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WindingRoad From Ken Raggio's Book
"Long Winding Road"

Long Winding Road
A Very Personal Story

By Ken Raggio

Chapter 2
The Call

Church Youth Camp

After I received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, I heard about summer Church Youth Camps. I desperately wanted to go, so I made reservations for my first camp. I had to get special permission from the District Office to attend, because I was not quite twelve years old - the minimum age for campers. By the time school was out at the end of May, I was eagerly anticipating camp.

On Saturday night, before camp began on Monday, I went to bed with Youth Camp on my mind. I could not go to sleep. Before I knew it, I looked at the clock, and it was about 2:00 AM. I felt the presence of the Lord in my room, so I got down on my knees beside my bed and began to pray about the coming week, that the Lord would bless the Camp, and let me be used for His glory while I was there.

As I prayed, I continued to feel God's presence. I felt that the Lord was speaking to me that night. I did not hear any audible words, but I felt in my heart that He was asking me to give Him my whole life for His purpose, and for His work. That night, I made a commitment to Him that I would give Him everything, for whatever He wanted me to do. I wondered if that meant I was going to be a preacher.

At Church the next morning, after service was dismissed, I stood in the aisle and told somebody that I thought the Lord had called me to preach last night. But they just looked at me with a blank stare, and didn't respond to what I said. I wondered if I was wrong, or if I shouldn't tell anybody. But the feeling would not leave me. It just got stronger as time passed.

When I finally arrived at Youth Camp, I was asked to play the piano for all the night services. After the preaching each night, the altars filled with about 120 teen-agers praying and seeking God. It was a wonderful experience for a young person. That entire week was awesome.

Bible Quizzing

About the time I turned thirteen, the young people in my Church joined the District Bible Quizzing competition. We studied the books of 1 and 2 Corinthians. For several months, I memorized almost the entirety of both books, and could quote most of it on demand. I have no doubt that learning all of those scriptures had a dramatic effect on my belief system for the rest of my life. Paul's epistles to the Corinthians contain some very, very important New Testament teachings on a wide variety of subjects, including preaching, baptism, the carnal mind versus the mind of the Spirit, judging, marriage, hair length, communion, the Gifts of the Spirit, church discipline, and so much more. What a powerful initiation to the Gospel I received in those days!

My First Invitation To Speak

At the end of the Bible Quizzing season, Pastor Lindell Buck invited me to speak at a Christmas banquet for his Church youth group in Orange, Texas. That was in 1964. I was too young to drive a car, so Mother took me to the meeting. The banquet was at a huge stone mansion, and the setting was very elegant. I delivered my first sermon to the young people and the adults who were present.

The first sermon that I have a written record of, I found notated in my Granny’s Bible after she died. She always made a note in the margin when a preacher read his sermon text, writing his name and the date. "Kenneth - 4/24/66 - Sunday night." The text was Romans 8:11: "But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies." I was fourteen when I preached on that text. I preached that you needed to have the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

Preaching In My Home Church

My Pastor, N. Jay Broaddus, invited me to preach on a Wednesday night in my home church. I worked feverishly preparing that sermon, and ended up with about twenty-five pages of hand-written notes. I wrote out everything I was going to say word-for-word.

When the Pastor called me to the pulpit, I stepped up, opened my Bible, and started to unfold my notes. As I nervously fumbled with the papers, they slipped out of my hands and fell on the floor, scattering in every direction! And the pages were not numbered! I panicked. I stooped down and gathered them up, laid them in a sloppy pile on the pulpit, and took a deep breath. I was mortified. It would take too long to sort the pages back into order, so I had to just speak from memory as best I could. The sermon only lasted about ten minutes. I was sorely embarrassed, but I really felt like I had something to say, so I just preached what was in my heart.

In all honesty, I cannot imagine why anybody wanted to hear a fifteen-year-old boy preach, but I was well received, and I was given many more opportunities.

Music Versus Preaching

Music was always a major part of my ministry. God gave me a special gift to sing and play the piano and organ. At 14, I was the organist for a huge South Texas District Youth Conference at Victory Assembly in Beaumont, attended by about 600 kids. I always had plenty of opportunities to use the musical gifts.

