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The legend of L.D. Lewis...

ShotgunBill's picture


It was the year 1960. In our little rural area, with a little town centered therein, sat three churches. Baptist, Methodist and Church of Christ. And naturally, while the members of the various three were friends, neighbors, even co-workers, there was a necessary unspoken competition, each one vying to demonstrate doctrinal, spiritual and godly superiority over the others.

Please allow me here to make a slight deviation from our chosen route, and speak to these different churches, which nonetheless bore strong similarities. Here's how that was demonstrated.

A certain gentlemen, a member of the Church of Christ (to which my family belonged), had made a business trip from our little hidden corner of western Kentucky, to the big city of Louisville. Upon his return, and at the next Sunday evening service, he was asked by the preacher (Churches of Christ do not have 'pastors') to give to the congregation of about 300, a quick talk about the trip, and how life was conducted in the city.

He opened with a description of the hugeness of the city, of its crowded nature, the horrid traffic and so forth. But then very quickly he drove right into what was apparently the thing that most impressed him about Louisville...and that was the number of bars, honky tonks, joints and so forth, that seemed to occupy almost every street corner.

And how the presence of those things effected the life of the people there. “I saw”, he said, with a sorrowful hint of surprise in his voice, “...a woman DRESSED IN PANTS!”

The congregation responded with a clearly audible and collective intake of breath and amazement. In fact, careful attention would have noted a number of the church sisters tittering in very low voices, one to another, looking at one another with distaste and no little disgust in their eyes.

But that paled in comparison to his next slightly breathless revelation, when he said, “And that isn't all...I saw a woman SMOKING A CIGARETTE!!”

Shock, jerking and surprised facial expressions of horror and disbelief. The tittering was upgraded to quiet utterings of “Unbelievable...”, and “Oh, oh, OH!” And from the men, amazed, almost dazed exclamations of “Huh?” accompanied by extremely sorrowful expressions of, well, of shock and dismay.

All of which was followed by the brother's next big announcement, truly, THE big announcement. “But wait! That ain't all”, he avowed in a slightly suspiciously theatrical voice, “She was CUSSING AND DRINKING A BEER!!!”

Wah!! Oh Lord!! What has become of us, of the world?

Well, over the course of the next week, the Church of Christ brother was asked to speak to both the Methodist and Baptist churches...and from reports from all quarters received, it is evident that in this issue at least, a heretofore totally inexperienced oneness and unity between the three churches was achieved.

Which then brings us to Brother L. D. Lewis. Which in fact, takes us all the way back to 1960 (4 or 5 years prior to the tableau described above).
Back in those days, revivals (for the Baptists and Methodists...'gospel meetings' for the Church of Christ) would go on for as long as two weeks, with meetings every night. That convention was followed by churches throughout this entire region...to begin a decline only after “BONANZA” started appearing on television at about 7:00 p.m of a Sunday evening.

So our Church of Christ hosted evangelist L. D. Lewis for a two week gospel meeting in the spring of the year. I was sick, and managed to see Brother Lewis (they don't call them “Reverend” either) one time only. But that particular meeting, and that particular sermon remain fixated in my memory until this very day, nearly 55 years later...and here's why.

Brother L. D. Lewis, a typical preacher-looking 30's something sort of fellow, spoke on the differences between the Old Testament (the law), and the New Testament (grace), with a good bit of detail added with respect to the period of about 400 years between the two (the Maccabees, Alexander the Great, etc).

But what really stuck out, was the fact that for the entire hour, he gave dozens of biblical references, and historical bits and pieces, quoting every single one from memory. He never opened his bible! And even as a ten year old, I was smart enough to realize that this was not only unusual behavior, but utterly amazing...

I asked my Dad about this gift, this manner of preaching. And he told me the man was known throughout a rather large area as 'The Walking Bible'. And that too, stayed with me.

In the course of time I came to know the Lord. And not only so, but to enter upon my own small preaching and teaching ministry. And in God's unfathomable way, I was also given the gift (clinically called an “Eidetic Memory) of quoting the Bible, just as Brother Lewis had that unforgettable night years ago. And I too, was sometimes called a 'Walking Bible'. That ministry took me to 48 of the states, to large portions of Canada, and to a lesser degree, to Mexico.

And having been away from home in that ministry for thirty years, and with that connection to Brother Lewis in mind after that memorable night so long ago...in about 1990 I asked my Dad whatever had happened to Brother L. D. Lewis.

His reply, almost to the word, was, “Son, Brother Lewis left the church. He came to know the Bible so well, that he no longer believed it. And so, as far as we know, he gave up all religion, and may as well, as some have said, become a gutter drunk”.

And that troubled me for years. Until about two years ago, when I came to realize why Brother L. D. Lewis left the church, left religion, left his ministry.

He didn't leave the ministry because he came to know the Bible well enough to doubt it, to lose his faith in it, to refuse to believe it.

He left all that behind, the religion, the Church of Christ, the modern interpretation of the New Testament Church...because he had come to know the Bible so well, that he could not, in good conscience before God, continue to participate in what he knew to be false, to be in error, to be, in God's eyes, anything BUT the New Testament Church.

And why do I know this? I know this because it has happened to me...

If you wish to remain satisfied with your church, your religion...leave the Bible alone. Use it only to proof-text those doctrines, those governments, those practices espoused by your church. For if you dig into God's Word with discipline and determination to find and know the truth, you will of your own self, banish yourself from religion...

And if that happens, what then? I've searched and researched to locate Brother L. D. Lewis, to no avail...to ask him that very specific question. “What then”.

But I know that in my case, as my discomfort with the church of today, the religion, the denominations and so forth increases, my use to them, my ability to minister to them is decreasing at an exponential rate. After all, who wants to listen to a preacher, or a teacher, who can only tell them their error, who cannot with them in unity stand?

So, my perspective has made a great turn. Instead of considering myself to be a minister, instead of preaching to and teaching others...I minister to the Lord alone. In my own chamber, every day, I pursue God. I follow after God in His Word. I fast often and long. I pray to Him. I sing to Him, write songs to Him. My emphasis today, is directed almost solely to God.

If I cannot be of use to God in ministry to others, then God willing, so long as I live, I will minister my life to God through His Son and my Savior Jesus Christ...

And that my friends, is the outcome of a single sermon, by an amazing man, to a ten year old, 55 years ago...and to the God that dwells within me, within us...God bless you.

I am and remain sincerely yours in Jesus Christ,

Shotgun Bill