"My Call to Preach"
“Johnny, I want you to be a preacher” was the words I heard God speak when I was only nine years old. The voice was more than in my ears, it was in my whole being. We have surround sound, but this was more than that. It was in my hearing, in my mind, and my whole being.
That one experience shaped my life from that point on.
I grew up on a cattle ranch in West Texas. I was the last of six children. “The Place” which was what my dad called our ranch, was twelve miles from a small town of about five thousand people.
One day I had gotten home to an empty house so I went outside to see where my parents were. As I walked out beyond the barn and the corrals, I heard God speak to me, at least that was a nine-year-old boy’s impression.
I well remember how frightened I was. I ran to the ranch house with its high ceilings and cool inside. I feel the fright in my memory today. I still sense the beating of my heart, the gasping for breath, and the pounding of my pulse in my ears.
My mother was a woman of faith, but we didn’t go to any particular church. When we did go it was to different churches. We were not members of any one church. This dramatic and overpowering experience sent me into conflict.
I always wanted to be a part of the group.
Even at that young age, I was aware of what happened when a pastor came up to a group of men. The men would change the subject as they cut out vulgar jokes or bad language.
I wanted no part of that separate way of life. I did not want a way of life that would isolate me, or make me an exception. I felt it would limit my relationships with those I admired or from whom I needed approval. That to me would be a fate worse than death.
So I stonewalled God and went my own way. Instead of yielding to the call of the Lord, I resisted the call.
I did not tell anyone about it until I was in the tenth grade of high school. I did not want anyone to know that I felt a call to enter, the ministry.
God continued to talk to me. I felt the conviction of wrong so that I could not take his name in vain as others did. I could not tell vulgar stories or steal from stores as others of my friends did. I was resisting God, yet he was giving me spiritual thoughts in my mind. Even sermons would come to me from the realm of the spirit.
When I would lay in my bed at night, conviction and insight would come to me. I tried to suppress them because I knew they would keep me from what I wanted to follow, my brother who was an outstanding athlete. He would have gone into professional baseball if he was not drafted into the military for World War II.
When I would play baseball with him, go to his games, and do batting practice, I knew that I could make it big time.
The thought of life as a preacher was pure death for me. I pursued my dream life as much as I could until the tenth grade in high school.
My aunt who could not drive had a new car and she asked me to drive her to church. At my mother’s urging, I drove Aunt Ida Dix to her church with its small congregation. And get this; she wanted to go to Sunday school and morning worship.
The teacher was Mrs. Leona Hudson who loved the Lord, fasted, and prayed as she read the word of God. It was only the third time I had gone to her class which she held in the house of the pastor. She asked me to stay after the class as her foot closed the door behind her.
I stood there before her with no way of getting out of that room. She was holding her Bible in arms which were crossed from shoulder to shoulder.
She looked straight into my eyes and said, “Johnny, I have been praying for you and the Lord told me that he has called you to be a preacher, is that right?”
As I remember, the floor moved, the walls swayed, and I was so shocked that I could not speak. I looked at the floor and nodded my head.
She put one of her arms around my shoulder and with the other one she held that big old Bible. Then she prayed that I would yield to the will of the Lord. After that, she and I walked to the church service after which I drove my aunt home.
Soon after that experience, there was a series of revival services.
At the end of the Sunday night service, the preacher gave an appeal for anyone not serving the Lord to come forward and confess him. I stood there fighting the Holy Spirit’s conviction. Then someone put a hand on my shoulder, looking up into her eyes, there stood Leona Hudson.
She said, “Johnny, I’ll go with you if you will go up there to the altar.” That altar looked miles away and awful to behold.
At the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the support of this spiritual woman, I took the first step. This was the beginning of me obeying the call that I had hidden for all those years.
I confessed Jesus Christ as the Son of God and my Lord and Savior. At that moment, I was born-again.
The change was dramatic.
Before that night I opposed spiritual things. Immediately I became the most devoted Christ-follower. I attended church every time they opened the doors. I read the Bible, prayed, and witnessed to his saving grace. My resistance to the call of God melted and was replaced with a Holy Spirit-infused love for doing the will of the Lord.
What I hated I now loved and what I loved was now hated.
This sense of call has dominated my life from then until this very time. My efforts, education, reading, family, goals, have all been subjected to this overwhelming call of God in my life.
Did a nine-year-old hear from the God who created the universe?
Judge me by the over sixty years that have passed.
By my devotion to following that call.
By my rejection of other paths that life offered.
By how my own family sees my lived-out life.
By every measure, I have lived as though I heard that call. If I did not hear it, then at least I have lived as though I did hear it.