Leonard G. Wymore passed from this life recently at the age of 95. That was what took Bud and Kathy Downs back to Tennessee last week. His Memorial Service was held in Johnson City, Tennessee on Saturday, February 18. I don’t normally do obituaries on this page, and I don’t include this one because Leonard happened to be Kathy’s father. I include it here because thousands of Christians who have been raised in “Christian Churches” and “Churches of Christ” across the nation knew him and worked along side him during his many ministries across the nation, including Phoenix, Arizona.
It wasn’t his four ministries at churches in Kansas and Indiana that made him so well-known. Nor was it just the result of his positions as Editor of the Lookout Magazine and Director of the Sunday School Convention while employed by Standard Publishing Company (the company whose Christian publications are used by most of the aforementioned churches).
It was his work as Director of the North American Christian Convention from 1963 to 1986 that made his face so familiar among the brotherhood of churches mentioned above. He traveled extensively among these churches from coast to coast during those years, promoting this yearly convention that brought whole families together each summer in cities large enough to accommodate the thousands who attended. Most church conventions are business affairs that bring together mostly religious leaders. The NACC, on the other hand, brought together families with programs for adults, teens and children—all designed to inspire, teach and equip attendees for their various positions in local churches. At one time it was the largest such convention in the United States. In fact, on one occasion (in Indianapolis, Indiana) the convention had perhaps the largest Communion Service in the world under one roof—41,000 Christians partook of the Lord’s Supper in the old Hoosier Dome.
Many of you may not know that it was Leonard Wymore who brought your Pastor and Cactus Christian Fellowship together when CCF was a church without a Pastor and Bud was a Pastor without a church (building). But that was one of the things Leonard did best—bring people together in Christ.
So last week the family said “goodbye….until later.”
Motivational speaker Billy Zeoli spoke of the importance of being ready in life. He defined being ready as “the right person in the right place at the right time with the right thing to do and to say and doing it and saying it.” He referred to the Dallas Cowboys who were once in a playoff game and were trailing by 15 points going into the last two minutes. Cowboy coach Tom Landry turned to a young quarterback not too long out of the Navy named Roger Staubach. Staubach was not yet Dallas’ starting quarterback. In this critical situation Landry turned to Staubach sitting on the bench and said simply, ‘Roger, go in!” Many questioned this move, but Staubach said “I’m ready.” And he was. In the next one minute and fifty-seven seconds he led Dallas to two touchdowns and a field goal. Dallas won the playoff game because this young man fresh out of the Navy was ready to get off the bench and into the game.
We often speak of “windows” in life; that is, a short time of opportunity during which a given action will be successful and after which any action is useless. The older I get, the more I see this principle in my relationship with the Lord. Most of my life is spent in preparation (not necessarily “learning” but nevertheless “preparing”). Only a relatively small portion of my life is spent in “performance.” Why is it some people seem to accomplish so much in life while others do practically nothing? I am convinced that God has no favorites. He only uses those who are ready. I am not necessarily talking great world-shaking accomplishments here, but everyday words and acts that influence people.
Most of us are not ready because we are too wrapped up in ourselves to notice the needs of others. God attempts to draw us out of ourselves so that we can prepare for that time when we are called to go to the aid of another. For Christians, the biggest tragedy of life is having our hands so full of our own concerns so often that the people God sends to us come back without being touched. Ministry is everywhere and its broad boundaries necessitate the involvement of everyone. How sad it is that so few are ready when God says “Roger, go in!” Hope to see you this Sunday as the family prepares for ministry.
When Henry Ford purchased a large insurance policy for himself, the Detroit newspapers printed the fact since the amount was so large and Mr. Ford was so prominent. One of the articles was read by an old friend of Mr. Ford’s who was in the insurance business. Completely surprised by the purchase since he had not heard that Mr. Ford was in the market for insurance, the friend went to see him and asked if the story were true. When Mr. Ford replied that it was, the friend asked him why the policy was not purchased from him since he was a personal friend and had been for many years. Mr. Ford’s reply was, ‘You never asked me.”
Could it be that someone we have known for years does not attend our church, or any church, because we have never asked him? Will there be neighbors and friends of ours who will pass through this life never knowing the assurance of forgiveness through Jesus Christ because no one ever brought the subject up? I have known people who seemed content with their worldly lifestyle. Their demeanor suggested to me that they weren’t interested at all in pursuing spiritual things. So I neglected to share my faith with them, only to discover later that they had become Christians and were actively growing in the Lord in another congregation. In fact, I never cease to be amazed at the “kind” of people who eventually enter the Body of Christ on the basis of a seed faithfully planted by a concerned disciple. The reason? The gospel is powerful, regardless of how it happens to be presented.
When Jesus suggested to his disciples that the fields were “’white unto harvest” I think He was chiding them for their defeatist attitude that “no one is really interested in spiritual things anymore.” I think that what we will really find is that there is far more willingness to hear among those who know Him not than there is willingness to tell among those who know Him.
Don’t ever by afraid to speak up about what Christ means to you, has done for you and can do for others. Despite your fears, you may be surprised at what the Lord will do through such encounters.
David Gushee, in his book “The Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust,” seeks to explain why some European citizens stepped forward to become rescuers of Jews being hounded by their Nazi persecutors and others did nothing, or actually informed upon them. One of the common denominators he found among those willing to endanger their own lives to rescue Jews being sought by authorities was a thing called “group influence.” As he put it, “Some rescuers report that they saved Jews because of the moral example or exhortation of a group that was important to them. Such groups included family, friends, churches, etc. Everyone knows that we are profoundly influenced in our decisions by those whose opinions matter to us.”
This made me ask the inevitable question, “If this whole issue had been lived out now, and our country was occupied by Nazi invaders, would Cactus Christian Fellowship be a force so strong that its people would immediately recognize the issues involved and reach out, endangering their lives to protect the oppressed? Or, would our influence be so minimal and the ethic we stand for so shallow that each person would seek to do only what most of the Christians of Europe did: avoid the uncomfortable and dangerous at any cost.”
This is not a hypothetical question. Actually, it is being asked and answered every day. We don’t have to wait for some great showdown between good and evil to see how we would respond. As Jesus put it, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10). How are you handling the little ethical battles that rage around you each day? Do you find yourself justifying your conduct by quoting favorite phrases of the Enemy like “It’s no big deal,” or “Everybody else is doing it”? Or does the Spirit of God within you constantly send up the red flags of ethical warning so that you may be prepared to act in His behalf?
Those of us who have pledged that Jesus Christ is our Lord must live in accordance with His teaching and conform our lives to His will and example. This is what it means to call Him Lord and to be His disciples. And it isn’t just for ourselves we need to do this. We are leaving behind us a legacy for our children and others to follow. Depending upon our conduct, will it be a legacy of spiritual compromise and convenience or of courage and conviction?
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship