On A More Personal Note

by Tom Wacaster

In 1982, after I had been preaching for ten years, I submitted an article to the Gospel Advocate for consideration under the title, “What I Have Learned After Ten Years of Preaching.” I did not attempt to present some scholarly research on the experience of preaching for a full decade; nor was it packed with an over abundance of scripture. It was, as this week’s title reflects, “on a more personal note.” Guy N. Woods was the editor of the GA at that time, and prior to the publication of that article he wrote me a kind letter expressing his sentiments regarding that article. It was not his policy to publish personal articles, i.e. articles that were more of a personal interest in nature. He then added these kind words (I am paraphrasing since I misplaced that letter many years ago): “After reading your article I felt that it had something in it that might benefit younger preachers like yourself. Not only was it instructive, but it was very warm and personal.” The article was published in the following month’s issue of the GA. His encouraging words to this young preacher no doubt played an important role in my desire to develop my writing skills. The simple fact that one of my articles was accepted for publication was uplifting; but that kind letter from brother Woods simply made my day!

So, what does a person mean when he says, “On a more personal note”? One online quote source had this: “Is it okay to use this phrase like the example below in changing the tone of an interview, for example, from work-related to something personal. As in: ‘On a more personal note, I enjoy reading books and traveling.’” (Author unknown). 

I have, for many years, viewed the church bulletin as an instrument for instruction as well as news of the local congregation. In fact, writing a weekly article is simply an extension of my work as a preacher. So when I came to Handley I was thrilled that I actually got two and a half pages of space in which to write a weekly article. I have now written more than 250 articles in this bulletin since coming on board at Handley. You may not realize it but the number of words in those 250 plus articles are the equivalent of two full size novels. On a few occasions I have dug out an older article that I wrote in previous years, reworked it, and then shared it with my readers in hopes that I might stimulate their thinking on some particular subject. Having said all that, let me deviate from my typical “instructive” style of writing, and share with you some things “on a more personal note.”

First, on a more personal note, consider the loud calls for “change” in our society today. “Change” seems to be the battle cry for this modern age. Eight years ago it was “hope and change.” Today it is “any kind of change is better!” We might be tempted to associate the word with the trumpet call of the political liberals, environmentalists, and community organizers. But the religious world has not escaped this clamor for change. Even among our so-called brethren of the liberal mindset, change has become the battle cry of those who are determined to restructure the Lord’s church into just one more religious group in a sea of confusion and diversity. To be sure, not all change is bad. But the kind of change we address here is change that will diametrically altar the Lord’s church as we know it. Compromise is not the answer, nor is a radical restructure the panacea to our problems. A few years back brother Steve Higginbotham shared this interesting quote from Dr. Wayne Dehoney, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention: “A closer look at the churches of Christ would hardly reveal that their brand of religion is on the downgrade! This fast-growing group is one of the most potent missionary and evangelistic forces in the country. Their congregations are flourishing, and new churches are continually being established. A profile of faith and practice contradicts practically every ‘solid conclusion’ by the authorities of the main-line denominational establishments about the renewal the church must experience to ‘survive.’  The churches of Christ are anti-ecumenical in their relationships; conservative in their theology; autonomous and democratic in their congregational structure; they make rigid moral and ethical demands on their members in such matters as social drinking; they are not ‘social action’ oriented; they have a ‘messianic complex’ of being the true people of God and the true church!  All of these factors combine to give them a high motivation, an unquenchable zeal, and an inescapable compulsion to win the world to an acceptance of their convictions and beliefs. And they are growing rapidly.”  I might argue with Dr. Dehoney as to exactly how rapidly we are growing when compared to forty years ago, but with regard to the overall description of our zeal and motivation, and especially our distinctiveness, he is right on target. What I find curious about the cries for change within the brotherhood is the fact that the kind of change some are demanding will actually destroy our distinctiveness, the very characteristic that has brought growth to the Lord’s church through the years. Why is it that some of our “learned” brethren want to compromise the truth, soften our positions on doctrinal matters, and apologize for our exclusiveness? Paul told us that he was “not ashamed of the Gospel; for it is the power unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). Is it possible that some of our brethren are ashamed of that Gospel, and who now want to change the face of the church so as not to offend others?

Second, on a more personal note, I have learned in the last year or so the value of the greatest “support group” in the world. I speak, of course, of the Lord’s church. I do not consider myself old, a term that is, no doubt, relative in many respects. Some of you are much older than myself; some much younger. I have my aches and pains; but compared to so many others my aches and pains are insignificant. Your encouragement to me and Johnnie Ann over the last twelve months has been a strength and a joy that words simply cannot express in a way that would convey what lies deep within our hearts. Johnnie Ann is still not “out of the woods” so to speak, and this past week’s appointment with her doctor was not all that encouraging. Uncertain of what is still in store, we continue to lean upon the brethren for strength, and take refuge in our God Who can do far beyond what we ask of think.

Third, on a more personal note, I never cease to be amazed at the wonderful providence of God. Johnnie Ann has a wonderful young counselor who comes once or twice a week for therapy sessions with her. Over the last couple of months we have had opportunity to discuss the Bible. I have given her passages that reveal a stark contrast between the religion of her fathers and that which appears in the pages of inspired writ. I think her eyes have been opened to some degree. But the point right here is this: had Johnnie Ann never developed hydrocephalus, this young lady might never have come in contact with the truth. We are both praying that she will have a good heart and be obedient to the will of God.

Fourth, on a more personal note, I have learned that the older I get the harder it is to pack boxes, juggle schedules, and go through the enormous amount of paper work it takes to sell one’s house and purchase another. Having put the house on the market, and now having made an offer on another house, we find ourselves scrambling to find a place to lay our heads and store our “stuff” during the interim between closing on one house (May 6th) and finalizing the sale on the second (May 14th). We consider this another “adventure” in the roller coaster ride of life.

Finally, on a more personal note, our sincere thanks to all of the members of the Handley congregation for your longsuffering for this aging preacher, your encouragement when Johnnie Ann and I get down, and your compliments on my sermons, even when I feel I could have done better.  It is great to be a member here at Handley; it is even greater to be privileged to stand in the pulpit from week to week and share with you the unsearchable riches of Christ.