Teaching Bible lessons was to my father an art of combining understanding and the right approach, something he learned from car dealerships where he worked. When I say ‘used car salesman,’ the image that pops in your head is not a man behind a pulpit. My father fought that stigma constantly. I watched him stand up for how you could take on the ‘worst’ positions and show how they could be done with integrity and honesty. As a pastor, he took questions and individual interest the same way, with the personal intent to help anyone and everyone find the best fit. I watched first hand, from his sales office dealing with irate customers to the living room of our trailer dealing with disgruntled parishioners: my father cared. Several times I couldn’t understand why these people would be welcomed into our home, sharing in all we had. But to my father, this is what you did: he made people welcome and he showed them he cared. Without that, who would ever want to listen to anything he had to say?
My father studied two things religiously: sales trainings and the Bible. Smith Wigglesworth was one of the leading sales gurus of the time, and a household name for us. Tapes, books, you name it, my father had it. He used the same ideas with the Bible. He had multiple study Bibles, concordances, and sermons from every major name from Charles Spurgeon to John G. Lake. Educating myself on multiple sources and perspectives was not an option, it was a must. No one was going to listen to me if I didn’t know where both sides stood on the matter. I had to understand their argument better than they did and know my facts better than anyone who had ever questioned it. Because of this, my favorite church services were Q&A services, led by my father. My father would pray and study over these questions making sure he had the answers to handle them with wisdom. Watching him use his studies to help others find their answers was inspiring to say the least.
I did my best to pick up on his traits like that, everyday discussions laced with Christianity. We wanted to help people work through the tough moments in their lives without forcing them into uncomfortable and personal conversations. Many times it begins as listening to a friend, because they want to work their issues out. They come with questions and why’s about things; most of them harbor the frustration of not being heard, and the conversation starts when I can listen and genuinely try to take up their position. A conversation about an uncaring God becomes an opportunity to help someone see a different perspective, and my father taught me to keep an eye open for those exact moments. That is how I view this page, for having common conversations when we feel that God isn’t listening or that church doesn’t have the answers. When my father took us out of our home church, and we made the next big step in our path, I began having to find a lot of answers on my own. He hadn’t just stepped down as a Pastor in Etown, he was stepping down as a spiritual leader in my life as well.
I have found that among any faith, those considered the most devout often had the hardest path, doubting and questioning. That personal struggle solidifies their belief more than any pamphlet or prophet could do. When we find a way to work through this time of silence, of digging for answers and coming up empty handed, we learn to trust in Him in all things. We feel that personal relationship growing. I was taught that everyone had a unique relationship with God, each denomination wasn’t outright wrong so much as different. When I followed him into the next stage of our faith in God, the Message, the idea of a prophet seemed only rational to me. Prophets had always existed with God, and the pastor that took over spiritual leadership of my family was the next step to becoming closer to Him.