I will never forget the phone call I got from one of those military families. Neither will you, once I tell you the story.
One Saturday I answered our phone and a voice on the other end asked, "Do you wear lace on your underwear?"
I responded, "Excuse me?"
The voice replied, "This is Mike Crandall. Are you one of those preachers who is afraid to let God's Word say what it says? Are you afraid to tell people they need to get saved?"
"Come visit our church, listen to the message, and then make your own decision." I responded. That ended the conversation.
I told Sandy about the call, "Either that guy has a genuine burden for the lost, or he is off his nut!"
On Sunday morning Mike, along with his wife Kim and their infant son, settled into the pews. A few weeks later they joined the church.
Mike never lost that edginess, but he did believe that people needed saving. He was a very committed "soul winner."
I tell you that story because Mike's commitment did reflect the mission of New Life. We believed that our primary mission was to bring the gospel to lost people. Don't misunderstand me. People did come and join us from other churches, but we never made it our goal to shuffle people around from church to church. We never embraced the Burger King ad, "Have it your way."
It was common to have 15-25 people show up on Saturdays to canvas the towns and neighborhoods around New Life. I do not fear contradiction when I tell you that nearly every home in Presque Isle, Caribou, Limestone, Washburn, and Easton received a visit from a member of New Life.
Sometime we were warmly received -- sometimes the reception was as cold as the weather. Sometimes people were saved, baptized, joined the church, and then fell away. Sometimes we found it very hard to get our hearts in a place where we even cared whether people were lost or saved.
Yet, Saturday after Saturday we bundled up and set out in sub-zero weather, snow, or rain (once in awhile the skies were bright and sunny). Many times the weather was so bad I hoped no one would show up -- they always did.
Looking back at New Life, I suppose the lens through which I look has a rosy tint -- but only slightly. They were a hearty group. Nothing came easy in "The County."
There is a verse in Nehemiah that takes me back to those days.
And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me. . . So they said, 'Let us rise up and build." Then they set their hands to this good work."
Nehemiah had a group of highly motivated people who shared his God-given burden to rebuild a wall. I was a young pastor, blessed with a group of highly motivated people who believed I had a God-given burden to build a church.
They set their hands to this good work and rose up and built.