I had laid down to rest on a Sunday and I dozed off which is unusual for me. I had several dreams but I woke up thinking about a certain pastor who I had known some 40 years ago. He was from East Tennessee where he grew up on a farm. He had no education above high school. I have changed some of the names to protect the guilty. I will set the story up with another story that is related.We graduated Seminary in May of 1974 and it was that same year that we assumed our first pastorate in Northwest Alabama. The church ran a little over 100 in Sunday School and they did have a budget which was a step up for me. Tucked away in the recesses of that budget was $200 convention expense. Being a Southern Baptist, I assumed it was for the Southern Baptist Convention. Since I had my sights on becoming a denominational leader, I figured I should take all that massive amount of money and attend. I learned later that the two guys who got it in the budget did so for the Evangelism Conference which was a State event and much less inexpensive. I was young and ignorant, whereas now I am old and ignorant, and no one pulled me aside to inform me that $200 was not enough for a Southern Baptist Convention. So come second week of June, 1975, we load up, June, Hannah and myself and head for Miami beach, host of the convention. It was a hard 19 hour drive and the hotel where we stayed did not have A/C. They kept telling us it was being worked on but after two days, we came to the conclusion they were lying. Long story short, we didn’t last long: between the hotel being a hot-house and Hannah not sleeping and us running out of money, we loaded up and headed home by way of St. Pete where I had an Aunt and Uncle. I could not wait to get there to get under the A/C. It had been a while since I had visited my Aunt Ruth and Uncle Arthur and they were great people but they did not have A/C. As soon as I walked in, I started looking for their window units and finally I asked, “Where is your A/C units and why aren’t they on?” “We don’t have A/C, you don’t need it here, there is always a breeze,” said uncle Arthur. He even said, “About 2:00 am, you will be looking for cover, you will freeze to death.” Yeah, right! We stayed one night and he was right, about 2:00 am it would cool off enough to go to sleep. The only thing that saved us was a big attic fan. From their house it was only a 13 hour drive. Needless to say, that was our first and last Southern Baptist Convention. Not that I didn’t want to go but I decided I would wait until some big church called me and had the money to pay my expenses. As I said that was my first and last convention as a pastor and family. I did attend about 9 in a row back in the 80’s but we only went on Tuesday to vote and I paid my expenses just like everyone else. We took 10 delegates each year until we got the conservatives voted in and then I have not been back. I have said repeatedly that I would like to go to one from gavel to gavel. June says I’ll be going by myself, she hates them. I had a pastor friend who served a church just down the road about 5-6 miles and I used the $200 the next year to go to the State Convention which was much more feasible. He wanted to go but had no money in his budget so I told him to come with me as my guest since June opted not to go. We made it fine and did not run out of money. He came back home and shamed his people. He told them that I had paid for all his expenses because our church had it in the budget and he talked them into putting $600 convention expense in the budget which they did. That was more than enough in those days to take your family to a convention which he did the following year. It helped that the convention was in Atlanta. By his own confession, he attended the Pastor’s Conference which is the part I would love, registered on Tuesday morning, then went to motel and picked up his family and they went to 6 Flags. The next day, they got up, check out and went to Tennessee to visit their folks. Stayed in Tennessee until the convention was over and then headed by to the Tri-Cities. They stopped on the way back and got his wife a new Sears and Roebuck sewing machine with the rest of the convention money. When he told me what he did, I said, “Man, you were supposed to attend the convention. They didn’t give you the money to go to 6 Flags and you were supposed to turn in what ever was left from the convention.” He basically blamed me for giving him the idea which I did not do.
There are a couple of funny things about this guy that should not be kept secret, other than the sewing machine. When I took him with me to the State Convention, he kept introducing himself as the pastor of First Baptist church of Barton. In private, I said Bob, “Isn’t it Barton Baptist Church?” “Yeah” said he, “but no one will be impressed by that name, First Baptist Barton sounds better.” If my memory serves me correctly and that is doubtful, he got it changed to First Baptist. I will check it out the next time I go through if I remember. One Sunday evening about 4:00, he came by our place in his little pinto station wagon, this guy was 6’4″ and weighted about 240. A pinto was not much bigger than a match box. It was a sight to see him get in the car. In the back, he had a huge sheet cake with writing on the top. It read, “CONGRATULATIONS BRO. BOB ON YOUR SECOND ANNIVERSARY.” When I read it, I said, “Bob that is great, I am so proud that the church is appreciating you. It has to make you feel wonderful.” “They are doing it” he said, “I planned this one and paid for the cake but they’ll get the idea.” Mother always said, “It is poor dog that can’t wag its own tail.” Sometimes Bob would call me on Saturday night and tell me what he was going to preach. One Saturday night he told me that he was preaching on “The Vicissitudes of Life”. I said, “Bob, what are vicissitudes?” He said, “I don’t know but they don’t know either which means that they will not know that I don’t know. I found the word in the dictionary and I figure by using big words, they will think I have been to Seminary.” I said, “Bob, for every big word, there are three little ones that mean the same thing.” One more and we will let Bob rest. He came by one Saturday to tell me what he was going to preach, the title was “What is Hell Does the Church Need?” I have no idea if he was serious but after he left, I opened my bible to Luke 16 and began to study. I have preached the sermon 20 times.