One person who has influenced my ministry over the years is Dr. Jim Vickrey. He is a former college president and currently is a college professor.
I first met Jim when he was in high school. I was serving as Youth Minister at a church in Montgomery. During that time he taught me a very important lesson about life and ministry.
We were having a youth visitation. A lot of different young people were paired with adults to go out and visit in the neighborhood. Jim and I were assigned to visit together.
I was supposed to be mentoring him. I was supposed to know what to do and would teach him. I was the one who learned a lesson.
We had a young man’s name and visited his house, but no one came to the door. We left and made a few other visits and came back to the house and still no one was present. We went and made another visit, then met some young people for a milk shake, and then went back by the boy’s house about 9:00. Still there was no one home.
We had tried three times. Most Methodist don’t try the first time, much less three times. I felt like we had completed our responsibility. I suggested that we call it a night and go home.
Jim asked me, “Wasn’t our goal to visit the young man?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “I don’t think we have accomplished that goal yet. I bet if we sit out here in front of the house long enough, he will come home some time tonight.”
We did sit out there that night, and ultimately the boy came home. We were the right people that God put in his path at the right time that night. An unchurched young person discovered a whole new perspective on life.
A few years later I had the opportunity to place my hand on that young man’s head and commissioned him as a missionary. He had a huge impact on the lives of many people. I wonder what would have happened if we had followed my advice and gone home early that night. Jim’s advice and action produced eternal results.
Thanks for that lesson, Jim.
A few years ago the State of Alabama voted on whether or not to have a lottery. The polls showed that over 55% of the people in Alabama would vote for a lottery. Many of us opposed to the lottery organized and went to work.
One thing that was suggested was to produce a sermon that could be shared with ministers of all denominations that would lay out a reasonable argument against the lottery. I was asked to craft one of those sermons.
I asked for Jim’s help. Now Jim, an educator, was for the lottery because of the financial impact it would have on education, but he agreed to help me. Since he had been an outstanding debater and public speaker, he was extremely helpful in providing a sermon that could help impact Alabama.
As you know, the lottery was defeated by a sizeable margin. The Governor invited me and few preachers to his office after the defeat of the lottery that he had championed. He was a gracious loser. He made a comment that I will never forget. “You have to admit that I am the first person in the history of the State of Alabama to unify all of the churches of the state.”
Today Jim is constantly sending me newspaper articles and other resources. He always offers helpful, constructive suggestions. I am extremely thankful for that. He has done so much to make me a better Christian and a better preacher. Everybody needs someone like Jim from whom they can learn.