I grew up on a 40 acre farm in Limestone County [North Alabama]. Our house was less than a quarter of a mile from the church building. My parents never missed a service: not Sunday night, not Wednesday night, not a revival night, a special night, not even M-Night which no one will understand unless they are 60 plus. I was converted when I was nine. It happened in a Revival meeting in March of 1958 with John Ingolf preaching. My pastor at the time was John Crawford. His oldest daughter was my first girl friend, the first girl I kissed on the lips [she was 5 and I was 8]. Like most Baptist, I drifted away in the early years, backsliding at the age of 12. I picked up some really bad habits and at times acted like anything but a believer in Jesus Christ. At age 15, I got convicted about my behavior and rededicated my life but there was not a lot of consistency. One day, while in the cotton field, I attempted to witness to a friend and I was rebuffed. It knocked the spiritual wind out of my sails and I vowed that I would not attempt to do such a thing again. However, the LORD continued to deal with me about the sin of being unfruitful. At age 17, Bro. Calvin Coolidge Inman preached a message on the Barren Fig Tree in Luke 13…His basic premise was–people who don’t bear fruit are just taking up space. The invitation hymn that day was “Must I Go Empty Handed…must I meet my Savior so, not one soul with which to greet Him, must I empty handed go?” I couldn’t stand it, I went forward and took Bro. Inman by the hand–I said Bro. Inman, would you teach me how to witness?” He said, “I would be delighted,” and he was.
I have to admit that I did not plan to begin my discipleship right a way but Bro. Inman was a wise man and he knew that you bend the iron when it is hot. I went home that day, ate lunch and put on my sweats–some friends and I were going to play touch football but before I could get out the door, the phone rang and Mother said, “Son, it is Bro. Inman, he wants to talk to you.” I eased to the phone reluctantly and said “Hello.” Bro. Inman said, “You said you wanted me to train you, I am about to go visiting, do you want to go with me.” Really, I did not want to go but I was ashamed to say no, so I said “Yes, give me a minute to change clothes.” Bro. Inman was our next door neighbor so I knew he would be there in no time. He came and I got in the car. He began giving me basic instructions and I was praying under my breath. I was also watching where he was going. Sure enough, he turned on to the very road that I did not want to travel and headed for the very house that I did not want to visit. I said, “Bro. Inman, you are not going to Ollie’s are you?” “Yes, matter of fact, that is where we are headed,” he said. “We cannot go there,” I said and he said immediately, “Why not?” Then I had to confess the truth: “Bro. Inman, the truth is, I carry our corn and hay to the mill almost every Saturday and I have told a lot of off-color jokes at the mill and Ollie works at the mill. I am afraid that he will think that I am a hypocrite.” “Have you ask God to forgive you?” said Bro. Inman. To which I replied, “Yes, I have.” He said, “If Ollie brings this up, you will need to ask him to forgive you but you are my silent partner today: I will do the talking, you pray and listen.” Obviously, I agreed to those terms but I was still as nervous as a long tail cat in a room filled with rocking chairs.
Bro. Inman presented the gospel flawlessly and Ollie listened. Bro. Inman asks him if he wanted to pray and receive Christ and Ollie said, “Not today, but I am thinking about it. I know that I need to.” Bro. Inman made some closing remarks and I knew we were about to leave. I had been hiding behind Bro. Inman and I stepped out into the open and made my confession to Ollie. He never brought my sin up but I felt like I needed to be honest. I said, “Ollie, I have told some dirty jokes at the mill and I was wrong. I have asked God to forgive me and I want your forgiveness also.” I’ll never forget his response, he smiled and stuck out his hand for a hand shake and I gladly responded. He said, “Jack, I do forgive you and I am glad that you came with Bro. Inman today.” I was shocked. The devil had literally terrorized me, using my sin to accuse me and make me afraid. When we got in the car Bro. Iman said, “Jack, let this be a lesson: the devil will do anything to keep us from sharing our faith. You can never trust him, he is a liar and the father of all lies.”
Bro. Inman carried me visiting many times and I learned the Roman road just by listening to him. Seriously, I never sat down and worked on memorizing these verses. I heard him repeat them so much that I knew them by heart. One Sunday evening we were visiting after a week of VBS and there was this little boy about 11 years old who had been under conviction. We walked in and Bro. Inman told him, “Jack is going to tell you how to be saved.” I was scared spitless. I swallowed deeply and prayed a silent prayer for help; it was a silent scream. What happened next has always amazed me, every verse came to my memory and I walked this young man down the Roman Road. Bro. Inman knew he was ready and when I asked him if he wanted to pray, he said “Yes.” Even after he prayed, I was still in shock. I was not shocked that he prayed, I was shocked that I just quoted 6 verses by heart that I didn’t even know I knew. These two stories happened more than 45 years ago and yet I remember them like they were yesterday.
This story has a happy ending. I went on to college that fall and to Seminary 4 years later. It was years before I saw Ollie Adams again but when I did, he was not only saved, he was preaching the gospel. He presided at the Celebration of Life Service for one of our close neighbors. In January of 2012, I was honored to honor the memory of my pastor and mentor Calvin Inman. We had his CELEBRATION OF LIFE SERVICE at my home church, the Sardis Springs Baptist Church, the same church he served as pastor for 19 years. I had a good mentor and I am thankful.