Bro. Bruce McGee

For 6 long years, from 1968 to 1974, I had worked 40 to 48 hours per week as an assistant manager and gone to college taking 12 and 15 hours per semester. After graduating, I had continued to attend college and work on a masters degree. Finally, I got tired of school. That's when the boss promoted me and sent me to Texarkana.

In 1978, I was manager of a rather large grocery store for Safeway Stores, Inc. The store was located in Texarkana, Arkansas; and we had been there about 4 years.

The good ole "American Dream" for a Christian man is to make something of himself and provide the best for his family. That's what I thought I was doing. The store demanded long hours, practically 7 days per week; especially if one wanted to get that next promotion.

Now, I was saved in 1954. But I had joined the USAF in 1963, just before Ann and I were married. During the four years in the USAF, and all through the college years, I had drifted away from the things that a Christian oughta be doing. Bible study was sporadic, prayer was only when I wanted something, and church attendance was very irregular. In short, the good ole "American Dream" had replaced God as the number one priority in my life! It's important that we realize when we are saved, that we shouldn't do our own thing. We should be looking for what GOD wants, and not what we want!

One Thursday evening I came home late (as usual). It was supposed to be my day off, but work demanded that I stay (according to my desires to make that next promotion). The pastor and his wife had just left, and my children (9 and 7 years of age) had just made professions of faith in our living room.

I was excited! This was great! They wanted to make public professions of faith the following Sunday; and they wanted to be baptized the Sunday after that. Uh Oh! The store had inventory scheduled for the Sunday they wanted to be baptized!

So I called the pastor, and rearranged the baptism date to the next Sunday. When I hung up the phone, something really tugged at my heart! I looked at Ann, and said, "My priorities are all messed up." She said, "Honey, you'll do the right thing. Just listen to God." Then she just walked off!

Ann and I grew up together in the same neighborhood and (country) church. We have known each other since she was 3 and I was 5. We've always been pretty good at talking things out, even when we're angry with one another. (We never have fights; but you might hear some of our discussions a couple blocks away!)

Why would she just "walk off" like that? Why didn't she stay and TALK about it? She understood! Even as young as we were, she knew and always allowed me to be the "head of the house." She left me to make a decision!

When we are saved, and we study God's Word, He promises to "call all things to remembrance" that He has taught us. Just as Ann walked off, the Scripture in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 struck my heart like a ton of bricks! It says,

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates."

I knew that God was telling me it was my responsibility as father of the home to teach my children about Jesus and about how to be saved. But I had been neglecting that. Ann, the pastor and his wife, and the Sunday School teacher had been diligently performing what I had neglected!

I felt DIRTY! I felt CONVICTED! So I went to God in prayer and begged His forgiveness, and I asked Him to show me what HE wanted in my life. God is FAITHFUL! And He answered my prayer in a way that I didn't expect!

The next 3 months, I was probably the most confused manager that Safeway had! Every little decision was an agonizing experience. It seemed that I couldn't think straight any more. The Scriptures of God kept coming to mind and breaking my heart. I kept going to God and confessing; then He'd bring something else to mind. Oh what a MISERABLE man I was!

When God is cleansing an old jar of clay, it ain't a pretty sight!

Not being able to make quick and effective decisions is awful for a grocery store manager. That job demands quick clear thinking and decisions based on business principals coupled with experience. God was muddling my mind! And FINALLY I realized it.

One Sunday night, after missing church again, I closed the store. No one was there but me. In the office of the back room, I knelt to pray. Tears poured, and sobs came. I begged God to show me what He wanted. No angels came down; no thunder and lightning; no audible voice - NOTHING - except my crying and praying.

Now, for a good ole conservative Southern Baptist, this next part was scary. Finally, after about an hour and a half of prayer, I just said, "God, You know my very being. I'm asking you to take control of every cell of my body. When I get up, I'm going to believe that the first thought which enters my mind is planted there by you. And I'm going to focus my life upon that thought."

I didn't understand what I was doing. But right there in that office, I TOTALLY SURRENDERED to God. Whatever HE wanted, no matter the cost to me, I was going to do. If we want to be in the CENTER of God's will, we must DIE TO SELF and become what HE WANTS!

"And He said unto them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me."(Luke 9:23)

When I got up, the first thought that struck my mind was a visual picture of the place Ann and I had always talked about building a house for retirement. We had lived in a trailer there while I went to college. We had dreamed of one day building a nice two-story house there. It was a little plot of land right across from her dad.

That night, I went home and told Ann to start packing the house. The next day I was going to resign, and we were moving home. What she said, really showed me that decision was RIGHT! She said, "Well, the house is almost packed. It's been packed and ready to move for about 3 months now!"

SHE knew! God knew. But I had been so blinded by the good ole "American Dream" that I didn't see!

