One sunny evening Mom had us sit down in front of the TV and listen to the Reverend Billy Graham preach a sermon. I was about ten years old and although I initially enjoyed listening to Reverend Graham’s accent, pretty soon I lost interest and my mind wandered to what might be going on outside. Soon after my feet followed and when I came back in the house Reverend Graham was just giving his invitation to come forward to the strains of “Just As I Am”. It was a familiar hymn and I watched as the camera showed all these people streaming towards the front of whatever auditorium it was. I wondered how there would be room for so many.
A couple of weeks later we had our annual revival meeting in our small rural church as some preacher from a few towns away preached a sermon a night during the week. I was quite interested in his last sermon and noticed the similarities between the live man standing in front of me and the Reverend Billy Graham that I saw on TV. They both had similar accents and seemed to stretch certain words out for emphasis.
When the preacher gave his introduction he announced his Biblical passage for the night would be Mark 16.15 ‘And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature’. (It was all the old King James back then.) Although I can’t quite remember the details from 50 years ago I do remember the passage. And I thought about it as I went to sleep.
The next day must have been a Saturday because I didn’t have to go to school. The weather was warm and sunny and I remember being by myself outside. I decided that I should ‘preach the gospel’ and not only that I should ‘preach the gospel to every creature.’
Our dog, Brownie was following me around and I coaxed him into what we called the ‘the shed’. Inside was a greasy workbench and an old capped off well in the corner. On the other side of the building was a small dark room that held greasy machinery parts. We weren’t allowed to play in there. On top of that was a little loft about head high but Dad’s step ladder made it easy to get to. I pushed the old door shut with Brownie in the shed and he barked and scratched at the door as I ran to find the kittens. Three were sitting in the sun, but I couldn’t find Sirius, and so I scooped up Charcoal, Ashey and Scratchy and ran back to the shed. I managed to keep Brownie inside as I lifted the kittens up to the loft. They were now trapped and I was almost set.
I closed Brownie in once again and ran to the house and found my New Testament and then headed towards the chicken coop. Several Rhode Island Reds clucked and pecked and scratched in the dirt but one mangled up looking hen just sat. As the other chickens clucked and moved away from me I went to Calmy, the mangled hen that a stray bird dog chewed up one day. We screamed and threw rocks and chased the dog with a hoe and a rake and he finally dropped the hen. And from then on we called her Calmy because she was so calm.
Calmy didn’t cluck as I scooped her up and carried her to the shed. I got in without letting Brownie out and sat Calmy up in the loft facing me. The kittens were playing with each other and ignored me as I stood on Dad’s ladder and pulled my New Testament out of my hip pocket.
“Brothers and Sisters,” I began, “My text for today is Mark 16.15.” I read the verse to the dog and kittens and chicken. They seemed to be watching me so I went on. “The Bible says we should preach the gospel to every creature so I gathered you all together here this morning that I might preach the gospel to you.”
And so I preached. I’m not sure what all I said, but I must have said something. While I was in the shed Brownie was content to finally curl up at the bottom of the ladder but the kittens ignored me as they jumped around in the loft, playing. Only Calmy, the chewed up hen seemed to really listen.
Finally I decided I had preached enough. “If you would like to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior I’m going to ask you to come to the front while we sing ‘Just As I Am,’” I announced. I started singing and the creatures didn’t make a move. Whenever I’m in church now and an invitation is given and no one moves I know just how the preacher feels. But its just as well, I don’t think I could have baptized the kittens anyway.
Undaunted I decided to end with prayer. “Our Heavenly Father, we thank you for this service and ask that hearts would be changed by Your Word. Amen.” I was only able to shake Brownie’s paw as he went out. The kittens scampered away as soon as I set them at ground level. Calmy looked at me through cloudy eyes and slowly shuffled away. I think she made us a nice Sunday dinner not long after that.
Looking back I realized I was mixed up in the actual meaning of the verse. But at the time I was sincere in my preaching. And although I’ve never felt called to preach as some are, I did manage to preach a sermon. Sort of.
And I’ve always admired Billy Graham’s preaching. He stayed with the basics, preaching the gospel and letting the Lord work on the hearts of those listening. I walked out of the shed that day thinking that it felt good to obey, even if it was to just preach to a dog, three cats and a brain damaged chicken.
Romans 10.9 ‘…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.’ NKJ