When I was a seminary student, I was also pastor of First Baptist Church in Newark, Texas. During that time, I met a man named A. A. Farley. For most of his life, Bro. Farley had pastored small churches in Wise County where we lived, but his real ministry was encouraging young seminary students like me. He was short, bald, and spoke out of the side of his mouth with a guttural growl, but he was one of the funniest guys I ever met.
One time I was going to a meeting of the Wise County Baptist Association, and Bro. Farley was walking from the parking lot toward the church building. He was walking with a noticeable limp, and I asked him what the problem was. He said that his left knee was bothering him. I asked, “Is that caused by old age?” He said, “I don’t think so. My left knee is the same age as my right knee, and my right knee isn’t bothering me.”
Another time, at an associational meeting, Bro. Farley got up to present the Christian Education report. As he began, he said, “My giving this report may be like the preacher I heard one time who was giving the report on Christian Education. In encouraging people to get a Christian education, he didn’t so much give a report on education as he demonstrated a need for it.”
Bro. Farley told a story about a supply preacher who was told that he would be paid whatever was received in the offering. Before the offering, the preacher told the congregation that he had three sermons—a $10 sermon on Hell that lasted two hours, a $20 message on the evils of sin that lasted one hour, and a $200 sermon on love that lasted ten minutes. He said, “What we receive in this offering will determine which one I preach.” Bro. Farley said that it was the largest offering the church had ever received on a Sunday morning.
Bro. Farley also told about another pastor's sermon that was only 10 minutes long. At the end of the sermon, the pastor explained why it was so short. He said, “My dog is fond of eating paper and last night he ate that portion of my sermon which I was unable to deliver this morning." A visitor who was present said to the pastor after the service, "If that dog of yours ever has any pups, I want to get one to give to my pastor."
The Apostle Paul said to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). Christian joy has sometimes been lost amid the worries, problems, and big responsibilities of our lives, but we need to model that joy in our lives. People like A. A. Farley have helped me remember the importance of doing that.