by: Jeff Lines
The room was crowded with engineers at the Jamestown, New York Cummins Diesel Engine plant. Corporate VPs were rolling out the first stages of concepts that would radically change forever the world of manufacturing. These were concepts we would later come to know as, “Pull Manufacturing,” “Just-In-Time” and a radical statistical process control called, “Six Sigma.” I could see that my work load was about to explode. Right then, on a piece of note paper I wrote the words, “You can’t have two careers.”
“Well then,” I said to the LORD, “What should I do?”
“What is most important?” were the words that came to mind.
I decided at that conference table that service to God would be the ultimate focus of my life. Nothing ranks higher than the care for the souls of men. It has proved to be the best decision of my life (aside from salvation and marriage).
Allow me to explain the background…
I was a man with a promising career in Manufacturing. I had followed my Dad in his love for a career in manufacturing. I had been given some great opportunities provided by his connections and reputation. At one point, I was offered a position as Steel Products Engineering Manager at one of the Teledyne subsidiaries in the Nashville, TN area. That would have been a “break-out position” into the level of corporate management, but it entailed too much travel and too much entertaining, so I turned it down.
In November of 1982 I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Life was empty. Alone in a small back bedroom of a mobile home on a Sunday morning while listening to a preacher, I decided to give the LORD a chance to do something with my life. I would need to settle some issues doctrinally later, but one thing I knew: I was a changed man!
I accepted a position at Cummins Diesel Engine Company, but I was also a man with a second career. I was the youth director in our local church. I was putting most of my “off” hours into the ministry of the church. Truth was, I was finding it hard to concentrate on the new projects that were being introduced at Cummins. I fought hard to pay attention in meetings, but my focus was shifting every few minutes or so to the next outing, program or project at the church. Something had to give way to the other and I knew it.
As the Lord would have it, the earth was about to move under my feet in the next few weeks. My pastor called me into his office one afternoon and asked the following question, “Jeff, would you be willing to give me a week of your vacation to go with me to a place called Hammond, Indiana for a meeting called, ‘Pastor’s School’?” “I went there almost ten years ago” he said. “I learned more about church work in one week than I learned in all four years of college.”
I readily agreed to go with him. I was not a Fundamental Baptist at the time. I am sure that I really looked out of place with my long hair and odd clothing. I was not initially impressed with Bro. Hyles, his bombastic style, and tongue-in-cheek swagger, but I was totally impressed by the enormity of the work. The more I listened, the more my heart softened. Then came Thursday night. I still remember how it began…
“What you gonna preach tonight, Bro. Jack?”
“I don’t know, Dr. John.” “I’ll just wait and see which way you go and go another direction.”
“Bro. Jack, preach on…This Kind.”
About an hour later, I was one among thousands who were at the altar weeping and begging God to use their lives in a miraculous way. It was in that meeting that God instigated the change that would further impact my life like no other. I decided to sell my home, relocate my family almost 1000 miles into an apartment in Gary, IN, and cram my four years into six years at Hyles-Anderson College. I remember with a solemn holiness the tears that formed in my wife’s eyes as she sweetly submitted to the news upon my return. A preacher’s wife was not what she signed up for when she married me…so she thought.
Shortly after I returned from Hammond the second time, our church dismissed my pastor because he was taking a stand for soul winning, bus routes, biblical standards and eventually even the King James Bible. I have yet to see any group of people any more full of malice than that group in New York. I watched a good man and his family gracefully take a spiritual beating.
Suddenly, I was a man without a church. We looked for a fundamental Baptist Church to attend in the local phone book. I, my wife and two daughters appeared at the front door of the Jamestown Bible Baptist Church bright and early on the next Sunday Morning.
“Are you missionaries?” said the pastor.
“No” I said. “We have had to leave our church. We need to find a place to attend until we can make our move to allow me to begin Bible college.”
“Oh, where are you going?” asked the pastor.
I said, “We are moving to a place called Hammond. It is just south of Chicago. I am going to attend Hyles-Anderson College.”
The next few weeks and months were wonderful. I owe a great debt to that unselfish pastor, Ron Owens and his wife, Penny. I said that he was unselfish because he could have used his influence to try to encourage me to stay at his church and “train” me for the ministry. Instead, he spent the time we had together preparing me for college as a married man. That was his story too. He had done just that himself. His advice was nothing less than sage. He spared a very innocent family loads of heartache along the way.
His church was never large church. They struggled for many years. Some may not consider him successful as some men count success, but he had a great part in all the thousands that I and my church had a chance to win over the years. He also has had a part in all of the influence that my teaching at Texas Independent Baptist Seminary will have on future churches. I believe God is very pleased with his life.
If there are any men who happen across this article having felt the tug of the LORD on your heart for this thing called, “The Ministry.” I would ask that you give me a serious hearing. I think I can help you.
I am going to suggest that you do five things:
1. Choose a college to attend that is attached to a strong local IFB church. This church and college should be one where the pastor and staff is thoroughly interested in building you and not using your zeal and labour to build an empire.
Resist the urge to stay in your local church and study correspondence or online. I understand that there are some programs with great material and impressive teachers, but they cannot provide you with the benefits you will receive from moving to an actual school. Take those classes after a four-year degree if you feel the need. There is biblical precedent for Bible colleges.
