The Centennial Baptist Church Story-Part 2
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Ephesians 4:7-8)
GOD GIVES GIFTS TO MEN and women according to His plan for each of us. We all don’t have the same gift or the same calling.
AFTER I HAD BEEN PREACHING AT CENTENNIAL A FEW MONTHS, I mentioned to one of the deacons that I needed his help. I was probably 19 by this time. I walked around the pulpit a lot and I had to pass between the pulpit and a big upright piano to the left of the pulpit. I was bumping my left elbow against that piano every time I went back to the pulpit to read the Bible or glance at my notes. The piano couldn’t be moved. It was against the wall. “Could we move the pulpit over a foot or so and that would give me more room?”
I WAS SURPRISED THAT I HAD HIT A NERVE. “No sir, Brother Dan!” “That pulpit was nailed down by Grandpa So-and-So and it will have to stay where it is.” He seemed so adamant about it that I immediately gave it up. I assured him that it would be alright as it was and that I would just have to be more careful as I walked between the pulpit and the piano. I never said another word about it to anyone, private or public, and let the matter drop. I never dreamed what would happen to that pulpit in a few months. That’s what this story is about.
A FEW WEEKS LATER, I ASKED PAUL FERGUSON if he would come to Centennial and preach for a week. He agreed, and I began to announce it and promote the meeting. What I didn’t know was that Paul immediately got a burden for the meeting and he cut his college classes so he could pray all week for the meeting.
PAUL HAD BEEN THE WELTER-WEIGHT BOXING CHAMPION of the Southeast U.S. for eleven years (1939-1950). He had had 232 professional fights, losing 10, with 7-8 draws and was never knocked out. Two-thirds of his 214 wins were knock-outs. I didn’t ask him to preach because of his boxing career, because I didn’t know these things then. I did know that he prayed a lot.
PAUL PRAYED AND PREACHED LIKE HE FOUGHT IN THE RING: with all his heart. He had already memorized several thousand verses of Scripture and his sermons were filled with the Word of God. Before he died, he had memorized over 8,000 verses of Scripture. So, Paul had prayed and preached Monday-Thursday. We had bought a second bus and the buses were bringing in people and several cars of people were there. But Paul sensed that some of the people had issues that needed to be settled with the Lord.
ON FRIDAY, HE PRAYED ALL DAY AND THAT NIGHT, READ FROM LUKE 16 about the rich man that went to hell. I was watching him closely and thought to myself: “He’ll never make it.” He paced the aisle back and forth between the pulpit and the door. He was disturbed over the lost people that were there. But, suddenly his mood changed. He was like Elijah.
THE BUILDING WAS PACKED TIGHT. Farmers, coal miners and loggers; strapping men! A few young men from Temple were there. Bobby Oswald had lost a kidney in a bar fight in Hong Kong (or some such place) while in the Merchant Marines. He wasn’t afraid of anything.
SUDDENLY, AS PAUL STOOD IN THE AISLE IN FRONT OF THE PULPIT, he threw his Bible and bounced it off the back door. He hurried down the aisle and began to jump up and down on the Bible. He began his sermon: “Don’t look at me! This is what you’re doing to the Bible.” “I had me a big Billy Graham sermon all prepared for tonight, but God has shown me that if some of you people don’t get right with God, He is going to kill you.” Had he lost his mind? Had all the punching he had taken in the ring finally gotten to him? Oh yes, I thought those things. I had never seen such a show! NEVER!
THE ONLY THING WRONG WITH MY REASONING WAS I KNEW THAT A FEW PEOPLE had already died in some of his meetings and that people had died in some of Mordecai Ham’s meetings (who had led Billy Graham to the Lord in Charlotte, NC.) In Elisha’s day we have this: And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. m. (2Kings And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of the2:23-24)
IT IS DIFFICULT FOR ME TO WRITE THIS ARTICLE AND DO IT JUSTICE. God’s power can water a rose garden with gentle droplets of rain and never disturb a rose petal. And God’s power can twist a mighty Oak tree in half with the wind of a tornado. Let’s don’t put God in a box and insist that He do His work a certain way that we have decided. There’s a shovel driven all the way through a tree a few miles from here. A God that can drive wheat straws through a telephone pole can do things we are not accustomed to.
