The last sit down face-to-face conversation I had with my Dad before he passed away was June 5, 2010. I had been asked by my good friend, David Decker, to speak for the Georgia School of Preaching Lectureship in Atlanta. I decided to fly into Birmingham, have lunch with Dad (if he was available), then drive over to Atlanta. He was available and we met at Chick-fil-A for lunch. As it turned out, we were able to sit and visit for a couple of hours. It was a memorable visit for a number of reasons.
Looking back on our visit, it seems obvious to me now that Dad was not well. He seemed tired and, for the first time in my life, he seemed old. I had no idea that in about four months he would be gone. If I had only known, I would have attempted to visit with him for several more hours. There is so much I want to talk to him about, even now (If you have loved ones you want to talk with, do it now! You never know when it will be your last chance).
Dad asked about Laura and the children, we discussed our work with the church, and talked about upcoming speaking engagements. Then I asked Dad if we could talk a little about the Jenkins family history. In recent years, I’ve wanted to learn more about our family heritage (I guess it’s an age thing). Particularly, I was interested in hearing about my great-grandmother.
Dad had told me the story about his grandmother before, but I asked him to tell me again to the best of his memory. I will not give you all the details, but here is to the best of my memory what he told me. I am sure that some of my relatives can fill in some of the blanks in this story. I would love to hear their comments. By the way, I asked Dad if I could publish this story in Thoughts From the Mound. He said, "That would be great, but could you please wait until after my lectures at PPP. I want to tell the story there and I don't want those preachers to fall asleep because they've already read the story:)
Big Mama (the family name for my great-grandmother) was an amazing woman. She had been a Christian, but she married a man who was not a Christian. She went to worship with God’s people on a regular basis, but when the children came along, it was more difficult.
Her husband did not want her to go, and he made it extremely hard for her. On one occasion, he rigged the car so it wouldn’t start, so she walked to church. She spoke once about a Gospel meeting taking place in the local church and she attended. She heard the preacher talk about the need for faithfulness to God and about faithfulness in attending all the services.
She made up her mind then to attend no matter what. One night, as she was leaving, her husband was trying to get her not to go. As she was leaving, she heard him whipping the children. The children were crying for her, but she went on. She stated that she did not get much out of the service that night.
When she returned home, he had locked the door, and all the lights were out. She didn’t know what he might have done to the children. She knocked on the door but he wouldn’t let her in. She hollered in and said, “Arthur, I’m going to get the constable.” He finally let her in.
The next morning she went out to the field where he was working. She said, “Arthur, I don’t know what you are going to do to me, but I want you to know, I’ve made up my mind and nothing is going to keep me from going to worship God. I am going to put him first in my life.” (Dad also tells about another Christian woman whose husband held a gun to her head when she was on the way to worship. He reportedly said, “Where are you going now?” She responded, “If you pull the trigger, I’m going to Heaven, if you don’t I’m going to worship!”)
Some time after that, on a Sunday morning, she was getting ready for worship, and she noticed that he was getting ready also. He went to worship with her that morning and stood outside the building (I have been told that back through the years sometimes men would stand outside the building and not go into the worship service). He listened from outside and when the invitation song was sung, he went inside, walked down the aisle, and was baptized into Christ for the remission of his sins.
He spent the rest of his life in faithful service to the Lord. One of their children was my grandmother. More than twenty Gospel preachers have come from my great grandmother’s family. There are this many men preaching the Good News about Jesus today because one godly, faithful woman made up her mind to go to worship, regardless of the cost.
Occasionally someone will ask, “Is it really important to attend worship? Do I have to attend all the services of the church?” When I think about people who choose to stay away from worship because of a sporting event or a school activity, because they want to go hunting, fishing, or golfing, because visitors are coming into town, because they’re tired from working all day, because they want to watch some television show, or a long list of other excuses that people give, it is both mind-boggling and heartbreaking.
Will we really choose to miss the opportunity to encourage and edify others by being together (Hebrews 10:24-25)? Is it worth missing out on a chance to grow in our walk with God (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18) by failing to attend Bible study or worship? What about showing our love to the Lord for what He has done for us (1 John 4:19)?
We are not talking here about people who are sick, shut-in, or because of some legitimate reason can’t attend worship and Bible study. We are talking about people who choose to place other things or people above the Lord. We are talking about people who claim that they love Jesus, but allow anything and everything to keep them away from worship.
Christian friend, may I encourage you to think seriously about your attitude toward worshipping and studying with God’s people? There are people who attend that can benefit greatly from your encouragement. The church needs your presence. You need to be with other Christians in a worship setting. You need to study God’s Word with the Church. You need to express your gratitude to Christ for all that He has done for you. You need to feast at the table of the Lord with your Savior and with His people.
Dear Father in Heaven, please help us to think soberly about our attitudes about worshipping with Your people. Help us, dear God, to show our love for You and our concern for others by choosing to worship with the Church. Father, help us to know that our presence is a great source of encouragement and strength to others. May we understand that one of the ways we can grow in our faith is by being present when Your people have gathered. In the Name of our Savior, Amen.