It appears from Scripture that the prophetic order was founded upon the authority of Deuteronomy 18:16-22. God promised a succession of prophets whom He would empower to speak for Him. The first unnamed prophet after Moses appears in Judges 6 when Israel is in distress of the Midianites. The next party we see referred to as a prophet is Samuel. It is during the time that Israel is transitioning from judges to kings that God seems to begin to stress the need for multiple prophets. It is during the lifetime of Samuel that we see a collection, or some might say, a school of prophets.
The first mention of bands of prophets is found in 1 Samuel 10:2-5, when Saul met a group of prophets coming down from the high place. In 1 Samuel 19:20 we see mention of a company of prophets and Samuel as appointed head over them. In 1 Kings 18:4, we see Obadiah hiding 100 prophets in two caves when Jezebel was intent on destroying them. 1 Kings 22:6 finds a company of about 400 prophets called by the king for a war counsel. 2 Kings 2:15 and 16 mention fifty of the sons of the prophets. 2 Kings 4:38-44 finds a man bringing enough to serve 100 sons of the prophets who were eating together.
In 1 Samuel 19:18-19, we see David and Samuel with the sons of the prophets in Naioth in Ramah. “Naioth” is plural and means “Dwellings.” These were most likely the college dorms. In 2 Kings 6:1-2, we find that their number had grown and they needed larger accommodations. This prompted one of the students to drop the borrowed axe of swimming fame during construction. In 2 Kings 4:38-44, we find them eating a common, although deadly, meal. In 2 Kings 4:1-7, we see the widow of a married student with children in need of an “oily” miracle from her pastor.
It seems that the best plan is a very old plan where men separate from the world and gather themselves under the leadership of prophets to learn the office of a prophet. No need to reinvent the wheel when the old wheel still moves the process along as well as it ever did.
2. Sever all ties to your current career. Move your family to a different location.
“So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him. And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee? And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.” (1 Kings 19:19-21)
Elijah may have been preaching a meeting in the area when the heart of Elisha was touched by the message. When the mantle was cast upon him, Elisha responded as Elijah had hoped. Elisha made known his call and made a wiser choice than maybe even he knew at the time; he severed all ties with his career: He burnt the plow and served up the oxen to his family and friends. Elisha made the statement that he was “all in.” That act does not suggest that he never stood behind a plow again, but the hands on the plow were the hands of a prophet and not a farmer. When he went after Elijah, there was no “Back” to go back to.
Once the decision has been made to surrender, a called man should plan to make a move and sever all the ties he has to his former career. There are several good reasons to move in order to train. First, there will be lots of pressure you will endure in Bible college which will prepare you by giving mental toughness and fortitude that you will need as a man of God. Second, if you remain in your home church and are still comfortable in a career, you will not have the benefit of the same kind of pressure. Third, the Bible teaches us that our heart will follow our treasure. Investment in a move and loss of career will make the investment of college training very dear to your heart. Fourth, relocation sets a sort of mental line of demarcation. It makes a personal statement that says, “I am a preacher who builds tents once in a while, and not a tentmaker who preaches.” Fifth, you will develop friends of a lifetime. You will become a band of brothers. Sixth, your wife will suffer immeasurably without it. Your wife will hopefully get some good training from staff wives and women who will not only become mentors, but also become part of the network of friends she will need when her pastor husband is unable to help.
3. Work to become a faithful and productive Christian.
Once you arrive at your new church, dig in and work at becoming a productive church member. Be industrious. Teach a Sunday school class. Be an active soul winner. Do not wait to be “in the ministry” when you have a position. Do the work, and the position will follow. It doesn’t make sense for God to send a lazy person somewhere else to be lazy.
4. Stay put until you finish.
Resist the temptation to leave early. There will probably come an opportunity to leave school to take a position that either you design or someone designs for you. In my fourth year I saw all of my unmarried friends ready to graduate. I was tired and anxious to finish. I had two more years to go. I sat up an appointment to see Bro. Hyles to suggest that since I was almost 40 that I should go ahead and leave college to get on with my ministry. Very kindly he said, “I know that you would really like to go, and you might make it, but you will someday be sorry that you didn’t finish. I think you will be able to do far more for the Lord if you graduate.” I finished. He was right.
God is still in the business of calling men to the ministry. There are still a few really good churches with sound Bible colleges to attend. It is still a far better plan for a man to choose a ministry in which to subject himself for training, sever himself from his career, relocate to that church, and finish his training under the watchful and helpful eyes of those who will love his family and prepare them for the greatest work in the world. Bible colleges will never be able to teach you everything you need, but they can give you a head start.
I can’t speak for all of the institutions in the country, but I can speak for the one where I serve. If God leads you to check us out, I am sure you will find that we will do our best at Texas Independent Baptist Seminary and Schools to offer you all the tools and support you will need. Zeal and knowledge are a powerful combination. In the words of my mentor, and arguably the greatest trainer of preachers since the Apostle Paul… “We don’t use our people to build our work; we use our work to build our people.”
Texas Independent Baptist Seminary