Ephesians 4 says a lot about our being called in Christ. I think this applies to our acceptance of Christ and following him daily. But it also prompted me to think about how Steve was called to preach.
When he was 17, an elderly elder, Fred Sims, called (on the phone, not through Christ) and asked him to preach for them one Sunday at Trinity Springs Church of Christ. Steve had done public speaking—no preaching—but he was up for it. He prepared carefully and presented his sermon. Of course everyone told him it was good. Now he wonders. But he loved to speak and that gave him the opportunity.
In 1963, when he was a sophomore at David Lipscomb College, now Lipscomb University, another student asked if he’d be interested in preaching at Grissom’s Corner Church of Christ near Lebanon two Sunday mornings a month. By then Steve had a car and always needed money, so he agreed. No trial sermon—he just showed up one Sunday and started preaching. Mrs. Bradshaw led the singing and Steve led communion for the 12-17 in attendance. Another family or Mrs. Bradshaw would usually take him home for Sunday dinner and when I went with him it was quite entertaining at the Bradshaws. Flies over the food, but waved away by her flyswatter. Mr. Bradshaw with extreme palsy and difficulty eating his food. No indoor bathroom. It was an experience for these 18 and 19-year-olds.
The next year another student, Bernice Westbrooks, suggested Steve take his place preaching at Totty’s Bend Church of Christ, 52 miles one way. No trial sermon. Just show up and preach Sunday morning and Sunday night. Steve agreed. We loved the folks at Totty’s Bend, around 125-150 of them, and they were gracious in feeding us every Sunday and letting us spend afternoons with them. I didn’t go with Steve every week until we married in 1965, but it was always interesting and we had especially great food. (That’s where I got my wonderful carrot cake recipe from June Totty.)
Steve graduated in 1966 and we moved to Pittsburg, Kansas. He was occasionally asked to preach when the preacher was gone, but mostly he focused on his studies for his Master’s Degree.
In 1967 he accepted a teaching position at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, and we moved near there to Blowing Rock. Our first Sunday at the Boone Church of Christ, an elderly gentleman, Claude Gardner, came up to Steve, introduced himself, and said, “Son, do you preach?”
“Well, I’ve done some preaching,” Steve hesitantly answered.
“Then you’re our next preacher!” Brother Gardner said. “This is Brother Holloway’s last Sunday. God always sends us our next preacher just in time.”
His trust was not unfounded. Steve preached there for 15 months and it was one of the most rewarding ministries we’ve ever had. The mountain people have a different twist to their practices and outlooks and we loved the work there.
Steve decided to go to graduate school, so we moved to Bloomington, Illinois, for four years. During that time he became the song leader at the Four Seasons Church of Christ except for when area churches called on him to “fill in” for their usual preacher. We had some good cooking there, too, even though they were Yankees. (That’s where I got my Raspberry Salad recipe.)
After Steve graduated from the University of Illinois, he accepted a teaching position at Northern Kentucky State College, now Northern Kentucky University and started in June of 1972. (I told the lady at the bank across the street that he taught at NKSC and she said, “Is that Knights of Columbus?” It was a very new college.)
We settled in at Garrard Street Church of Christ in Covington and were embraced warmly. I was pregnant and they immediately started planning a shower for us.
But shortly after Josh was born in August, Steve received another call. The Arlington Church of Christ in Cincinnati needed someone to fill in after their preacher, Norman Vaughn, had died suddenly. With no interstates connecting us, the drive out Hamilton Avenue to Compton Road was a long one. After 15 months there, Steve insisted they needed a full time preacher. They hired one and we went back to Garrard Street.
Among the faculty members Steve got to know was Ken Carter, who attended the Central Church of Christ in Cincinnati. His wife had a sister and brother there and they didn’t mind the drive. In February of 1975, Ken asked Steve for a favor. Would he please preach at Central a Sunday to help out? Their preacher had left a year before and the men of the congregation were running out of things to preach about.
Our first Sunday at Central was uneventful and they asked him to come back the next Sunday. He had already agreed to fill in at Withamsville Church of Christ that week, but he said we’d return the following week.
We had no idea what an uproar he had caused at the Central Church. The second Sunday, after having lunch with the elders and their wives, we were invited to the home of Gene and Verla Harlow to talk. We thought that meant just visiting and chatting. No.
The elders told him that many people in the congregation asked them to hire him. They’d liked his preaching better than other candidates they’d heard and interviewed. The elders knew he had a full-time job at Northern, but they wondered if they could hire him to preach Sunday morning and Sunday evening and hire someone else full-time to do other ministerial duties.
We were shocked. But Steve had been out of preaching long enough that it appealed to him. After some prayer and consideration, he accepted the job.
We’ve been there ever since, minus two years when Steve resigned and someone else preached. When that person left, the elders called Steve to return and he did.
Are you keeping count? Seven times. Seven calls. Plus many others when he was called to fill in. He has never applied for a preaching job. He has always been called.
And I’m glad he answered those calls.
Our own calls might not be that specific and repetitive, but we are all called in Christ “to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10.) I believe we are called over and again, in Christ, for the good works God has prepared for us. We just have to be in tune with the Holy Spirit to receive those calls and respond.