Oh! What a difference it makes when we LISTEN to God!!

We moved home. For the next year I spent about 4 hours per day studying God's Word. We went to church everytime the door was open. We moved our letters back to our home church (New Chapel Hill Baptist, West Monroe, La.). I started teaching Sunday School again. I literally "hung" on every word preached by my pastor, Perry Lassiter, or his associate, James Burns. Oh! How I ENJOYED those days! God was really blessing my heart!

But the contractor who was building our house took his second draw and left. He never returned to finish the job. We had to file a suit, wait 3 months for the judge's decision; and then finish the house ourselves. It took ALL of our savings. But our HEARTS were HAPPY!! God was solidifying our family. God is GOOD - ALL the time! Even when it don't FEEL good to us, He's working behind the scenes, getting everything in line for His glory to be revealed.

Then next year, I committed to take the Youth II department. Ann and I really enjoyed that year. We had some of the best teachers in that department, and we met some of the best youth with whom we've ever worked. We saw several of those young people make professions of faith. God was really blessing! Then the next year I committed to the Sunday School Director's position.

During those three years, I was also singing in a quartet. And THAT was a WONDERFUL experience. In my heart I said, "Surely THIS is what God wants! This is GREAT!"

Being involved in church, and singing on the weekends was a real blessing. I had many opportunities to witness to other people; even became involved in visitation.

But then, something happened. My heart was telling me that God wanted something MORE! Soon, I understood that He was calling me to preach. Well, I didn't understand at first; so my prayers were filled with searching questions. "Lord, do You want me to be an evangelist? Lord, don't you just want me to preach to the crowds while the quartet is singing? Lord, how about Interim pastor work?"

Agony again filled my heart. But this time it was easier. I already knew total surrender. After a few months of searching prayers, I realized that God wanted me to become a pastor.

One Sunday afternoon, after the children had left the house, Ann and I were watching the football game - the SUPER BOWL. She was lying on the couch, I was reclining in the big chair. I turned the TV OFF! Ann sat up, knowing that something was up if I turned off the Super Bowl.

I said, "Honey, the Lord is calling me to be a pastor." She jumped up off the couch, and looked directly at me. Then she said, in that little defiant way she has, "Now I KNOW that you've lost your mind! God don't want anybody like YOU behind a pulpit! And besides that, He hasn't called me to be a pastor's WIFE!"

See? I TOLD ya she liked to talk things out!

Well, I told her, "Honey, God has called. Next Sunday, I'm going down the aisle and surrender to that call." MAN!! It was COLD in that house for the next week. She barely would talk to me. Anxiety and anticipation was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

But Sunday morning, after Bro. James Burns preached on "Commitment" (AGAIN!), I went down the aisle and took Bro. Perry Lassiter's hand. I said, "Bro. Perry, God is calling me to be a pastor. He's not calling me to be an evangelist; but He's calling me to be a pastor."

Bro. Perry looked directly into my eyes; and you wouldn't BELIEVE the first question he asked! He said, "Well, Bruce, what does ANN think about this?" I nearly fell down! But just then, I saw Perry's eyes move. I looked behind me, and there came Ann down the aisle.

LISTEN young men in Christian life. When God calls a pastor, He also calls the pastor's WIFE! That wife must become the pastor's confidant, supporter, encourager, prodder, and yes - his pastor! If a man feels called to be a pastor, and his wife won't surrender, it AIN'T GONNA WORK!!

In 1978, when all this started, I was earning about $40,000 per year. All our insurance was paid for, we had stock in the company, and savings in the bank. Today, some 30 years later, Ann and I BOTH earn a little over that amount. But we've never done WITHOUT anything! We've managed to pay our bills, and keep food on the table when I thought that next paycheck surely would never stretch.

Our son finished college and, somehow, we managed the cost (together with his scholarship).
Our daughter went to Beauty School, and somehow we managed the cost.
God can make a LITTLE be very MUCH!

I'm constantly hearing how pastors have stress in the ministry. There's no doubt that it's a stressful job. But if it's a JOB, then there's a question about whether it's a calling. I don't have STRESS, I have JESUS! (Well, I really don't have HIM as much as He has ME!) And Jesus has provided me with the "peace that passes all understanding." And He's provided me with a wonderful pastor's wife, who's really connected with this ole country boy, and the ministry to which God has called us.

"What can we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?"(Romans 8:31)

In almost 26 years of pastoral ministry, and 7 years of ministry in evangelism (after retirement) Ann and I have been intimately involved in 530 professions of faith by people to whom we've witnessed. We've also been indirectly involved in hundreds of others. WHAT A GREAT JOY!! WHAT A GREAT BLESSING!!

Being in the ministry for Jesus is WONDERFUL! I wouldn't trade it for the world!

SURRENDER! THAT'S the key to being a Christian. That's the key to being in HIS SERVICE.