In 1988, our last year on the ranch out in the Texas Panhandle, I was taking care of 2500 head of cattle for a guy from Throckmorton, Texas. He’d leased about 30 sections of the Urschel Ranch north of Canadian. I’d make the 35 mile trip from where I lived three times a week and check the cattle there. There was one pasture that had a perfect view overlooking the city of Canadian, Texas. The Lord started dealing with me about praying for Canadian, which I did nearly 3 times a week that entire summer. I had no idea that He had plans for us to plant a church there.
After we left the ranch and moved to Oklahoma I continued to pray for Canadian. 13 years later He started speaking very clearly to us about planting a church there. We felt like the ‘right’ thing to do was first go the the local Ministerial Alliance (made up of all the pastors of the churches there) and tell them of our plans. Well, the response we got was NOT what we hoped for…..by a long shot! Now, get the picture…I was born in Canadian, Texas, and lived in Hemphill County most of my life. Donald Hill (who was going to Pastor the work) was born there and lived there his entire life. Of the other pastors there, the longest tenure of any of them was about 4 years. They were very rude to us, to put it mildly. At one point one of the pastors asked why we thought we needed to plant a church there because, as he said, “We’ve got plenty of churches here”. When I said, “Well, we believe the Lord has told us to”. Then he replied, “Well, that doesn’t impress me at all.” He went on to say, “Yeah, you hear about the kid on TV who says the Lord told him to kill his parents”. I’m thinking….“well, that’s a perfect analogy of what we’re trying to do here!” lol Very rude!
There was one particular pastor who kept fairly quiet. He wasn’t necessarily friendly but he wasn’t rude, either. We found out later that he called the pastor of the same denomination in Sayre. He told him, “These guys came to Canadian saying they are going to plant a church here. There’s been half a dozen groups in the last 10 years try to do that….and they’ve all been gone overnight.” The pastor in Sayre told him, “Well, these guys won’t be gone overnight!” The Canadian pastor asked, “So, what do you think we need to do about it?” The Sayre pastor replied, “You need to welcome them into your town.” “What do you mean, we need to welcome into our town”, he asked. “Because if you’ll welcome them into Canadian…..every other church in town will be better because of them!”
I can’t tell you how good that made me feel. I think it’s primarily due to the fact that we’ve prayed for the other churches in our town for, now, 26 years….and the Lord honors that!
Oh, and that church, The River, is now 14 years old and, true to form, all the other churches in town are better because of The River. And Donald Hill, one of my old beer drinkin’ buddies, is the longest tenured pastor in the city!