I went down front convicted and crying—slobbering all over the altar, which was the steps that led to the platform. I do not remember everything I said to the Lord, but there was a sense of anti-climax. I had already prayed all I knew to pray days and weeks before.
I got up from the altar, in tears, and approached “Brother Gerald” and told him that I believe God was “calling me into the ministry.” This way of becoming a preacher is the fundamentalist formula to go into full-time vocational ministry.
Gerald was standing on the platform since he was giving the “altar call.” I was facing him, with my back to the congregation. He smiled big and said, “Tell them,” as he pointed to the people. I turned around, and through blubbering words, I told them that God had called me into the ministry. This announcement was the first time that my wife had heard about our new future life. Whoa!! What could possibly go wrong that? If there were idiot pills, I would have overdosed.
The place erupted as everyone was grinning from ear to ear, shouting the praises of the Lord. I don’t remember what happened for the rest of that church meeting, other than pumping a bunch of hands and relishing in the aftermath of released angst. After most of the people left, I was sitting on the altar (steps) with (brother) Gerald. I asked him what I was supposed to do now. I never considered the next phase.
A Call to Prepare
I had focused my energies on surrendering. It never occurred to me that there were things to do afterward. Gerald told me, “A call to preach is a call to prepare, son.” Well, amen! I needed to go to college for training. There were two preacher boys from our church that had surrendered years earlier. I was the third one in ten years. One was in the pastorate already. The other one would be graduating that year. They went to a fundamentalist Bible College in Greenville, South Carolina. I had never heard of Greenville, South Carolina, even though it was only 135 miles away.
On the way home that night, I asked my wife what she thought about what I did. She said she was glad that I “surrendered” because I was making things unbearable at home. I did not know how the pressure of “the call” was hurting her or our home life. She was excited, though both of us were clueless.
My First Evangelistic Stop
Before arriving home, I decided to stop by my mother’s home, which was across the field from our double-wide mobile home. I wanted to witness to her, which meant to tell her about Jesus, hoping God would save her. She was not “living for the Lord,” and I was concerned for my family. Mother told me she had an experience with God a few years earlier.
She said she was standing at the front door of her home, looking toward the front yard when she saw the ground rise and the sky come down. Then something happened, the details of which I don’t remember. Because of that experience, she knew she was a Christian. I did not respond to what she said. Maybe I should have.
I went home and pondered all the events of the day in my heart. My life had just changed, and I had no idea what God had in store for us or the costs involved.