By Monte E. Wilson1
(Continued from part 1.)
“Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”
For the next few weeks I wrestled with what I should do with my life. Music did not appear to be the vehicle that was going to take me where I wanted to go. And where was that? I didn’t really know. All I knew was that I had to give my life to something bigger than myself, something transcendent, something that would demand every ounce of my being, every second of my existence.
One evening, while walking the aisles of the library at Samford, my eyes trained on the top shelf, I tripped over a stack of books lying on the floor. While restacking the books, my eyes focused on the name of a man whom I had read about years before. I picked up the book and began reading.
He was back in his native Scotland to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Glasgow. As he walks across the stage to receive the honor, the audience sees the great David Livingstone: a man gaunt and emaciated from years of living in Africa with hostile temperatures and people. He has suffered malaria well over twenty times. One of his arms hangs useless by his side, having been mauled by a lion. And rather than clapping and yelling (or taunting, as the students usually did on such occasions), they stood and greeted him with the ovation of reverential silence.
He announced that he will soon return to the continent that had captured his soul years before. Knowing people wondered about the sanity of going back to such horrendous conditions, living nearly every day with the threat of death, he tells the students why he will go back with gladness. His confidence was based on a promise from God, Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. “On those words I staked everything, and they never failed!”
As I read this story, I knew that I was called to take the gospel of the kingdom to the world: Other people may wish to live out their lives in the same neighborhoods as they grew up in, with the same friends, eating at the same restaurants for the next fifty years, but this was not my destiny. I wanted to take the gospel to wherever spiritual darkness was the greatest. Neighborhoods would suffocate me; only the needs of nations would make me want to get up in the morning!
For the next several years, I preached in bus stations, bars, colleges, churches and on street corners. For close to eighteen months I spoke an average of five times a day on radio and television, before prayer groups and in “revival services.” Thousands of young people confessed Christ as their Lord.
It was an amazing time. I could stand in a park in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, and within moments after I had begun speaking, hundreds of people gathered around to listen. When I exhorted young people to come with me after a church service was dismissed, scores of them followed me to the beach, to a park or to the racetrack where we shared the gospel with those who never dreamed of being approached on such a subject in such a place. The unbelievers were hungry, the believers were on fire.
But what happened when many of the older adults or even some of the young people had other things to do or did not “feel led” to follow me in my quest? Well, isn’t it obvious? They were deadbeats with spiritual mononucleosis. They were lukewarm Christians whom God was going to puke out of His mouth, Pharisees upon whom He would send His judgment!
It was one thing for my fellow ministers and me to give away nearly all the money we earned, forgoing certain creature comforts, witnessing from city to city. We crossed the line, however, when we began to believe that all Christians should have the same experiences we had and share the gospel with the lost with the same intensity and frequency that we did. We went over the edge when we deemed ourselves more spiritual than those who refused to follow our lead.
(Tomorrow: While attempting to avoid the caste-system-like tenets of religions such as Catholicism, do evangelicals fall into the same trap?)