Sunday morning, December 9, 1962, was a typical Sunday morning in Greenville, Texas, and Bill Betts, pastor of Wesley Methodist Church, seemed a bit brighter and happier than usual. His morning congregation sensed the Holy Spirit’s power upon the message, “The Touch of the Master’s Hand.” In the afternoon the minister disappeared, seeking rest and prayer at the family’s lakeside cabin a few miles away.

As he led the way into the sanctuary for the evening song service, he confided to a church member: “I’ve got to change my sermon for tonight.” To the congregation he said: “This is going to be an unusual service.” He read Galatians 2:20, I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, in three different translations. “Now,” he remarked, “I would like to give you a free translation that I heard a long time ago.…”

There was a thud and stunned silence. Bill Betts had slumped over, dead. The morning message, unbeknown to him, had been his last message to his people. Somebody had made a tape recording. Here is the third and final point:

“I meet fellows; I ask them to give testimonies of what Jesus means to them.… ‘Well,’ they say, ‘… 35 years ago I met the Lord in a brush arbor meeting.’ I did not say anything about meeting the Lord 35 years ago. I said, what does Jesus mean to you today? What have you given to him over the last 35 years?… What about this week? Is your commitment to Jesus Christ current? Is your experience with Jesus Christ current? I meet people who hang on to prejudices, and hates, and old mistakes, sins and strife, and problems, and a tongue that spreads like fire; I see people hang on to these things as if they were life itself.… Surely, we must meet the Lord. But we must keep our experiences up to date, every day, every minute of every day.”


Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.