FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: The man who wet his pants right after church
Welcome this week to the “front porch.”
The amazin’ blonde and I just landed back in Texas from Atlanta last week. Sometimes I just have to go back to my Georgia home – there’s something built in that tells me so – and that time came the first of August; so, we took our little Southern excursion and enjoyed our taste of the South one more time: Some Brunswick stew, Krystal Hamburgers, a good ol’-fashioned pound cake (thanks to Coca-Cola Mike’s wife Glory) and a bunch true, ol’-fashioned friends. The pine trees are tall and majestic, the clay is red as ever and the food exquisite; but it’s the people that tell me I’m back home most of all.
Ay, there are some good people there: The good-natured Benny Williamson, my old school buddy Tony Pippen and his new wife Shirley (who always comes to church to hear us speak when we’re in town), the Crawford sisters, along with Debbie’s young Kaitlyn Anderson who is now nineteen and learning a lot about life – and many more, for all of whom we are thankful. Nobody treats us as royalty any more than those folks. But when we visit our old church – which has moved from town to a new building out in the country off of the Roanoke Road – many are missing, of course, including one giant of a man.
You know well this legendary Southern man who brushed my path almost every day for the first seventeen years of life, for he’s one of many heroes we’ve shared by the pen for more than twenty years. It is not surprising that he still brushes my path every day, even now, although he’s been gone now for many years. That’s how big of a lamplighter he was.
Our pioneer, old-timey, backwoods, tell-it-like-it-is, Bible-quoting church of Christ preacher, of course, is Preacher Miller. Obviously, he was not your run-of-the-mill, ordinary preacher, not by a long shot. When you’d look at him standing up in that pulpit, he looked seven feet tall, especially if you hadn’t hit double digits in years yet. And even if you were quite a bit more than that, you still had to admit he preached that tall, if nothing else.
He didn’t know much about today’s modern psychology and philosophy. He just preached an old-fashioned gospel that would do one of two things: It’d save you or it’d convict you, one. There wasn’t any middle ground.
After he raised the roof and shook the rafters for an hour, you wouldn’t be walking out of there riding the fence. He’d have you on the right hand or on the left – preferably on the right, but you’d have the prerogative to choose the other if you wanted.
His preaching days covered over half a century, this great heralder of truth driving a million miles over the country preaching. Through the years, thousands of folks residing on that left side came out to hear him preach. Before the singing and preaching was over, they’d go out on the right hand. You see, he preached during a “golden era” of the gospel, back when people would flock out to hear gospel preaching; and they knew their Bibles, too, inside and out.
Generally speaking, I think people were more concerned with hearing truth than having their ears tickled; so, at the offering of the invitation, the stirring in the crowd would be more than just a few people getting up to go to the bathroom. Some would come up to baptized, there that very night. You didn't dare put something that important off until you had a group together.
The preacher would take them out to an old creek or a running river or a cow tank and baptize them while the crowd coming to rejoice would sing “O Happy Day” with enough vigor that it wouldn’t have surprised me if the animals in the woods had gathered around to see what was going on. Often he had to break the ice on the river before immersing a convert; but, because I think he had ice water in his veins when it came time to preach or baptize, he probably never knew the water was cold.
Sometimes at the end of a sermon during a gospel meeting, he’d notify the congregation in his loud, raspy voice that always demanded your attention:
“Awright, brother, sisters, and friends, tomorrow night I plan on wettin’ my pants!”
And, sure enough, Preacher Miller would usually have them wringing wet by the next night, and two or three other people’s too – down at the river!
Coach Steven Bowen, a long-time Red Oak teacher and coach, now enjoys his time as a full-time writer and preacher of the gospel. In addition to his evangelistic travels, he works and writes for the Church of Christ of Red Oak at Uhl Road and Ovilla. Their worship times are 10 a.m. Sundays and 7:30 pm. Wednesdays. Email email@example.com or call or text 972-824-5197.