While living in Greenville, TX in 1964, I first met Tillit S. Teddlie when he was preaching at Quinlan, TX. At the age of 80, brother Teddlie was preaching at the last congregation in his notable career as preacher, song writer, singing teacher and editor of gospel songs.
He quickly affected my spiritual life by asking for volunteers to teach a five-ten minute lesson on Wednesday night. I was one of two volunteers. I had never taught the Bible publicly. When I told my wife, Sarah, she said, “You can’t do that; you don’t have a lesson.” I told her, “Brother Teddlie will help me.” He did help me prepare a lesson on faith and works from James 2:14-26. I taught that lesson and enlarged it into a sermon which I preached in Emory just a few weeks later. A few months later I began to preach two Sundays a month at a small congregation in Ridgeway, TX near where my father had grown up.
Sarah and I continued to worship at Quinlan on Wednesday nights while I preached on Sundays. I drove 40 miles from Greenville to Blue Ridge where I taught school. Upon my return home, I frequently stopped to visit with brother Teddlie. On those occasions, he shared with me many experiences of his life as a gospel preacher and taught me some basics of leading singing. One special memory we have is when we collected over 63 songs that brother Teddlie had written. When we showed those to him, he sang one verse of every one of them that evening.
One particular song that attracted my attention was entitled “Into Our Hands the Gospel Is Given,” (sometimes entitled “Swiftly We’re Turning”). While brother Teddlie had written the words and melodies to more than 100 songs, he told me he had paid Mrs. Roy Carruth $3 for the words and he wrote the music in 1939. He remarked that the most important things in singing are scriptural words and singable melodies. The words teach us, and the melody helps us remember that instruction. (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
I led and admired many of brother Teddlie’s songs, but this one gained a special hold on me, perhaps becoming a beacon for my life. I realize the song has also influenced countless other Christians in seeking and teaching the lost. I believe these are some of the reasons:
The song first emphasizes that the gospel is personal. “Into Our Hands The Gospel Is Given.” Near the end of His ministry, Jesus commissioned all Christians to teach the gospel to all those lost in sin (Matt. 28:18-20). This includes all people in all the world! However, this task will never be achieved; the lost will never hear unless it becomes personal to us. The gospel is given into our hands first to obey, then to teach to others.
Second, the song illustrates the importance of promptness. Time is of the essence. The first verse begins, “Swiftly we’re turning life’s daily pages; swiftly the hours are changing to years. How are we using God’s golden moments? Shall we reap glory? Shall we reap tears? While we hesitate or deliberate, others remain untaught about Christ and are perhaps swept off into eternity in that condition.
Third, many are seeking. In a world of hopelessness and emptiness, many realize something is lacking in their inner lives. They become the seekers, the searchers, sometimes not even knowing where to turn because of the devil’s wiles and twists and turns of false messages. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus describes those who are truly seeking as having “a good and honest heart” those who will “hear the word, keep it and bring forth fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15). Lest we grow weary in teaching or decide others are not interested, may we consider that we were once in darkness, needing the light and hoping for a guide.
Fourth, the motivation to live a faithful Christian life and give an answer of the hope that is in us is because souls are precious and dying. We ourselves rejoice because our sins are forgiven. But the song asks, “Did he not also die for these lost ones?” Our response then surely will be: “Then let us point the way unto heaven?”
The following article is by the preacher at the Bridgewood congregation in Fort Worth, Texas where Sarah and I worship when I am home. Ed’s conversion to Christ illustrates God working together many things for good (Rom. 8:28). Christians in America left their home and came to Australia to begin the church in an un-evangelized or “under-evangelized” area. Other Christians in America sacrificed financially to help them go. These Christians also cared about the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of Ed’s family.
Ed is involved in evangelism both here at home and away from home. He actively seeks out people to involve in Bible study. He has conducted many campaigns for Christ in the U.S. and throughout the world. Each time I leave on one of these trips, I can count on his prayers and his encouragement as he always says, “All the best.”
AN ADVENTURE IN EVANGELISM
“Adventure” as used here refers not so much to a daring undertaking involving danger and unknown risks (although, they may very well be involved), but rather to “a remarkable experience.”
When Saul, the persecutor of the church, recognized and submitted to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, he was rescued not only from the domain of darkness (Col.1:13), but was also delivered from physical blindness, for “there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight” (Acts 9:17-18). So in our case, the scales of doubt, confusion and spiritual blindness fall from our eyes as we learn the truth of our Lord. Life’s purpose, mission, priorities, and objectives come into focus: All are re-calibrated by the consciousness of having been called into fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ! The adventure begins!
My own “remarkable experience” began unexpectedly, intruding abruptly into our family’s well- planned “exciting adventure”: a move halfway around the world from Scotland to Western Australia. However, little did I know it at the time; but I would actually be living out a classic profile of one most likely to convert. The following points should be noted, for just as they were factors in my life, so they will be, in one way and to some extent in the lives of those who will receive and obey the word of God (Acts 2:41).
Dissatisfaction: My father was an elder in the Presbyterian Church who took his responsibilities and his faith very seriously, but I on the other hand had rebelled and quit church. This in turn resulted in a growing sense of alienation from ... something, though I wasn’t sure what. While still praying, admittedly infrequently, I didn’t belong to anything. It didn’t keep me awake at night, but it was an ever-present uneasiness. One thing was clear, that “something” certainly wasn’t church! Been there, done that!
Change: As a family, our move was motivated by the better economic opportunities offered in the “new frontier” of Australia. However, in doing so, we were uprooting ourselves from everything that was familiar. The result was openness, at least initially, to new things and ideas. We were in a new culture, and were eager to adapt to our new surroundings.
Crisis: An observable reality, conversion tends to follow crisis! It may not be as traumatic an experience as ours (my father died suddenly five days after our arrival in Western Australia), but in some way one’s regular routine, one’s security and stability or one’s beliefs are brutally challenged, possibly being vanquished and made meaningless! Suddenly the world is upside down! Your boat is not merely rocking it has capsized! The safe and familiar are replaced with new unfamiliar and hostile realities.
Christian influence and example: As noted, everything that had taken place resulted in an openness of mind to accept new things. Crisis also led to questioning, even a return to the Presbyterian church following my father’s death. This I knew, even when catching the train for the journey down town, wasn’t going to last; it was penance for past rebellion. Therefore, the openness created would quickly pass, and the door of opportunity would close. The result most likely would have been in an even more sullen and determined rejection of anything to do with the Bible and Christianity.
Christians made the difference! We didn’t know them; we had never attended a church service of filled out an attendance card. They learned of a local tragedy and responded. We had never heard of the church of Christ, so initially they were to me simply more “church people” - but there was a difference. A wonderful, intangible difference! Two things became clear: They were sincerely interested in our wellbeing, and furthermore they manifested an unpretentious yet unquestionable relationship with God; they were living Christianity in a way I had never experienced. Friendship led to fellowship in Christ and the beginning of three more “remarkable experiences” in following Christ.
Looking back and then looking around, I must confess to a sense of sadness. Evangelism, now generally perceived as being the responsibility of those specially trained, is not for regular Christians. What if a question came up to which they didn’t readily know the answer? That would be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Therefore leave the messy business of saving souls it to the experts.
Sadness also arises for my brethren. Many lie at one end of the spectrum or the other: Either content with the “minimum requirements” of church membership (as we conveniently define them), or at the other end, busily pushing the envelope seeking new ways to make worship more exciting for us. In the meantime, what alertness is there to opportunities opening up in the lives of those around us, and what sense of a “remarkable experience” in following Christ is lost in the process?