis Hines got his ruler out and began to measure the length of the picture widow. That rather excited Perry and he asked, “What are you doing”? Brother Hines replied, “I’m measuring for curtains because I am going to ‘roll you for your job”. That really caused everyone to enjoy a hearty laugh. Of course brother Hines was only joking with Perry but I still retain memories of the good times we had while working together.
In September, 1964, Charlie Boddy, preacher for the College Avenue, Enterprise, AL, and I worked in a ‘campaign’ in Albany, Georgia. Harvey Starling was preaching under his tent that would seat about 1200 people. This campaign was well advertized because it seemed that every home we visited the people had heard of it. During the week, Charlie and I conducted three home Bible studies. We used the Jule Miller filmstrips that gave us the opportunity to study the Bible with the individuals. We were showing the fourth film, GOD’S PLAN FOR REDEMING MAN to a very nice lady when suddenly she asked us to stop the film. She then declared that she had been saved because Jesus had appeared to her one night and she was sure that as a believer she was saved. I kindly asked her to permit us to continue viewing the film and she gave us permission to do so. When the film ended she quietly said, “I now know I should be baptized”. She was one of the three we taught that week and were immersed for the remission of sins.
We also had the privilege of setting up a home Bible study with a widow who lived in a ‘well to do’ community. Her home was very lovely and I remember how expensive looking her furniture was to this poor preacher. There the three of us were sitting in her very nice living room and watching a filmstrip when all of a sudden there appeared a large South Georgia roach on the wall near us. It is amazing how that the nice lady, Charlie or I never saw that roach. It was as if it was invisible to all of us. For sure I was not going to say, “Hey, look there’s a roach!” Well, the story ended with the lady being immersed into Christ.
There was a sister in Christ who was a Christian but her husband, who was in the Air Force, had never obeyed the commands of the gospel but he agreed for us to study the Bible in their home. Following our study with him, he expressed his desire to give his life to the Lord and was immersed. Thus, this couple was united in Jesus Christ. It was indeed a happy occasion. Here is “The Rest of the Story” (Paul Harvey). I was spoke at the church of Christ in Arab, Alabama on Sunday night, October 19, 2008. While visiting with brethren in the foyer of the building and getting acquainted with them, a gentleman, James M. Norris, and his wife walked up to me and he asked, “Where were you on Tuesday night, September 23, 1964?” My mind began to work overtime trying to remember if I had performed their wedding or what. He then informed me that I was in his home showing the Jule Miller filmstrips and studying the Bible with them. He said that he had been preaching for years since leaving the Air Force. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. That event occurred 44 years ago during the ‘campaign’ in Albany, Georgia. He had learned that I was to preach for the church in Arab and he and his wife had travel several miles to see me. I was moved emotionally and I informed the congregation of this incident before delivering my sermon. I also told my co-worker, Charlie Boddy about meeting this brother after such a long time. I had unspeakable joy in my heart and I thanked God and praised the Lord Jesus Christ that we had the wonderful privilege of teaching this good man the gospel of Christ.
WEST MONROE, LOUISIANA
It was during the week of May 3, 1965 that Charlie Boddy and I travelled to West Monroe, LA to work during the first week of a campaign with Harvey Starling doing the preaching. We stayed in the home of a Christian family. The gentleman was a successful business man who died years later in an airplane crash along with other Christians. I remember him saying to us not to get lost in the city while working. I thought to myself, if I can find my way around his small mansion we would do just fine driving in West Monroe. The first week of a campaign seemed to me the most difficult. It was very hard to find people who were interested in studying the Bible with us in their home. We knocked on one door and the man told us to come in. There the gray haired man sat cross way in a large chair. He said that previously they have to take him to the “horsepital in an anvil.” Out of pure meanness in order to see the reaction of Charlie, I asked him to repeat what he had just said. Later Charlie asked me why I did that and I told him why. Charlie said he had enough trouble in refraining from laughing the first time and there I had to ask him to repeat his statement.
‘Dog days’ came early that year – literally. I have never seen so many dogs that were set on causing us bodily harm. Charlie and I had to practically walk back to back to ward off the canines that were attacking us. Doing personal work can be hazard to your health in some cases.
A tent meeting often attracts people from various backgrounds. There was one man who came frequently to the nightly meetings dressed in his cowboy suit. Everyone who knew him called him “Tex”. He suffered from a mental problem, they said. Well one night, Charlie and I saw a couple walking toward the tent with Bibles in their hand and I thought about what Philip ask the nobleman in Acts 8, “Do you understand what you are reading?” so I approached the couple and asked if we could study the Bible with them in their home and they consented for us to visit with them. So, Charlie and I went to their home the next night and when we arrived we found that Tex was present also. We learned that they were members of a denomination that immersed people like we did but not for the same reason. It came down, in our discussion, as to why people ought to be baptized. It was then that Tex said in a halting voice, “I know.” He said that the answer was in Acts 2:38. I thought to myself, The Lord is going to use this mentally handicapped person to reveal the truth. I told Tex to inform us what the passage said. He then began to quote Acts 2:18, “Then Peter said unto them, repent and be…be..be…believe.” I nearly dropped my Bible. We then learned that he was a member of the same denomination where the couple we were studying with attended and had been taught the same doctrine like they had been instructed.