But music NEVER was as important to me as my desire to preach the Gospel. I NEVER believed that Gospel music was as important as preaching, and I never wanted to be known as just a Gospel musician. I believed that I was supposed to be a preacher.

Preachers Molded Me

Preaching molded me from my earliest days. Even as a small boy, I sat on the front row in Church and listened to the preacher. I said, "Amen!" and I went to the altar when the altar call was given.

In my childhood years, Christianity was FAR DIFFERENT than it is today. Preachers in virtually every Christian denomination still preached firmly against worldliness. It may have sounded primitive to our modern ears, but it was not wrong then, and it is not wrong now. Preachers in those days actually read their Bibles, and prayed and fasted. They preached against worldliness because God and His Word was against worldliness. Today, most preachers have never read the Bible as they should, so they don't feel the need to preach those things. They just pass around the latest, hottest feel-good sermons.

In earlier years, even the Methodists and Baptists preached against going to dances, pool halls, "picture shows" (movie theaters) and sporting events. Sin was black, and it made you feel guilty. That is what altars were for. People went to the altars, confessed their sins, repented and asked God to forgive them, and they promised they would not keep on doing those things. That was the way it should be.

Those preachers were not wrong. But over the years, they got outnumbered and overpowered by carnally-minded people in the pews.

Preaching Condemned Sin, And Called Sinners To Repent

In my childhood, every preacher I ever listened to preached against WORLDLINESS.

They preached against smoking, gambling, cursing, chewing tobacco, drinking, carousing, and plenty of other vices. They intended to straighten people up! When people came to Church, they expected to be CHANGED! If they weren't ready to be changed, they just stayed home. The preachers did not hesitate to say when things were sinful! And that was not wrong.

They preached against women looking like Jezebels with their makeup and jewelry and immodest clothes. They said that was sinful, too. They were not wrong. Again, they just got outnumbered and overpowered by carnally-minded people in the pews. The women did not want to look like prudes, and neither did their men, so the preachers just got replaced with others who did not object to makeup and jewelry and Jezebel ways. The women wanted to cut their hair and look sexy like the women on TV and in the movies, so they came to disdain the preachers. At best, they ignored the call to holiness and separation. At worst, they rebelled against it.

Now, most preachers just wink at sin and let people get by with all those things. Our modern generation of preachers has learned that it is enormously profitable to comfort people in their sins. A preacher who will let people do whatever they want to do will soon have the largest church in town, and the most money. These "come as you are, do as you please" churches have siphoned off the crowds from the few churches who tried to maintain their convictions, just like WALMART has shut down so many mom-and-pop businesses. The guy who preaches real convictions nowadays may just have to get a secular job and support himself.

When television first came around, preachers everywhere went into a tizzy. I remember hearing preachers declaring war on men who stayed home from Sunday night services to watch "Gunsmoke" and "The Ed Sullivan Show." Nowadays, churches don't even meet on Sunday nights. Instead, everybody goes to the movie theaters and watches every kind of corruption. Hollywood definitely won that round. But nobody cares. They are just glad they don't have to take the kids to Church on Sunday night.

Almost nobody thinks it is wrong to watch anything anymore. In the days before movie ratings, preachers tried their best to keep people from movies that, by today's standard, were totally innocent. But they weren't innocent. The oldest black-and-white movies constantly promoted lying, cheating, smoking, drinking, immorality, crime and all kinds of other vices. But because today's movie fare is infinitely more vile, the old movies look innocent by comparison. We just got used to the dark. It no longer alarms us.

Television and Hollywood can now say or do anything and everything they want, and professing Christians just sit there and soak it up like a pump truck sucking up slime. And if a preacher raises his voice against television or Hollywood, he is blacklisted from nearly every pulpit in America. Christians used to refuse to watch any movie with an R or X rating, but those days are gone. Most preachers nowadays are as addicted to television and Hollywood and sports as any rank sinner was forty years ago, so you can never expect those preachers to condemn the many evils that are inherent in them. The ministry is FAILING mankind to day, because the MINISTERS themselves are as WORLDLY and SINFUL today as common sinners were in previous generations.

