I certainly remember my early childhood days growing up in a pastor’s home. Every day seemed to be filled with church ministry activity. Our house was one of the first Bed and Breakfasts. Some family, some preacher and wife, some friends, some evangelist seemed to be eating breakfast with us. The conversation around our house was about church evangelism, church growth, and Christian discipleship.
Dad was always in a dialogue with an evangelist, or missionary, or pastor about the ministry of the local church. They would talk about what the Bible had to say about current issues of the day. In those days, we didn’t have a television, and I remember sitting listening to those conversations .
This is how Donald and I learned to play church. In our preteen years we lived next door to our church. Our play time would be going over to the church to play Sunday Morning Church. I would preach and give an invitation and Donald would lead singing and would get saved during the invitation. So the altar call, or invitation was a part of our life. Then Donald and I would switch roles.
Dad’s preaching always seemed to draw people to Jesus Christ. I had a very healthy respect for Jesus in those early years. I was always conscious of the power and authority that Jesus Christ had. I was as aware of the presence of Christ in my life as I was with the presence of my dad and mom. They didn’t need to be where I was, but I knew they were there. There were few actions I ever took that I first didn’t think, "What would Jesus do, and how would dad react."
The gospel preaching of my dad had an early affect upon my life. The energy with which he lived had an affect upon me for life. I felt if I could live like him and preach like him that would be my life’s goal. Then I turned twelve.
The Gospel I heard in my father’s church was : The truth? I can’t remember. It was 1966 since I heard him preach his last sermon.
What I remember is my dad’s preaching was topical. My memory of my dad’s sermons is gone. I can’t hear him preaching in my mind. There are some recorded sermons of dad, but I have no idea who would have them.
What I do remember was people coming forward in the service and that they were coming to be saved. One illustration was my friend Melvin Gray, as a teenager I was teaching the Youth Class, and Melvin was a young adult who became a great friend of the family. One Sunday Night in our church service, I was standing beside Melvin, and when we had the invitation, he walked forward that night because he wanted to be saved. And for the next few years that I was in Roanoke, Virginia, Melvin’s life was changed.
There were many like Melvin who were saved. Twenty years after my dad died we went back to Roanoke, for a Roanoke Baptist Temple/Whisnant’s Reunion. The number of people and families that were there was amazing. They told stories of how they came to Christ as a result of the ministry that dad had in Roanoke. It was just astonishing.
The reason our home was always filled with friends was because they were friends who were saved, humanly speaking, because of the preaching of the gospel by my dad.
In 1998 I received a phone call from Asheville , North Caroline. The family that was on the line said, "Is this Charles Whisnant, whose dad was Everette Whisnant?" I said yes. "Well this is Mrs Grady Harden. Your dad started a church here in 1940's and our family was saved. We lost contact with you and your family after your dad died. I want you to know that the church is still doing good and people are still being saved."
I loved going to Red House, Virginia, when I was still at home. The Arrington family lived there, and dad and mom would go to visit them at least once a month. Why? Dad was used of the Lord to see there whole family come to know the Lord. There were I think six children, and they were all saved as well as their mom and dad. Irene, and May andAnn, Linda, June, the three girls, started a singing ministry, and even today they are still singing. They were our first girl friends as kids. June married a young man, and he is an evangelist. Forty years later the children of that family are still singing and serving the Lord.
When the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, and God brings people to Himself and they are saved, the result will be that they will become believers for eternity. Those that are saved will become obedient to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, even if they don’t know what that position says.
Dad did not preach doctrinal messages that I can remember. The simple Word was taught. I know his library was filled with doctrinal books, (I have some of Spurgeon’s books that he had, so I know he knew the Word.)
My point of this is: In those days, the effectiveness of dad’s preaching must have worked. The method of an altar call, or an invitation must have worked in those days, at least in dad’s church.