Family in Focus
one to one: Lessons about life, ministry, and grandkids
by Keith Burden, Executive Secretary, National Association of Free Will Baptists
The Night the Lights Went Out
It was two weeks before school started in the summer of 1970. I was a teenager attending a youth camp sponsored by the churches of our district association. Although the days were extremely hot and humid, we managed to enjoy the action-packed week in spite of the heat.
It was an extra-special time for me. The camp evangelist was Reverend Lynn Wood. He was the same man who preached the revival when I had been converted four years earlier. This giant of a man with a booming voice had become one of my spiritual heroes.
About half an hour before the evening service began, a typical Oklahoma storm rolled in. Strong winds, bolts of lightning, claps of thunder, and heavy rain sent campers scampering for shelter in the tabernacle. During the chaos, lightning struck a transformer and electrical power to the entire camp was lost. Fortunately, a gas lantern was found, lit, and hung directly over the pulpit. I will never forget the glowing, halo effect it produced.
Earlier, the director of the camp asked me to lead congregational singing. For some reason, the message of the hymns that evening spoke powerfully to me. At the conclusion of the singing, I took what I thought was an inconspicuous seat in a chair behind the old upright piano. From my vantage point, I could see the preacher standing behind the pulpit. The image of his silhouette is still indelibly etched in my memory.
Honestly, I do not recall the text or the subject of the sermon that evening. I do remember that during the invitation the evangelist requested piano music only—no singing. As I sat contemplating the words the man of God had spoken, I felt the most unusual sensation. I did not hear an audible voice; however, the Holy Spirit was unmistakably speaking to me.
The next moment, I felt a strong hand on my shoulder. It was my pastor. He leaned down and whispered in my ear, “Son, is the Lord calling you to preach?” In that instant, I felt the strangest combination of emotions—surprise that he would ask that question, and relief that he noticed my struggle.
I had been wrestling with that decision for quite some time. However, I had told no one—not even my pastor. Frankly, I was afraid to admit that the Lord might be calling me to preach. I was fearful I might be mistaking the call to preach for a call to consecration. What’s more, some friends of mine had recently acknowledged God’s call on their lives, and I did not want others to think I was simply imitating their actions.
I surrendered to the ministry that evening. My sense of calling is as strong today as it was 45 years ago. I will forever be grateful that my pastor challenged me (and other young men) on a regular basis to consider God’s call upon our lives. I am thankful he was observant and sensitive enough to recognize that God was speaking to me.
As I look back, it’s actually rather ironic. The night the lights went out is when the light really came on for me! If God is speaking to you about surrendering to Christian service, don’t fight it. Say yes!
“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).
About the Column
One to One is a regular feature of ONE Magazine. Written by Keith Burden, executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, the column explores life, ministry...and the joys of grandchildren.