I couldn't help but notice the distinguished man across the airport waiting room in Nashville . He represented all the things I hoped to look like at his age. He had nicely kept snow white hair and an extremely nice gray suit accentuated with a sterling silver eagle bolo tie.
However, more than his looks drew my attention. It was his demeanor. His manly actions and the way he carried himself.
I knew he was familiar; then, I finally remember-ed he had spoken at a meeting I had attended in Detroit , Michigan some years before. Rising to my feet, I strolled sheepishly toward him assuring myself I was correct in my assumption.
I blurted, “Aren't you Dr. W. A. Criswell?” Startled, he looked up at me and said in a deep Texas draw, "Why, yes, young man! And who are you?"
I was amazed at his kindness and willingness to welcome me to join him as we discussed the Lord's work. I'm sure he had put up with many before who didn't care to question him.
However, his life seemed to be opened before me that afternoon as we shared about six hours together before arriving to where we were both headed.
He told me how he was appreciative of the opportunities God had allowed him. "My first church was one where they plowed right up to the door. Then I moved to a small village church. Afterwards, I became the pastor of a county seat church where I was pastor sixteen years. Then I was called to the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas where I have remained now all these years." (Dr. Criswell went to his reward a number of years ago).
I couldn't help but think of how God had blessed this humble man. He had followed Dr. George W. Truett who had pastored forty-seven years before him. "You know Dr. Truett never drove a car or flew in a plane like this. He did all his visits in a buggy." "Things have changed a lot," he continued. "I was the first pastor at First Baptist to visit in a car or fly in a plane,” continuing our conversation which interested greatly.
After our discussions, I asked permission to publish his remarks. He granted it.
Things have changed I thought. He took that church with 3,000 members to over 20,000 active members and a budget of millions.
Our flight soon landed and we were about to separate when he turned to me and said, "I'm going to preach tonight over at Newark First Baptist for the state evangelism conference of my denomination. Why don't you come as my guest?"
I didn't have to think long before I replied, --I would like that!
After changing some appointments and driving nearly 40 miles through a foot of blowing snow, I arrived at the overflowing church parking lot.
Could he have just been inviting me to be polite a I thought as I approached the door. The thought fled as I entered and there he was just inside waiting. "I am glad you came. I was about to think the snow might have discouraged you."
He escorted me to an assigned seat and then he made his way to the pulpit area.
After the normal church program, he was intro-duced. Standing to the side of the pulpit, he laid his arm thereon, and before he started his address, he said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, before I preach I want you to meet my friend. He is not a Southern Baptist, but he is a servant and we are in the same battle together. Dr. Loveless, would you please stand!”
Afterwards his message began with: "How do you build a great church?"
He forcefully projected his four points which I will never forget:
"You build a great church with a great preacher." "You build a great church with a great people." "You build a great church with a great passion." "You build a great church with a great program."
Now I am older, and God recently has given me more years for my life--after three years of operations and recuperation. I love just to sit and drink in conversations with God’s chosen ones. To feel with them the benefits they have had in serving the Lord because I have been so blessed.
I am now unable to do what I did in the "better days." But I want to continue to be faithful.
So if I stop you, it is because you impressed me as a servant still willing to aid the hurting and I needed you to bless me.
God continues to use great men and people willing to serve Him and enlist others to follow the same Christ. Then someday people will say of you, “He was one of my hero’s.”
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.”--Luke 4:18