There is yet one more person I must acknowledge. The three previous ministers were very present in my life at various stages. The fourth had a great influence from a distance for many years before I ever met him.
I was visiting my friend Glenn Jarrett while he was living in Kosciusko. I can’t even put a date on that visit. He was listening to a worn cassette tape of a preacher he had heard. I started listening and I just had to borrow that tape. I made a copy and nearly wore it out. It was a man named Marvin Phillips who was preaching at the International Bible College Workshop. I honestly had never heard anyone preach with such vigor and energy. He love for the lost and for the church was evident in his passionate plea.
I think it was 1986 when I first traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma for the International Soul Winning Workshop (now simply known as Tulsa Workshop). It was during that workshop that I first set eyes on this fiery white-headed preacher. As young preachers often do, I found myself imitating Marvin – much to the delight of some of my friends who teased me relentlessly about it! I was listening to sermons like “Reach Out or Fade Out” over and over. I still have a number of his tapes and cds.
Marvin’s Tenure at the Garnet Church of Christ is a testimony to success in winning the hearts of people. Their journey from 90 members to 1400 (was it more? less? I am not sure) was chronicled in one of Clayton Pepper’s Church Growth magazines. Marvin didn’t know how to do anything half-way.
So it was really a long distance admiration that I had for Marvin. I absorbed his books, tapes, and of course my annual trips to Tulsa gave me time to see him personally. I was blessed to have Marvin come to preach on the Coast a few times while we lived in Pascagoula. That was especially enjoyable.
August 29, 2005 brought destruction and death to the Missisippi Gulf Coast as Hurricane Katrina roared ashore. We returned a few weeks later to find our house flooded and in need of repair. It seems that Christians from all over America brought another flood – a flood of help, love, and support. And in this disaster Marvin did not forget us.
I remember him writing and saying that everyone should pick one place and make a difference there. He followed that by saying “I choose Pascagoula.”
Marvin brought his special talents and gifts to Pascagoula several times. He often preached for us nightly while he was in town. People would come back to hear him each time. He brought Larry and Cecil (sorry to not know last names) and Craig Hicks with him. Among the great works they did, they worked on our home.
I admire the way Marvin has made himself at home among our Christian Church brothers and sisters. With that attitude in place I have found many warm and loving spiritual kin among that group. I know that Marvin has been heavily criticized. He used to say, “I’ve been fired at and hit, and fired at and missed.” But when he preached he never let his hurts turn his message into bitterness. His books on Church Growth and the apt titled “Don’t Shoot, We Might Both Be on the Same Side” should be required reading for all.
Marvin has been relentless in caring for others. He has spent his retirement years promoting Bibles for Africa, getting a dried food product into the hands of hungry Africans, missions in his beloved Australia, and loving his beautiful and sweet wife Dot. You can try to keep up with Marvin on FaceBook and at his website HERE … but I really doubt anyone can keep up with him.
Tulsa Workshop is on my agenda in just a month or so. I really look forward to seeing Marvin again…as well as many others. After Katrina, Terry Rush (who also came to Pascagoula to preach) invited me to speak at Memorial Drive Church of Christ the Wednesday night before Workshop began. That night before a packed house, John Robert led “Lord Reign in Me”, then Marvin and Terry wrapped their arms around my shoulders and prayed for me before I spoke. I doubt I could ever write an account of my spiritual life without mentioning the influence of Tulsa Workshop (and how many wonderful brothers I heard speak there like Richard Rogers, Jim McGuiggan, Terry Rush, Mike Cope, Jeff Walling … the list is much longer …and each one has blessed me so richly.)
Anyhow, this is getting so long. I would like to write about so many other ministers who have had an impact on my spiritual journey.
Marvin, if you read this, I love you and your family.
Thanks all for reading,