Friday, October 10, 2014


Robert LeTourneau was the exceptional man who invented a good percentage of the modern earth-moving equipment you see today. If you ever see one of those big scrapers with two wheels at the back, a huge scraper bucket, and two wheels and a motor at the front on a swivel, know that's called a "Tournapull".

Named after Robert you-know-who.

Anyway, the second-best thing he ever did ... and maybe the first ... is write an autobiography titled "Mover Of Men And Mountains". He was a contractor protege of Henry Kaiser, and prolific inventor. Also, he was one of the founders of the Christian Business Men's Committee, which you can read about here.

In his book, he recounts the story related to his first job. I don't recall the job, exactly, but his boss saw him sawing some pipe with a hacksaw. He noted he was using very short strokes on the pipe and the boss told him he was using only a small part of the teeth on the saw. "Use long strokes", he said, pointing out it was wise to use all the tool available to you. And it saved effort.

Expand the thought. You can use one tool for lots of things; you can use a screwdriver to remove a paint can lid, or to stir the paint, but not nearly as well or easily as with things designed for that purpose.

You can use pliers to tighten nuts & bolts ... rather than walk to the tool box to get the right wrench ... but sooner or later you're apt to ruin the nut or bolt, and you won't tighten or loosen them as well, with pliers, as with a wrench.

I'm sure you can think of other analogies which fit.

Confession time: I've always viewed the classic Baptist plan of enrolling people in Sunday School ... whether they were saved or not ... and then keeping in contact with them even when they're not attending ... with skepticism. I always viewed that as "badgering", and I didn't see any command in scripture instructing lost people to come to church, anyway. (Yes, I know about the passage about "compelling them to come in, but I think that was about Israel and the pagan world, not about the local church. And it resulted in some people being dressed in the wrong clothes and being cast out. )

But it now occurs to me that we need to use every tool in our toolbox to reach the lost.

Two things about the Baptist church had always bothered me. One was the emphasis on inviting lost folks (and others, of course) to join a Sunday School class, and make them members thereof. The other was the seeming Spiritual immaturity of so many Baptists that system had produced. The other thing was that, despite the Baptist emphasis in "Evangelism", that didn't seem to pan out in real life.

Probably 15 years ago, I noticed several disparate facts.

  • Baptists were generally scornful of "Calvinism", indicating that those doctrines were "anti-evanglistic" ... namely, if God sovereignly chooses those who are to be saved, then "why witness"?
  • Baptists emphasized evangelism.
  • The most popular evanglism "program" used even by Baptists ... "Exangelism Explosion" ... came from D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.
  • I had been approached by friends, and folks I'd just met, asking the "key question" ... "If you were to die tonight, do you know where you'd spend eternity"  ... many times since we'd been in Birmingham ... since 1975 ... but never once by a baptist! ALWAYS by a Presbyterian!   
  • That last fact is still true, today. 39 years later.

I have had to change my approach. I'm going to start bugging my class to invite anybody they come in contact with, to Sunday School. So what if most decline, and only some of the folks who do come get saved, or get discipled? That's still converts and disciples!

This change of mind came about via the reading of Thom Rainer's book "High Expectations". He pointed out therein that Sunday School was the biggest common factor among churches whose numbers proved they did the job of assimilating new members into the Body. In other words, churches which had "closed the back door".

As I recall, our own church has baptized about 50 people annually for the past 14 years, but our attendance now is in the 700-800 range. "High assimilation" churches generally saw an attendance increase that was greater than their increase in membership! Obviously, those churches were using every tool in the toolbox to "reach, teach, and minister". That's the motto of Don Dixon, our Administrative Pastor / Minister of Education

And yes, I'm still going to be encouraging and instructing the class on how to share their faith comfortably, easily, unashamedly, and in a logical manner. Without fear or regret.

 We're about to see how Don Dixon's motto works, with using all the tools we can get our hands ... and hearts ... on.


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