After announcing my call to the gospel ministry, one of my first assignments was to supply the pulpit at the Fellowship Baptist Chapel in South Shore, Ky. At that time, Fellowship was a mission of Rose Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Ashland, Ky.
The small number of believers attending Fellowship met in a house that had been converted into a worship center. Space was limited, so the mission church, along with the mother church, agreed something needed to be done. They partnered to make plans to build a worship center on the property. Construction soon began, and within the anticipated amount of time, the project was completed.
The mission now had a new building that needed to be dedicated and celebrated. I had just become its new interim pastor, so it became my duty to plan the dedication worship service. I remembered hearing a heartwarming testimony by Benton Williams, who was serving in the Missions and Church Services division of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. I hoped Benton might share that same testimony with our mission during our dedication. Benton quickly and enthusiastically agreed to come. A date was agreed upon, and Benton became our featured speaker for the celebration.
As you might guess, it is not the dedication service that I want to call your attention to, but rather to the testimony given by Benton. Keep in mind these events date back to the early 1990s. I do not have a manuscript of all that Benton said, so I do not have exact quotes. Nevertheless, the testimony made such an impact on me, what I write will be accurate.
According to Benton’s resume, he had the opportunity to lead in three revivals and ministry workshops in Bangkok, Thailand. I believe it was during one of these times that the events that I will describe to you took place. While preaching in a church in Thailand, there was a man who had walked five miles to come hear Benton preach the gospel. Benton said the man’s feet were wrapped in newspaper because he had a form of leprosy and did not want to bleed openly on the floor.
The man listened intently as Benton told the gathering that night about the man Christ Jesus. He heard Benton proclaim that if you accept Jesus as Savior, you can be forgiven of all your sins.
After preaching the good news, Benton offered an evangelistic invitation. As Bobby Welch once implored, “Preach the gospel and give an invitation.”
Benton did exactly that.
As a result of the message about Christ, this dear man walked the aisle during the invitation with a question bearing on his heart. The man stood in front of Benton, and inquired with tears in his eyes, “Sir, is what you have said about this man Christ Jesus true?” Benton then responded, “I believe it to be true with all my heart.” The man then said, “If it is true what you said about the man Christ Jesus, I want to accept Him as my Savior.” Benton at that point, put his hand on the man’s shoulder, and gently led him to faith in Christ.
After the service, Benton thought — “This fellow has walked five miles to get to this service tonight, and I do not want to see him walk five miles back home,” Benton concluded inwardly. “Because of Cooperative Program giving, I have had all my shots, I am not afraid of contracting some illness. Therefore, I am compelled to offer this man a ride home.”
Benton thought — “The car I am driving was purchased with Lottie Moon Christmas Offering funds, and I am sure the Baptist people who are responsible for the purchase of the car would want me to do as much.” Immediately, Benton offered this dear man a ride home, and the man quickly accepted the offer.
Both men got into the car purchased with Lottie Moon Christmas Offering dollars, and Benton drove this dear new convert to his modest home. When they arrived at the man’s residence, Benton said, “I had never seen such poverty.” Tears began to well in his eyes as he thought about the conditions this man lived under every single day. The man gently opened the door of the car, but before closing the door, looked back at Benton and said, “Sir, this has been the best day of my life.”
This would be a great story if it ended there, but it does not. When Benton returned for a follow-up visit, he found this new convert working at the church where Benton had preached. When the man saw Benton, he ran to him and called Benton by name in the Thai language. Benton greeted him and inquired, “What’s going on, man?” He said, “You will never guess, they have given me a job here at the church! My job is to keep the church clean so that others can come to hear wonderful things about Jesus!”
I share this story with you because the theme for this month’s Western Recorder is Better Together, and I could not think of a better story to illustrate the theme other than the one I have just shared. It is a story of how Kentucky Baptists reach Kentucky and the world for Christ.
I have discovered three ways we can take the gospel to our world:
1. We can do it with our lives. We can live our lives before others as a child of God.
2. We can do it with our mouths. We can tell others verbally about the love of God in Christ Jesus.
3. We can do it financially. We can share our financial resources so others might be able to go.
I have a fondness for the word “fellowship.” I love the word not just because Fellowship Baptist Chapel was one of my first assignments as a pastor, but I love the word because of its meaning. It is taken from the Greek word “koinonia.” The noun form means the act of sharing because of a common interest. It represents to me what we do as Baptists.
We fellowship (koinonia) in the gospel through the Cooperative Program of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. We fellowship in the gospel because of our common interest in sharing with Kentucky and the world the old, old story of Jesus and His love.
Paul Badgett is regional consultant for the east region of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.