By: Dr. Jeff Fuller
Growing up in a downtown church I was brought up in the “decently and in order” type of worship. Though there were times we ventured into other churches where things were a little different, I do not remember because I was either too young or did not pay attention.
Those early days involved the ones on the maternal side of the family. They were “sangers” who would “pick and grin” and were more acclimated to the Pentecostal belief of exciting and expressive worship. Though one of my dear preacher brothers would have folks believe that “snake handling” is in my family tree, I deny such because: first, I would rather get away from a snake then examine its pedigree (as in run for my life); secondly, I am not a snake lover; thirdly, refer to the first point (if you ever see me running, it is because there is a snake somewhere within 2 miles of the area).
My goodness, this is the not the article about snake handling. I must write today about a remembrance of an exciting moment.
As young preacher, I was invited to a large country church to preach my first revival. It was a Baptist church, but it was what I refer to as a Sand Mountain country Baptist Church. The rules of decorum were quite different from what I was accustomed to as a preacher boy from the big downtown church.
I was scheduled to start the revival on Sunday morning, and it was the “old fashioned revival meeting” which would run through Friday night. I arrived early and met with the pastor and one of the deacons for prayer in the pastor’s study.
The pastor said, “Bro. Jeff we will start the service with altar call and then sing and you will preach. The Holy Spirit will do the rest.”
“That’s right. Amen! Hallelujah!” the deacon bellowed and most likely was heard at the town hall ten miles away.
I was shaking. Scared. Nervous. Did I tell you this was the first revival I was invited to preach in my short few years of ministry and the first time in a large country church? I was shaking so hard my teeth were chattering.
We walked down the long hall to the sanctuary, as drums and a bass guitar were warming up with a saloon style piano player. Bro, Shirey led me to the front pew and we sat down. Once I was seated there was a booming voice in my ear, from a man sitting on the next pew…
“Morning preacher, getting ready for a great service.”
I stood up, turned, and shook hands with an old friend of the family, County Commissioner Henry B. George.
He said, “I’m looking forward to a word from the Lord, this week.”
I replied, “Pray for me.”
We began with Bro. Shirey standing up from the pew, and saying, “All who will, can, come to the altar for altar prayer.”
Since I was sitting at the front, I was one of the first at the altar. Kneeling on both knees, hands folded, my head resting on my hands, I began to hear the shuffling and movement as it appeared the whole house full of people were making their way to the front. Bro. Shirey was beside me, arm around my shoulders; Commissioner George and his wife, Cat, were behind me, his rough hands on my back; others tightly gathering around at the altar of the Lord to plead and praise the name of a great, great God.
Oh, boy did they ever…
Bro. Shirey started with the simple words, “Our Father we bow…” and that is all I remember which was intelligible. You see, at this particular Baptist church when altar prayer was called for, everyone came to the altar and everyone prayed at the same time. Yes sir, I realized very quickly that this was not my big downtown church.
As they prayed, together at the same time, you heard some who were louder, others quieter, but not a word I could understand. Then again, they were not prayer to me or to be heard by anyone in that room.
This was an exciting moment in my life as a believer, as a young preacher boy. The prayers, though I could not understand, were being lifted to one who did understand. He heard the prayers of the righteous and He blessed that week in some wonderful, marvelous ways.
Yet, I must say I was quite confused. As I knelt at that old altar, if I had not been blocked in by the mass of churchgoers gathered around me, I would have run out in the front yard, checked the sign to see if this was really the Baptist church I was scheduled to preach to, and most likely run all the way back to Fort Payne.
Until next time…
(Dr. Jeff Fuller is pastor of Rockford Baptist Church. You may reach him through the church office at 256-377-4900 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)