By Ronnie McBrayer
Pastor Kyle was fresh out of the seminary—green, idealistic, and zealous. Wanting to make a difference by emphasizing the importance of world missions, Kyle invited one of his peers to be the special missionary speaker.
This peer was a young man who had been raised in Africa by missionary parents. He would soon be graduating with a missiology degree of his own, and would be returning to African soil to continue the good work. Perfect! But there was a problem. Kyle’s friend was an African. No person of color had ever stood in the pulpit of this Texas Baptist church.
Kyle pressed on with youthful enthusiasm. On the appointed day the young African arrived and spoke with passion and love for his continent. He was received well by the congregation, but not everyone was happy. At the next church business meeting, a man stood and said, “I’m tired of this preacher talking about race all the time, and I’m fixin’ to whip his #&$.”
Pastor Kyle said later, “At first the people got more upset that he said ‘#&$’ in church, than the fact that he was going to whip me!” But here the guy came, climbing over the pews like scaling a ladder toward Kyle. Just as he got to him, four big men intervened and said, “If you’re going to whip the preacher…take it outside.”
The entire congregation spilt outside and gathered in a circle to see the prize fight. Kyle had no idea what to do; but again, just as the first punch was about to be thrown, those same men intervened. “If you’re going to whip the preacher,” they said, “you’ll have to start with us.” The man backed down, never to return.
When Kyle returned to that church many years later for an anniversary service, to his jaw-dropping astonishment, half the congregation was African-American! “How could this be?” he asked a number of the “old-timers” still around from the younger days.
One man answered, “Well, preacher, after you left, the neighborhood around us began to change. And we had a decision to make: Dig in, move away, or open our doors to our neighbors. Thanks to what you taught us, we opened our doors.” Kyle’s few years at that little church in the Texas pines as an inexperienced, didn’t-know-any-better-than-to-try seminarian had really made a difference in the lives of the community – and the world.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.