Isaiah 58:1 "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my
people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins."
I went to church as a small boy of about ten, and guess you can say that my church experience was very limited to say the least. When we arrived at the door, just before going in I asked my Mama how much it cost to go in.
When we were seated and the singing was over, a man I had never seen got up and rolled up his shirt sleeves and read a little from the bible and prayed, I knew what praying was, and for about thirty or forty minutes he shouted at us and told us how mean we were and that we were all going to hell!
Well that was a new experience for me, all I knew were the bible stories my school teachers read to me and what I had read in a bible my grandmother had given me. I suppose I knew I was not a Christian and I figured I would maybe become one some day. But this man made it seem like I was going to drop thru a hole in the floor and fall directly into hell, where a devil with horns and a pitch fork would chase me all around in a giant fire and I would have to be there forever. He didn't tell me about the devil having a pitch fork, I already knew that.
My mother went up to the front at the end of the shouting that the man had done and all the rest of us stood and kept singing a song called Just as I am. We must have sung all the verses two or three times while this shouting man walked up and down the church aisle crying and telling folks they should come forward to be saved. I knew he was talking about being saved from that devil with the pitch fork, oh and I knew he was red all over except his horns and eyes and teeth. His pitch fork was black.
I remember my daddy standing there with his head kind of hanging down and with his eyes shifting all around and looking at everything except that man walking up and down the aisle. A big man that I knew as a cussing farmer went over to my dad and tried to pull him out from between the pews and my dad kept pulling back and shaking his head no. I remember thinking, Mr. my daddy is going to mash your nose any second now, but he didn't. But when we started home in our old car, my daddy put a cussing on that man and declared he would never step foot in that church again. I was glad, because being in there with them folks singing and that walking and crying was not much fun, it made me feel mighty bad.
But you know what happened, my daddy made me go back to that church with my Mama every time she went and that was every time they unlocked the doors! I imagine I heard that preacher shout those bible words at me several hundred times.
Every so often the church would have a revival and that meant I had to go every night, that was not much fun either, but at least my cousins had to go because their daddy, my uncle, made them go with their Mama too, but my uncle did not go. I never did think that was fair, but I didn't tell daddy that! I remember thinking if I ever grow up I ain't making my children go to no where like that, why that preacher would scare them to death, like he did me.
Well time moved on and that cussing farmer and some more men that cussed out to the country store, got together and voted that preacher right out of his shouting job. By that time that shouting preacher had gone out and rounded up a big herd of folks that came to church real regular. I remember mama would go early so we could get a good seat. But when they voted that shouting preacher out, Mama stopped going to church and I was tickled pink, why on Sunday morning I could play or go fishing and I was liking that!
I remember this fellow stood in a meeting and said that God would write something like Icabod over the church door and then walked out. I never saw nothing over the door. They tell me that nobody hardly ever goes to that church even now, imagine that!
But wait a minute, something was wrong. I thought when I didn't have to listen to the shouting preacher, I would stop being scared of that old devil and his pitch fork. For some reason, there were times when I could not think about nothing but that devil and going to hell! Why I got so scared I would cover my head in bed and cry, but I never told anyone about that. Well now, that just was not right, I was a pretty good boy, at least when Mama and daddy were watching me.
Some of those Sunday mornings when I was going down the road with my fishing pole and can of worms, I would see folks drive by and I knew they were going to church because they were dressed up. I didn't know why, but every time that happened I would start thinking about that devil and hell again.
One time a couple of preachers came by the house and Mama told me to go around to the front of the house and tell them she was not home. I did! I ran around front and said, "Mama said she ain't home." Mama was mad at me, but she taught me not to lie!
The years rolled on and I finally grew up and married and had a little boy of my own. When he was about six months old, for some reason I started reading that old bible again and I decided I needed to take my boy to Sunday school and church so he could learn about God.
Now I had decided by that time I didn't want to be a Christian, but I wanted to be a good daddy and I figured that I needed to take my son. I knew the church was full of hypocrites!
You know what, that church had one of them old shouting preachers too and I thought some one had told him about me. He shouted out every sin I had ever done and I thought he might call me by name a time or two. That was the day I understood about why daddy hung his head and would not look at that preacher, I did not want to look mine in the eye either. Every time I glanced up, that shouting preacher was looking me dead in the eye!
The first time I went was on a Sunday morning and guess what I went back that night and that shouting preacher from the hills of Tennessee was standing there at the end of the sermon crying and telling me I needed to come forward and be saved. There was I learned later, about three hundred folks there that night and that preacher picked me out of the crowd and started to talk to me about getting saved. Well he didn't call my name, but I knew that he was about to. I looked at my wife and she was crying and the mascara was running down her face and making an awful mess. She looked terrible and I supposed I did to, because I was crying too.
You know what happened, as the loving husband I knew I was, reached over and took her hand to comfort her, "SHE" stood up and I had to stand up too! By that time my old hard heart had broken and when she pushed a little at me to get out of the pew, I moved out and holding hands we went to that old fashion altar and got on our knees, but we didn't know what to do. A man came to me and a lady to her. They showed us what they called the Romans road in the bible and then lead us each in a short prayer.
It seemed like all those old scared times rolled away and I knew something had happened! Why, Why, I felt like a new man and if the floor had opened I knew I was not going to fall down into hell. I went home and cried all night and a week later me and my wife were baptized and you ain't believing this, we joined the church!
You know what, that was in 1971 on March 7th and about a year later I went to that same altar and told God I would be one of His shouting preachers and that is just what I have done for 34 years! Now I cry and beg folks to come forward and get saved while the church sings a song called, Just as I am.
Now doesn't that beat all and just think it all started in a little country church that had a lot of hypocrites in it too!
By the way I don't worry about that old red devil any more and I don't cover my head at night and cry.
I do cry a lot, but that is when I talk to my Lord, that saved an ignorant country boy and made him into a shouting preacher.
James Avery firstname.lastname@example.org
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