Sunday morning, September 9, I served the Ballymena Free Presbyterian Church (FP), where Rev. John Greer serves as senior pastor. First, I spoke to the church’s adult Bible Class on “Wrestling for Inward Holiness” (Rom. 7:22–25) and then preached with some freedom at the morning service on “Gethsemane’s King-Lamb” to approximately 600 people. It was truly a joy serve this church.
After a delicious mid-afternoon meal and good fellowship with the Greer family, which included their married children and grandchildren, one on John Greer’s sons drove me back to the Mount Merrion FP, where I gave my first two of five sermons on backsliding. (The first sermon was their regular evening service and the second, which began at 9:00 p.m., was for a “Family and Youth Rally” that drew people from other churches. Unknown to me, one of Northern Ireland’s MLA’s (comparable to one of our national senators) was present, and invited me to come and see him in the Parliament building. By the time I arrived back at my motel, it was midnight. Having preached four times, and having spent several hours speaking with people, I was tired—but it was a joyful weariness. How good it is to have such opportunities to reach so many souls in one Sabbath, including many young people, with the whole counsel of God! What a privilege and honor it is to be a servant of Jesus Christ!
On Monday morning, I spoke to a ministerial fellowship about “Coping with Criticism.” More than fifty pastors attended (only twenty were expected), plus several of their wives. Afterward, lunch and fellowship continued for a good, long while. It was great to get to meet and befriend so many FPC ministers.
In the afternoon, Rev. Thompson took me to the Parliament building of No. Ireland. We sat in on the highest body’s political house for a while, though the matter being discussed was rather boring. I sure am glad that our church members do not listen to preachers the way these politicians listen to each other (I know it is no different in our Capitol’s highest chambers!). Soon MLA Robin Newton met us and we went to have coffee with him and his associate named Denny, and to tour the magnificent building of Parliament. Our conversation was fascinating. I peppered him with questions about what it was like to be a full-time politician in such a high political office. He admitted that it is easy to backslide, and told me that my sermon on backsliding was “spot on.” He was very open and honest about being a politician and strives hard to be open and honest with his constituency. “Dedication, calmness, and balance are critical in political life,” he said. He works long hours, absolutely loves his job and opportunities to help people, and told me that one of the common people’s greatest misnomers about most politicians is that they are lazy.
Due to all the religious and political strife between Protestants and Roman Catholics in recent decades, political life in No. Ireland has many challenges and tensions. The Protestants and Roman Catholics now have shared power in government, so they are compelled to work together. Unlike former days, however, many who fly under both the Protestant and the Roman Catholic banners are only, at best, nominal in their religious convictions.
That evening, I had supper with the Rev. Paul and Kay Thompson, family, together with their seven children, aged 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, and 8 days old! What a precious family they are! I thoroughly enjoyed giving them a trick math problem, and then telling them a few Christ-exalting stories. Afterward, I gave a third address on the backsliding theme at the Mount Merrion FP Church.