Ms. Helen and Uncle Roy

I graduated in 1995 from Tennessee Temple University. On the day of my graduation it was announced that I had won the Lee Roberson Award for Ministry and Topical Preaching. Lee Roberson was a spiritual giant. I still count it an incredible honor that I won the award that bears his name. To this day I cherish the picture that I have with Dr. Roberson following the ceremony. It hangs in my office. However, I must confess that I have preached only a handful of topical sermons in 15 years of ministry. I preach expository sermons. It is not Dr. Roberson’s fault. I am not rebelling. In fact I only preached a topical sermon at the time because it was an assignment for a class. I had to do it, but somehow I won. I don’t know who the first runner up in 1995 was, but I am sure if the committee reviewed my track record they would strip me of my crown and bestow the duties to the next in line.

A few weeks after I graduated my Uncle Roy asked me if I would come to Crossville, TN and preach at his church. My Uncle Roy is probably going to factor in greatly to the first 6.5 years of my first 15 so you are going to hear about him more than once. I have some awesome uncles and aunts on both sides of the family. Yet somehow I probably have a greater arsenal of Uncle Roy stories than I do accounts of the rest of them. My Uncle Roy was a cross country truck driver and an avid fisherman. Take the vocabulary of a truck driver and combine it with the exaggeration of a fisherman and you have my Uncle Roy. Honestly, I had no idea he went to church. I knew my Aunt Geneva did, but Uncle Roy? Miracles never cease!

Lantana Road Baptist in Crossville had lost its pastor and to put it lightly the congregation had a challenging history. Through poor leadership, family loyalties, and misguided Baptist polity the church that had existed barely 20 years at the time already had 4 decades worth of disappointment. Somehow a core of 30 faithful saints survived, one of which was my Uncle Roy. He asked me to come to LRBC and preach. The prospects of fishing with him for a weekend only sweetened the deal so I gladly went.

Because of my TTU preaching classes I had a few sermons in the sling. I refined two of them and shared them in the Sunday morning and Sunday night services at LRBC. I remember walking to my truck across the graveled parking lot, laying my jacket on the bench seat and beginning to undo my tie when a very thin, very frail looking elderly lady approached me and in a very direct way said, “Would you be interested in becoming our pastor?” I looked her in the eye and without taking a breath said, “No ma’am, I’m headed to seminary in Louisville, KY. I am going to be a chaplain in the Air Force.” That lady was Helen Hobson. She was an a-millennial saint of God. She never married. She was a fireball of a personality and even more so for Jesus. Needles to say she stood toe to toe with me on some theological issues and I loved every minute of it. She always supported me. I know she prayed for me, and like many people along the way, she fanned the flame of my call.

I don’t know what Helen said to God, but I know she didn’t listen to what I said to her. I’m not surprised. She never did. I mean that in a good way. But to make a long story short I did go to seminary in Louisville in the Fall of ’95. I did not stay long. I never became an Air Force Chaplain. On October 13, 1996 I became Ms. Helen’s pastor.

Sometimes God uses unexpected people to steer your life. There is the way you want to go and then there is the way God wants you to go. He sends you these messages through unexpected voices; truck drivers, fishermen, and determined ladies who will not take “No” for an answer. We all need a Helen Hobson and an Uncle Roy. You need one to build in you a library of great stories. You need the other to keep you grounded. Yet, there is more to this story which includes an apple crate and a Cartersville. I will begin to share those episodes next.


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