When Shannon and I went to Talpa in view of being called there to lead the church as pastor and wife, we were so aware of our lack of experience and naturally timid about taking up such an important task that our nerves were on edge. My message was, “I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST.” In 1972 Talpa still had a high school and had very recently produced a Howard Payne basketball star named Danny Faubian. I had watched Danny play for the Yellow Jackets many times. He played on some top ten teams in the NAIA. Howard Payne was then in the Lone Star Conference. One of their fellow teams in that conference was Southwest Texas State, now Texas State University. Howard Payne usually won their conference in those days. The other powerful team was Stephen F. Austin. Some of the Faubian family attended the church occasionally. The high school principal, The Vocational Agriculture teacher, the Postmaster, and the town grocer were just a few of the members or regular attenders of the church.
We received a unanimous call. That is always exciting for a candidate and a church. Shannon and I have been blessed in each case to either receive a unanimous call or very nearly one. We were called unanimously to Crestview in 1995, to Richland Springs in 1974, to Mason in 1978, and to Kingsville in 1985. Each of these were on the first ballot. Sometimes churches will take a second vote and make the call unanimous, but I have always requested that they not do that. I actually had determined that I would not come to Crestview unless the call was unanimous. First Baptist Baird is the only church that did not call us unanimously. I think there were three teenagers who voted no. A deacon shared with me that they wanted the twenty one year old interim pastor to continue to serve. He was single and mixed well with the youth. Please don’t think I share all this to boast. My straightforward style of preaching corrects that unanimous support pretty quickly, and I am glad they don’t get to vote every year. Talpa was hoping that our youth would draw young people into attendance. As it turned out that is exactly what happened.
On my first day of visitation on the field, I visited an inactive deacon and his wife. They were so hateful and dismissive of me and the church that I drove back to the church fell on my knees and wept and prayed for over an hour. I finally arose and went to the gas station where the husband of a member worked. I asked him about people who might be new in town that I could invite to church. I tried to talk to him about attending, but he was far too busy, and I might add too uncomfortable to talk about it. I think he gave me a tip about a family he knew of just to get rid of me. I went to visit that family and God gave a harvest. Four boys prayed to receive Christ from that family that very weekend. My passion for personal evangelism was born in one day.
After only a couple of weeks of visiting on the field we had gathered enough young people to fill the choir loft on Sunday morning. Within in short period of time seven young people had made professions of faith. I was invited to speak the high school graduation the first year that I was there and I had systematically visited every house in the town of 125 or more people. Shannon and I worked in a great week of bible school at Talpa in which we both taught in the morning and then met with the youth in the evening. Young people from all around the county came to our evening gatherings. There was great excitement in the church. The current pastor of the church was a youth worker from a nearby church in Valera who came to a youth event in Talpa. He was several years older than me and serves as pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Talpa in his early seventies. I spoke to his wife on the phone just a few days ago. She also worked with the youth at Valera when we were in Talpa.
It was in Talpa, in my very first month there, that God revealed something to me about prophetic utterance. I was preaching on a Sunday night about the justice of God. I spoke to a sheep and goat rancher from the pulpit and made this analogy, “If you either bought or raised your sheep and another man stole his and the law treated you both the same that would not be good, would it?” He ducked his head and did not look up again The pianist to my left turned several shades of red. The people left quickly after the service without conversation. This was unheard of in that small community. An elderly deacon waited around and said to me, “Young man I thought we were crazy getting a youngster like you to be our pastor, but that was one of the boldest things I have ever seen “What are you talking about?” I asked. He replied, “Didn’t you know that man was indicted for stealing sheep last week.” “I had no idea.”, I said. As I sat in my car that evening I breathed a prayer to the Lord and confessed my ignorance about his power to put words in my mouth. The aforementioned analogy was a sudden inspiration that was nowhere in my notes and that I had no intention of using during my preparation for the message. It was a lightning bolt from above. Talk about confirmation. I should add that the man hit with the lightning bolt remained a friend. I went to his trial. He was acquitted on a debatable technicality. He knew that I had not embarrassed him on purpose. He took my message as a rebuke from the Lord. That is what it was.