How and When God Saved a Baptist Preacher
L. R. Shelton, Sr.
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I was eleven years of age when I took an open stand for Christ on a profession of faith and joined Sardis Baptist Church on the first Sunday night of our regular annual protracted meeting in August, 1909. I made this profession of
faith in Christ with all the sincerity and honesty of my heart: I know that my young heart was deeply impressed with the Gospel truth of God's Word. From that time until the spring of 1939 I never once questioned that I was saved.
Immediately following my call and my surrender to the Gospel ministry I became very active in church life; praying in public, teaching Sunday School classes, leading prayer meetings, taking part in young people's
work, and pastoring small country churches as well as holding summer revivals. I was generally referred to as "the boy preacher," and large crowds attended upon my ministry from the very beginning. I never wanted for some
place to preach. I was sincere and honest in all that I did, as I never once doubted that I had received a divine call to the ministry.
A Hunger That Was Never Satisfied
From the day that I surrendered to preach until the time that the Holy Spirit awakened me to the fact that I was a lost sinner (October, 1941), there was always a hunger in my heart for what I thought was a
"DEEPER LIFE" with God, or a "CLOSER WALK WITH GOD", as it has been called. I did not realize that I had missed Christ and had never been saved, and I was therefore always in search of something I knew I did not have.
I attended all religious gatherings as far as possible, and when an altar call was made for surrender or dedication, I was usually the first one to the altar. Having always had a tender, religious nature,
I could easily be moved upon by an emotional message.
Pastor of First Baptist Church Algiers
I became pastor of the First Baptist Church, Algiers, New Orleans, Louisiana, on the fourth Sunday in February, 1927, when it was looked upon as a small mission church in the midst of a vast mission field.
There were only three white Baptist churches in eleven parishes of southeast Louisiana at that time, which had a population of nearly half a million people. For twelve years I gave myself unreservedly to opening
up this vast mission field in southeast Louisiana to the Word of God as Baptists believe it. I spared nothing as far as time, money or effort were concerned to reach this half million people with the Word of God.
Missions sprang up everywhere in spite of opposition from both Catholics and Baptists. I faced the wrath of man, preached when I was threatened to be killed, and baptized converts with the enemy ready to shoot me.
It is only by the grace of God that I have lived to tell the story. I not only fought swarms of mosquitoes, but I met the betrayal of friends and endured the curses of the enemy. Ever since I have been preaching, I
have met with opposition from our Baptist brethren; namely, the undercurrent opposition to any mission work carried on by a local church when it does not have its beginning with, or is controlled by, the leaders at
the head of our Baptist denominational program. In all of our mission work I have repeatedly run into that opposition from our Baptist leaders. They were afraid that my purpose was to set up a mission movement
independent from that which is supported by the denomination. Yet, I could not be still. If I was not given something to do by our denominational leaders, I easily found mission work to do, for by nature I am a trail blazer.
So Earnest, Yet So Wrong
In the light of these religious experiences, growing out of those prayer meetings, and in the light of salvation in Christ Jesus, God has taught me by His Holy Spirit through His Word the utter religious
shallowness and empty religious profession that we have today. In the light of salvation in Christ Jesus, God has taught me how Satan moves and works in the religious realm to keep poor lost souls blinded to the
Gospel of Christ. My preaching today could not be as pointed and as effectual as it is in opening the eyes of unsaved, religious church members to their lost condition had not God led me through these years of
religious experiences. Satan's program today is to make the world religious without Christ; the missing note in present-day preaching is Bible repentance, and Holy Spirit conviction is an ancient mystery. To be
true to my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I must cry out against this religious shallowness and empty profession at any cost.
"The Spirit of God Moved upon the Face of the Waters"
Meditating and praying over this turn of affairs in the church, I was definitely moved to request the church to invite Pastor Copeland to hold a meeting for us in the spring of l939. He accepted the invitation
and proved to be God's man for the hour. For six weeks he preached, mostly on the New Birth – "Ye must be born again", laying "precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little
and there a little," as he faced the church night after night with the one question – "Have you been born again?" (John 3:3, 5, 7). Member after member of the church, including missionaries, deacons, officers and
outsiders, began to realize and admit that they had missed Christ, and many could not sleep on account of their troubled souls. One member said (referring to Dr. Copeland's preaching), "If he doesn't stop preaching
like that we'll all be lost and will go to Hell!" I rejoiced that God was working as He was and that the truth of God's Word was being preached. I also rejoiced in seeing others come to the place of a lost sinner.
Not one time did I say one word against the way God was working.
How Could I Have and Do All This and Not be Saved?
A year went by, and the church invited Brother Copeland back for another meeting. During this meeting I was not much disturbed about my soul's condition, but rather became more or less confirmed in the
belief that I was saved. I kept reasoning to my own satisfaction that surely a man who had preached for twenty-five years could not be a lost sinner. I had preached to multitudes all over the South from San Antonio,
Texas, to Cross City, Florida – surely I must be saved! I had also led the church in a great missionary program here in southeast Louisiana, leading thousands to a decision for Christ as Saviour, building chapels,
raising tens of thousands of dollars for mission work and giving away all that I had for the cause of Christ. How could I do this and not be saved?! Yes, in the face of all these facts, I wondered how I could be a lost sinner.
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