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The Old Country Church


cffblog6.jpgNovember 10, 2017 (Friday)

The song at the end of this blog is, "The Old Country Church." It is a happy song, sung with exuberance by excellent singers who remember old country churches in their long music careers. The song reminds me of the old country churches that have blessed my own life.

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A Typical Old Country Church

My dear friend Troy Conner, chose East Texas Baptist College for his education, and, since I had followed in his footsteps in becoming a Christian and a preacher, I followed him there. We roomed together with David Foster, our dear "preacher boy" friend. I was given a music scholarship, but I had a problem. My allergies and asthma were so bad I missed many classes and nearly all my music practice sessions. So I dropped out and started over after Thanksgiving at Baylor in Waco, where my health improved greatly.

At East Texas Baptist College, I met Merle Brooks, who was a preacher boy who, in overalls, had strung up lights at Morton, Texas, not far from the college, and had started a church. Of the 100 members, Merle had baptized almost all. I went out to his church with him (we had to hitch a ride to get there because he had no car), and led the singing. When we had Sunday dinner with a church family, the table was spread with every kind of vegetable, meat and dessert that could be produced in the poor rural homes of East Texas. The family loved the pastor, and showed it with a feast fit for a king, even though such a meal called for sacrifice on the part of the hosts. I could share many stories involving the church and pastor (and I have done so in other blogs in the past), but let's just say those weeks were wonderful for me as I got to know people who loved the Lord with all their hearts.

Herb Zimmerman was an ex-GI who was a senior at Baylor and pastor of the Prairie Point Baptist Church near Groesbeck. He was from my home church, the Liberty Road Baptist Church in Houston. After getting to Baylor, I went out with him to his church 30 miles east of Waco. I led the singing and did whatever Herb asked me to do to help in the ministry there. It was a poor community, and most of the members were tenant farmers. Nevertheless, they, like the folks at Morton, sacrificed for their church and pastor. The meals were modest but delicious and represented the best they had because they loved their pastor. I recall the Fitts family with two small children, who walked to church quite a distance each Sunday, morning and evening. When it rained, the father and his family came to church on a tractor, with the kids sitting on the axles. When the weather got even worse, father and son came on a horse. My, my, I had never seen such dedication to God. After a few months, Olin Waldrip, the pastor at Groesbeck's First Baptist Church asked me to become Associate Pastor (singer and youth worker) at that church. It was in a country town, and was the county seat, but the church would not qualify as "country." It was more sophisticated than the country churches, but was probably considered a "country church" by folks in the cities of Texas. I remained there until I went to Oletha Baptist Church, 15 miles southeast of Groesbeck, as pastor. That church ordained me to the ministry in November of 1951.

For many years, the community of Oletha had no paved roads. The main road, very curved, had just been paved from Groesbeck to Oletha when I arrived there. I found the community to be a wonderful place with farmers and ranchers as land owners, school teachers, and workers in the towns around. It was there that Wanda and I met because her family lived there. Some of her relatives live there today, and I now own the land that Wanda inherited there and left to me. Needless to say, that church has a very special place in my heart. The country school house was next door and we utilized that building and a parsonage for Sunday School classes. Dwight Dudley, who later became a missionary to Japan, went with me each Sunday, along with Bill Webb, from Mississippi, who later pastored in Ohio and Mississippi. The three of us taught Sunday School, led singing, and did whatever was necessary each weekend at the church.

Herb Zimmerman, the pastor at Prairie Point, became pastor of the Keys Valley Baptist Church near Belton and I went there many times to serve with him as singer. The community was later inundated by a huge lake and the church relocated. It was a great country church, too, with folks who loved the Lord with all their hearts. I'll always remember them. Members of that church recommended me to a mission church in Lampasas, and Wanda and I served that congregation for a couple of years in 1954-1955. From there we went back to Fort Worth to attend seminary classes, and later moved out in the country, 9 miles north of Azle, to the community of Briar. We attended church there as members, and later, after the pastor moved on, as pastor for a couple of years. It, too, was a country church, but the members were involved in jobs at Fort Worth and that area of the state. There were a few farmers in the congregation, too, who raised canteloupes as the main crop.

I graduated from the seminary in Fort Worth in 1959, and soon moved to Kosse, Texas, which was a town 14 miles south of Groesbeck, and shared many of its characteristics as a small town church with a rich and colorful history. From there, in 1961, we moved to the Vickery Baptist Church in Dallas, where we pastored a real city church in a busy, bustling dynamic place. In 1964, we moved to Rockport, and the church at that time reflected a congregation that resembled all the churches--country, town and city--I had pastored up until that time. For 31 years I was the pastor at Rockport, attempting to lay a foundation for the dynamic and powerful body of Christ that it has become today.

When you play the song below, "The Old Country Church," try to think of those country churches that meant so much to me and contributed to the lives of all of us in my family in many ways. I have not mentioned many of the churches of all kinds that I briefly served in revival meetings through the years. There were quite a few. They all made some contribution to the ministry God gave me.


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