Some of us are reluctant to take guests into our attics. (And certainly for good reason!) But for the sake of history, let me set ceremony aside and have you look into one very special cluttered corner.

Our attic reminiscence really begins 40 years ago.

I had accepted Christ in February of 1945 in my mother’s childhood church, and shortly thereafter began attending Saturday night rallies in Danville, Illinois, sponsored by a new youth movement called Youth for Christ.

As a result of these energetic programs geared to total commitment, I made my decision to enter the ministry. In the fall of 1946 I began classes at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. A young farm boy now living in a great metropolitan center like Chicago, I was excited about visiting and experiencing some of the vibrant churches of the time.

Harry Ironside was in his mature years of preaching at Moody Church, and no young seminarian could pass up the opportunity to hear at least a few of his powerful sermons. And the uncompromising mark of Paul Rader was still firm on the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle, although he was no longer pastor.

But it was the Midwest Bible Church, a converted garage on the west side, where I finally decided to settle in. Torrey M. Johnson and Robert A. Cook were pastors.

Torrey was immersed in the Youth for Christ movement he had helped begin two years earlier (see CT, Nov. 8, 1985). And he became president of an organization (YFC) with high-powered rallies extending beyond Chicago, across the United States, and around the world.

Every Saturday night I attended the local rallies, some at Moody Church and some at Orchestra Hall, and discovered a vitality of Christian conviction and witness that had been so lacking in the small denominational church where I had grown up. Looking back, I realize I was one small drop in the parachurch tidal wave that swept across the church in the last half-century.

“Did you have any idea of the impact the movement would have on church leadership?” I asked Torrey as we reminisced about our mutual pasts. “No,” Torrey responded. He simply had a burden for youth, especially rootless servicemen.

We then talked about the spiritual heartbeat of those days, and I felt I was reliving my introduction to vital Christianity.

Which brings me back to my attic. As I find old church bulletins from the Midwest Bible Church and Moody Church, along with assorted Youth for Christ announcements, I am reminded again that it was my friend Evan Welsh who challenged Torrey Johnson, then a freshman football player at Wheaton College, to give his life to the Lord’s service. It was Torrey who challenged Billy Graham to enter the evangelistic ministry. And wherever you go today, you will find someone whom Billy Graham has pointed to Christ.

There are some things in my attic I am glad I kept. They are reminders—my stones of remembrance if you will—telling me that when we are faithful in our work for Christ, one contact may indeed change the world.

They are also a wonderful source of accountability. The message of hope given to me 40 years ago is not mine to keep. It is mine to give.

That is the wonder of our great commission.

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