Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Featured News Article
FIRST-PERSON: Man seeking answers finds salvation in Christ through rural church pastor
KELLY B. BURTON*
| DEC 10, 2020
“No one has ever shown that to me.” Rex is 56, and that is what he said to me on Dec. 3 in my study at church.
I have the sovereign privilege to pastor a rural church in East Texas. Do not let the sound of that fool you. Some readers may picture a lifeless community with a small Southern Baptist church on the square welcoming the same old people with pasted facades on their faces. Not so in my church and community. Reaching an audience that spans three counties, First Baptist Church Alba prizes expository preaching and evangelism—in that order. Our congregation is made up of a pedigree of faithful, growing, spiritually complete Christians who graciously love on everyone.
Rex has visited the church for four months. This is not so uncommon in the country either. We are slow to make decisions that will last a lifetime. We value our integrity and care about what people think about us. We like the saying, “So live that you wouldn’t be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.”
One Sunday after church, Rex quietly approached me and asked if he could come by and talk to me. I said, “Of course,” and told him that I keep regular office hours at the church and that he could come anytime.
I set up the meeting with Rex for Thursday afternoon. I had no idea the reason for our meeting. Like everyone else in the country, Rex was early. I love it when counselees are early! It shows willingness.
Rex said, “I need some answers. I have been baptized twice. Once when all the other boys at Vacation Bible School did it, and again when I was a teenager. I remember baling hay one summer, and one of the boys I was working with asked me, ‘Rex, are you a Christian?’ My answer still echoes in my mind today. I said ‘No, I am not.’”
Rex told me he wanted to know God better, but he just didn’t know how to do that.
Don’t you just love it when God brings people to you like this? For four months, I preached to Rex, watching him soak it all up.
So, I said, “Rex, let me start with this question. I hope this does not happen, but suppose you left here today and something horrific happened to you. Do you know beyond a doubt that you would go to heaven?”
Rex told me, “No, sir. That is why I am here. I want forgiveness from shame and guilt.” Praise the Lord.
Taking my Bible, I took Rex to Romans 3. I showed Rex the words I was reading. I even asked him to tell me what they said. He repeated them back to me. We settled that every person was sinful and offensive to God. We walked a few pages over to Romans 6:23, and together we read that the payment we all deserve for offending God is death.
I take the time here to explain the finality of death to people like Rex. I asked him, “What does this say to you?” I explained that God is just, and He is fair. He tells us up front before we die that our sin offends Him. Then, backing up a few pages, we read together Romans 5:8. There, I told Rex that God demonstrated His love for him because He loved Rex enough to put the desire in his heart to seek after answers. Even more, God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be the sacrifice for sinful people like us. Romans 6:23b then is an opportunity to share the free gift of life God offers those who will believe the Gospel.
I told Rex there was something required of him to receive God’s forgiveness. He must believe.
“Do you believe this, Rex? Are you willing to receive Christ into your life today, and starting today, are you willing to live for God, not Rex?”
Rex was eager and said, “Yes, sir. I am.”
And just as transparent as a man can be, Rex said, “But I don’t know how to pray.” I told him God just wants Rex to talk to Him and tell Him “thank you” for His love. I assured Rex it was not a prayer that would save him; only Jesus saves. So, slowly and surely, we prayed. Rex repeated my words to get him started, and at 2:30 p.m., Dec. 3, Rex became my brother in Christ. He said to me, “No one has ever shown that to me. Not one pastor ever told me those things.”
Every person who leaves my study like that gets a copy of a booklet called 31 Days as a New Believer by my good friend Dr. Larry Moyer. The chapters are brief but poignant. I will meet with Rex for the next four Thursdays. I told him to bring his Bible and his 31 Days booklet, and we will walk through them both together for a while. One of the deacons, Chad Lennon, is his Sunday School teacher, and Chad expressed interest in discipling Rex for the next month. Rex will be baptized in January.
Will you pray for Rex when you finish reading this article? We know the enemy will soon surface, and, sadly, far too many church members transgress into unbiblical thinking and leave the body of Christ. Rex received the answers he wanted.
On his way out of the study, Rex turned to me and said, “I am going home to call my two brothers and tell them what happened today!”
I said, “Oh, have they been praying for you?”
Rex said, “No, sir. They need answers too. They are not saved. I need to tell them as soon as I get home!”
Oh Lord, let us all be like Rex! Lord, give us all eager hearts, broken for lost people!
*Kelly B. Burton is a two-time graduate of Southwestern Seminary (M.Div., 2011; D.Min., 2017) and currently serves as pastor of First Baptist Church Alba, Texas.