One morning we were given a card with the name of a woman who might be interested in studying the Bible with us so we began to locate this person. We finally found the two story apartment where she lived on the second floor of the building. Before we reached the location you could see the screens on the windows and the porch had been damaged and the place looked unkempt. We knocked on the door of one apartment and the woman who lived there told us that the person we were looking for lived upstairs so she called very loudly the woman’s name. This woman came down to meet us and when she did I observed her appearance without prejudice. In kindness I say that she looked ‘a mess’. When she curled her toes over the steps I could see the rust between her toes. Mind you, poor people need the gospel like everyone else but this woman looked physically unclean and unconcerned about her spiritual needs. I thought, back then you buy a bar of soap for very little money and there was the river running nearby and so forth. We asked her about studying the Bible with her and her interest was about like the wall in front of me. When we got back in the car, Charlie…well let me tell you that Charlie was/is so sincere and serious about matters…and he looked at the card that requested us to write our impression about this person and he asked me with a long sigh, “What are we going to write?” I replied, “Let me have the card” and I wrote, “Dirty, dirty, dirty!”
It was not until the last day we were working during the campaign that we met a young college student who had studied the Bible and possessed a good knowledge of the Word that we finally had a decent discussion with her. The campaign continued for a total of about three weeks. I don’t remember the number of conversions that occurred during that time but I do remember the first week was like plowing new ground. We were very tired when we returned to our homes in Elba and Enterprise. Experience can be a good teacher.
The brethren of the Hartford church had completed a new building and it seemed a good time to conduct a ‘campaign’ in this small town several miles south of the city of Enterprise and near the Florida state line. If my memory serves me well (Brother Rex Turner, Sr. used that expression many times), Paul Tarence was the preacher and several other preachers and workers from different congregations came together to ‘knock on doors’ and set up home Bible studies. This was during the week of May 17, 1965. My family and I were living in Elba at the time. I do not recall the results of our efforts to reach people with the gospel of Christ but I do remember that the area churches of our Lord supported this meeting.
This ‘campaign’ was conducted the week of July 5, 1965. My good friend Roger Dill was the preacher for this fine congregation. He worked with the Opp church for some 51/2 years. He and his good family were well respected by the community. Ray Humphries was the preacher during this ‘campaign’. Ray was a former preacher for the Opp church. A number of preachers, along with other brothers and sisters in Christ worked diligently during this worthy cause. I had the pleasure of teaching and baptizing Mrs. Herrington, age 85, during the week.
The beloved Paul Simon was the preacher for the East Gate church in this city. He called me while I was living in Elba and asked me if I would come down and direct the personal work during a gospel meeting. This was in the month of July, 1966. I had the privilege of staying in the home of brother and sister Simon. I remember seeing brother Simon early in the mornings working in the flower garden. I do not remember the results of this effort. I learned on Tuesday, February 9, 1971, that brother Simon had been killed in automobile accident in Mississippi while on the way to the Freed-Hardeman College Lectureship.
This ‘campaign’ was conducted during the dates of August 28-September 2, 1966. Jerry Humphries was the preacher. Colin McKee and I worked together in trying to set home Bible studies and inviting people to attend the nightly worship assemblies. We were given a card containing the name of a young lady who had shown interest by attending some of the assemblies of the church. The card also contained her address so we went looking for her. We knocked on her door and she came to the screen door and spoke to us and we informed her who we were and why we had come to visit her. She was thankful for our interest but she told us that her husband wanted everyone from the church of Christ to know they were not welcomed at their home and that he had better not find us there. The young mother was very kind and I could sense that she did not feel the same way that her husband did relative to the church.
I had learned that there was a colony of Mennonites located several miles north of the city of Montezuma so I drove up to meet some of them. As I drove through their farms I could perceive that they were very successful in their vocation. When I drove up to one house I saw how neat the place and lawn were. An older gentleman with a beard welcomed me into his home. In our pleasant conversation he told me that I could grow a good beard and he even gave me a pamphlet that informed me that the Bible teaches that I should do so. The house was immaculately clean and there no radios, television sets to be seen anywhere. However I did see a water cooler in one room. We discussed the Bible for sometime but I did not change his mind concerning his understanding of the Word of God. The gentleman was very cordial and I enjoyed my visit with him.
Now, back to the young lady Colin and I visited the first of the week. Jerry spoke on the radio each morning but he had to leave for home after the Friday night session so he asked me to speak on the program on Saturday morning before I left for my home in Elba. I agreed and after the program, I decided in spite of what this lady’s husband had said, I was determined to make one more visit to her home and encourage her to obey the gospel. She had informed us that her husband drove a ‘butane gas truck’ for some company. Well, while I was speaking to her through the screen door I saw him drive by so I began to talk more rapidly, encouraging her to obey the gospel. The husband came driving by the second time and he stopped the truck and got out and was coming straight towards me. I said a quick goodbye to the young lady and then I walked up to him, extended my hand to shake his and I begin to say something like, “Sir, I want to tell you that you are fortunate to have such a wonderful family and I am glad to meet you but I am in big hurry to travel to home in Alabama” and with that I said, “I’m sorry but I must leave now.” I immediately got in my car and drove away. I did not give the husband time to say one word. My confrontation with him lasted only a few seconds. I rejoiced to learn later that this young wife/mother did give her life to the Lord and was immersed for the remission of her sins.
Sunday, December 4, 1966, the Elba congregation met in our new building located on the Troy Highway and across from the Elementary School. We had 425 people present for the special service that afternoon. Marvin Bryant was the preacher during the ‘campaign’ that began that night and continued through the following Sunday. We had 10 preachers and other brothers and sisters who assisted us in ‘knocking on doors’ and setting up Bible studies in various homes. During the ‘campaign’ there were 10 baptisms and 12 confessions of sins and request for prayers.