Thoughts of a Country Preacher

The Monday morning ruminations of a pastor.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Books Worth Reading Again and Again Vol. 3

Heroes of the Faith: Billy Sunday

I first read this book just before my seminary graduation. While this series of biographies were originally written for younger readers, I found that there was still much that an older seminarian could learn from them. I had just received the call to come and pastor my current church in Eldon, and after three years of classes on ministry, I was on fire ready to get on the field and do ministry. However, this book tempered that determination, and taught me a lesson that I now deeply cherish – that one can be a great success in ministry, and yet be a failure in the important things in life.

I’ll wager that most people who stop by this blog are already aware of Billy Sunday, he was in many ways the Billy Graham of his day. He was known coast to coast as America’s pastor, he could be heard on the radio, you could read any one of his many sermons, or you could see him yourself at one of him many crusades held any where at any time. In many ways, he was the quintessential "always on" minister that many people think all pastors should be, but such a fervent schedule takes its toll on both the individual and the family.

It is the very last chapter of this book that stays with me. It begins with Billy enraged at the thought that prohibition was going to be overturned. One statement in particular hit me; he says, "God sends America a stock market crash to let us know we’ve sinned as a nation. We’re all looking at the bottom of the barrel. But do we repent? Of course not!" This statement is to me very ironic, as it was Mr. Sunday himself who could not read the writing on the wall. While on one of his speaking tours campaigning for prohibition, his daughter Helen died from "disease and depression." After her funeral, Billy told his wife that he couldn’t go on preaching. His wife Nell offered to cancel the rest of his engagements, but he just kept on going. Because of that, he wasn’t there when the rest of his children needed him the most. Paul, George, and Billy Jr. went into a tailspin of failed businesses, multiple failed marriages, trouble with the law, alcoholism, and morphine addiction. Mr. Sunday was always worried about his kids, but instead of putting his preaching schedule on hold to help them, he just simply sent money to bail them out of jail & support their failing businesses. His absence ultimately led to their untimely deaths, one by suicide, and the rest by poor choices. Mr. Sunday was too busy trying to save America to worry about his family, apparently he never preached on 1 Timothy 5:8.

This was for me a wake up call. When I first came to Eldon, one of the first things I did was remind my church that my first ministry was my family. And that they were going to have to be willing to take a backseat to my son – the first to be born to a pastor of this church in about 65 years. That one could be a success in ministry, but be a failure in the eyes of the Lord, because he neglected his family. And so while I do push myself through the week, this book reminds me that there are times that require us to stop, and focus on what is important. So, I take time for my family. For instance, today I write this post from my home. Today there will be no office hours, and today I will skip the evangelistic visits I do on Monday evenings. Why? Because right now I have a 10-month-old playing behind me who has a double ear infection, and who is hurting because of the antibiotics we have to give him. So today I practice the lessons learned through the life of Billy Sunday. I stop and minister to my son. Thanks to Billy Sunday’s life I know that ultimately, my success in ministry will not come from the number of people I baptize, or how big our primary worship average gets, or even how many changed lives are present at my funeral. Ultimately, my life will be judged by the life my son lives in my wake – so that will be my focus.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Site Meter