Friday, October 27, 2006

Road Trip and Witness

Last week I took an interesting trip with my mother and younger son, who was on fall break from college. My mother has been a caregiver for my stepfather for quite a while, and she needed a break.

We drove from Memphis to Little Rock last Thursday and met some of her former classmates from Ouachita Baptist University for lunch at the Peabody Hotel. Later we toured the Clinton Presidential Library (which is really a museum).

On Friday we drove to Fort Smith to visit one of her friends that she had not seen in a long time, and then we went to Fayetteville to see the University of Arkansas campus. I’ve been a Razorback fan for a while, but I had never visited the campus. Mother taught Ken Hatfield at Helena Central High School in the early 60s, so she was excited when he became head coach for the Razorbacks. When I was a pastor in Kentucky, Houston Nutt was head coach at Murray State University, and he spent some time with my older son teaching him the quarterback position at a clinic. I was really impressed with Coach Nutt, so I was excited for him when he became head coach for the Razorbacks.

Later on Friday we drove to Eureka Springs—a beautiful, quaint, picturesque place in the Ozarks. I had not been there since I was a boy. We visited some of the shops on Saturday morning, watched the Razorbacks beat Ole Miss on TV in the afternoon, and attended the outdoor Passion Play Saturday night. A cold front had come through during the afternoon, but fortunately we had plenty of warm clothes and blankets.

On Sunday we drove back to Memphis. I arrived back in time to go to church visitation on Sunday afternoon, and I had two good visits. The second visit was interesting. The man had been a caregiver for a long time, and I admired his perseverance. Before I shared the gospel with him, he said that he was basing his salvation on good works. If God asked him why He should let him into His heaven, he said that he would say that he had been a “really good” person. I then explained the gospel. I clearly told him that we are not saved by good works, quoting Ephesians 2:8-9. After I explained the plan of salvation, he said, “I’ve already done that.”

Since arriving back from South Korea about a year ago, I have been able to lead many more African-Americans than Caucasians to Christ. I shared the gospel with an African-American woman a couple of weeks ago at the University of Memphis, and it was quite easy to lead her to Christ. The African-Americans in Memphis seem to be much more responsive to the gospel at the present time than are Caucasians. I’m not sure what the reasons for that are. The Southern Baptist churches here have been suffering loss for the past couple of decades. The average Sunday School attendance for churches in the local association was about 33,000 in 1980. The latest stats I could find (2003) showed that the average attendance had declined to 27,000. I don’t think there is any easy, simple solution to this problem of decline.