IN CENTENNIAL, I WAS SITTING ALMOST ON THE FRONT PEW on the right side, watching Paul pacing back and forth. Suddenly, he came hopping like a Kangaroo toward the pulpit. His forward motion paused at the pulpit and he transferred his weight to his hands as he went over the pulpit. I remember saying to myself: “How did he do that?”
HE TURNED AROUND AND MADE THREE QUICK JABS WITH HIS RIGHT FOOT. The pulpit lay on its face in the aisle. Keep in mind that the floor was dry Oak lumber, a hundred years old and the pulpit was fastened to the floor with 12-penny nails through an Oak liner inside the bottom of the pulpit.
I HAVE REWORKED A FEW PIECES OF USED OAK LUMBER and if you use a big wrecking bar to pull the nails out, about half of the nail heads will pop off and leave the nail in the wood. In this case, all the nails holding down the pulpit came loose, and were sticking out of the bottom of the pulpit. They all came out of the floor. Three quick jabs!
PAUL STOOD LOOKING AT THE PULPIT ON ITS FACE AND THE MESS OF BOOKS and junk that came out of it. He commented: “There, I’ve torn down your god!” I had said nothing to him about my problem with the pulpit or the deacon’s refusal to move it over a foot.
A DEAR, ARISTOCRATIC SISTER WHISPERED BEHIND ME: “Why doesn’t someone do something?” I wondered that same thing. Bobby Oswald who lost the kidney in the bar fight in Hong Kong, never moved. None of the big loggers and miners moved. But suddenly, the fear of God fell on that congregation and we all went to our knees.
I EXPECTED SOMEONE TO DIE ON THE SPOT. I knew God was there and I wasn’t going to interfere with it. I looked around and then I began searching my own heart and confessing everything I could think of that might be a problem. Finally, people began coming to the altar to pray. It was a GREAT soul-searching.
AFTER HE MEETING, WE TEMPLE FELLOWS WENT TO MY FOLKS' HOUSE where Paul was staying for the week. The house was dark. He came out on the porch, weeping. He was half-apologizing but couldn’t bring himself to apologize. He said: “Brother Dan, you’ve got to believe me; God set me over that pulpit and used my foot to kick it down. Repeatedly, he said that.
(THE NEXT NIGHT I COULD NOT GET MY CAR UP TO THE CHURCH. There were cars everywhere and I had to walk up to the church.)
WHAT I DID NOT KNOW THAT NIGHT, WAS THIS: Paul Ferguson loved to jump horses over obstacles. Several months before this special night at Centennial, he was jumping a horse over an obstacle. The saddle had loosened and when the horse jumped, the saddle slipped over and threw him off, but his foot was caught in the stirrup of the saddle.
THE HORSE KEPT RUNNING, DRAGGING PAUL BY HIS FOOT ON HIS BACK for a good distance. His leg was about ruined. He could walk if he didn’t raise his foot and walked with a shallow step. He was not physically able to go over the pulpit. As Paul went over the pulpit, his leg was healed, and he was able to use that foot to kick the pulpit loose from the Oak floor. I did not know about this for another twenty years. He simply did not tell me that night and the story did not find its way into the stories about Paul Ferguson.
IT HAS BEEN A LONG TIME SINCE I HAVE TOLD THIS STORY. It’s sort of like Mary in the book of Luke: But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)
Read Through the Bible in a Year
SEPTEMBER 6, 2018 – THURSDAY
A.M. Proverbs 9-10 P.M. 1Corinthians 15:1-32
(Bible Gateway will read this to you if you like. Look for the speaker icon.)
A Good Verse to Memorize:
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)
(Write verse on scrap of paper and put in your pocket to memorize.)
Song for Today:
Swing Low Sweet Chariot (3:19) (Jordanaires)
Give it a little time – You may need to adjust the sound.