It was the fall of 1981 and I was taking “Cool Coleman Crocker” as my friend Van called him, for Personal Evangelism. Brother Crocker would walk in every day to class singing. He was one of a kind. He missed one day of the class and his sub was Leonard Johnson. I’d never met Brother Johnson but his reputation preceded him. He had preached for 60 years and was one of the founders of Alabama Christian College (now Faulkner University). He had also spoken in chapel earlier that day and had made quiet an impression. Hope you don’t mind if I tell that story before I get to the point of this little bit. Brother Johnson had to be 80 and I’m not sure why he was allowed by SACS to still be teaching. He was introduced in chapel and he stood up verrryyy slowly.
He had a cane and “ricketed” (if it’s not a word, it should have been coined that day) his way to the podium. He was stooped so badly we all felt awful for the old man. When he got to the stage. He adjusted his glasses and he squinted out over the audience. He started (I wish I could quote it verbatim), “When you get my age...” he paused a heavy breath for effect. “You can just can’t do what you used to when you’re younger.” Another long pause, the poor fellow was fading fast. “At least that’s what the school says, they tell me I have to retire this year...” Suddenly he stood very erect and took his cane and threw it on the stage behind him. A liveliness filled his voice. “Why, I can only break a few wild stallions a year, and can’t chop more than a cord of wood without taking a break. I can only run a few miles at a time and do 100 pushups and situps every morning before I get out of bed.” I don’t remember his point that day ---- but I suspect the school did! :)
Later that day when he walked into class he was already a hero. The class was simple and to the point. He read John 3:16 and then this master teacher said: “The key to being a great teacher is simple. It is not degrees, or prestige, it isn’t being aloof and apart. The key to being a great teacher is to love your students.” He explained and showed how that was the model of Christ and was to be the model of His followers.
It was one of those lines that has stayed with me throughout my life. “Love your students.”
That’s a huge key to an awful lot of things. The key to being an effective minister, youth minister, personal worker, spouse, disciple, brother, sister - Love. It is the great commandment and the second great commandment (Matthew 22:37-40). It is the mark of discipleship (John 13:44). It is that by which you can tell if someone loves God (1 John 4:20). It is what abides (1 Corinthians 13). Love never fails. Love covers a multitude of sins (Proverbs 10:12).
I’ve known men who were boring presenters who loved “their congregation” and were successful in ministry. I’ve known amazingly captivating preachers who the people did not feel loved by who failed. I’ve know liberal preachers who’s ministry appeared successful who loved the congregation and I’ve know liberal guys who seemed disconnected from their people who struggled to keep a job. I’ve known highly intelligent professors who seemed to love the church who were successful and known highly “scholared” guys didn’t become a part of people’s lives who seemed to flounder. It seems to work all the way around.
Maybe Brother Johnson was correct! I know God is!