Stories from my life: My call to preach the gospel

As I share vignettes from my life, they will not all be in chronological order. Since this is the last day of 2020, which seemed for many people to be a very long year, and what we hope is a bright new year begins in about six hours, I think it is the perfect time to tell the story of a major turning point in my life.

I was sixteen years old, and I had life figured out. Or so I thought. I had been working since I was thirteen in what we called a supermarket in Kennett, Missouri. Walsh’s Big Star was really just a rather small grocery store. With only a brief break during my four high school years, I earned fifty cents an hour on this job every week of each year. During the summer months, I worked as much as sixty-four hours per week for thirty-two dollars.

Two of the married men with whom I worked, Joe Cook and Vernon Davidson, were members of the church I attended. My father, Glen Segraves, was our pastor. My grandfather, L. D. Segraves, had been pastor of the church before him.

Joe and Vernon and I saw each other almost every day and had lots of opportunities to talk. Such talk among young married men and a high school student could be expected to touch occasionally on our big plans for the future.

I played the trumpet and stand-up bass in our church band. Joe invited me to join him and Glen Helton to form a gospel bluegrass trio. Glen played the banjo and mandolin. Joe played the guitar. Trumpets don’t belong in bluegrass. I played the bass. We sang songs like “I’m Using My Bible for a Roadmap.”

Vernon and I talked about plans to move to Chicago and open our own grocery store. That never happened, but Vernon stayed in the grocery business for many years. I was serious about the idea, though, and took classes in my final year of high school to prepare for that kind of career.

But when I was sixteen, something happened that sent me down a different path. Our church was participating in a twenty-four-hour prayer chain. Here’s how it worked: Each participant selected an hour of the day to come to the church building and pray. Upon arrival, the person with the previous hour would leave, and the next hour would be filled by the newcomer until his replacement arrived. I selected a nighttime hour. I think it was one or two a.m.

Some people are curious about how a person is “called” to preach. Here’s all I can say: At some time during this prayer meeting, my heart was changed. I was no longer interested in a business career. God gave me a desire to preach the gospel.

As I reflect on this, it is quite interesting that my father and I had never discussed the possibility that I would become a preacher. My dad’s father was also a preacher. He died when I was twelve years old. I had never talked with him about preaching. But now I felt that was what I wanted to do.

I think it was the next day that I told my father, “I believe God has called me to preach!” Dad said, “Wonderful! You can preach next Wednesday night!”

As I stepped into the pulpit for that first attempt to exercise my calling, Alma Harper, a spiritually gifted woman who often exercised the gifts of tongues and the interpretation of tongues, used those gifts in confirmation of my call.

I stayed in the pulpit for fifteen minutes. The title of my sermon was “Journey through the Halls of Hell.” I didn’t know what I was talking about. I can’t remember anyone coming to pray at the altar.

Not long afterward, my father asked, “Son, where did you get that message?”

“There’s a book of sermon outlines in your library. That’s where I got it,” I answered.

“Don’t get your sermons out of books. Get them from the Bible,” Dad said.

Now I’m seventy-four years old. I’ve been attempting to follow Dad’s advice for many years now.

(c) 2020 by Daniel L. Segraves