Preachers Hated The World, And The World Hated Preachers

The men who pastored me when I was young told me that I should not participate in organized sports because it would turn my heart away from God and Church. (Most denominations have in the past had official statements condemning organized sports!) They said it was one thing if you had to work around sinners, but if you had a choice, you should not hang with sinners in your free time. Christians were not supposed to be friends with the world, or spend their time hanging around ungodly people, listening to their cussing, and running around with them while they talked about drinking, and partying and carousing. They said that participating in football, or basketball, or the other sports turned your heart away from God, Church and righteous living. It took away from your spiritual man.

I believed them! I believed that if I ran with the ungodly crowd at school, I would lose my desire to be what God wanted me to be. And I was right about that. It is still true. You can't pray and read your Bible and do the things that God wants you to do when your heart is wrapped up in the things of the world.

Preachers preached, "touch not the unclean thing." Dancing was taboo. Dancing was rightfully labeled as something that unnecessarily stirred up the human passions. It made young people lust for each other, and tempted them to other sins. Young Christians did not go to the Proms or the school dances. But nowadays, Christians spend more time raving about "American Idol" and "Dancing With The Stars" than they do discussing the Bible or the things of God. Now, all of our little girls are enrolled in ballet dance lessons, and we put them on the Church stage to dance for us in their skimpy little costumes. And increasingly, "Christians" are the winning contestants in the latest dance contests, band contests and singing contests. Once the world has put their stamp of approval on them, the Church treats them like celebrities! They end up becoming the Praise and Worship leaders in the mega-Churches. What is wrong with this scenario?

Now, in most Churches, it is perfectly permissible to come to Church looking like Jezebel, with all the make-up, jewelry and immodesty that you want. Any and all hairstyles are welcomed (except anything that is clearly modest and conservative), and then you will almost certainly be told that you need to be loosed from the bondage of legalism.

As a young boy, going to Church, reading my Bible, praying, living a holy life, and working to bring people into the Kingdom of God was LIFE!! Going to Church was the most important thing in life. If the Pastor called a revival meeting to run seven nights in a row, we were there ALL SEVEN NIGHTS!

If the people were responding well to the preaching, the Pastor was likely to extend the meeting for another seven nights. It was not uncommon to go to Church every single night for two or three weeks at a time! And we were happy to be there every night!

I thought the whole world needed Church! The whole world needed God! Everybody needed to be delivered from their sinful ways to serve the Lord!

And that made me want to preach! I wanted to be a part of the divine process of leading people OUT OF THEIR SINS into a HOLY LIFE in Church -- the FAMILY OF GOD!

A Faithful Preacher Will Convict Sinners Of Their Sins

I marvel in disbelief at how well modern preachers justify the very things that were ALWAYS WRONG for centuries before. Preachers do not call people to the altars any more. Most churches do not have altars any more. We rarely, if ever, see a man or woman weeping sorely in repentance for their evil ways.

All you have to do now, (according to the new generation of preachers) is "accept the Lord Jesus Christ," by showing your hand and saying a 25-word prayer. Then you are free to go home and catch the afternoon football game on TV. No big deal. Go on and hurry home. Forget the sermon as fast as you can. You can sign your annual giving pledge next Sunday.

I have no doubt whatsoever that those old-time preachers were exactly right about worldliness. I have watched the entire evolution of Christianity very closely through the years, and I have seen NOTHING spiritually beneficial about letting "Christians" be more "worldly." I have watched two generations of young people drop out of Church because they got too close to the world. Anybody who thinks the modern Church is BETTER OFF NOW than it was forty years ago is blindly deluded. The modern Church is FALLING AWAY - exactly like the prophecies said it would.

Nowadays, the preachers are OK with worldliness. They don't preach against those things. In fact, many preachers nowadays are sports fanatics, and actually encourage Church events in tandem with major sporting events. One start-up congregation I heard of recently received one million dollars in start-up cash. And their evangelistic strategy is staging BIG-SCREEN FOOTBALL EVENTS on Sunday evenings to attract crowds. Then they teach Bible studies during half-time.

Preachers and church members now take their Sunday nights out to the movie theaters. It is common to learn of Pastors who drink, and it is not surprising to find that many Pastor's offices in the larger churches have wet bars!! Dancing is now done IN THE CHURCH, with ballet and dance classes considered WORSHIP! Many churches sponsor events for young adults and/or married couples where dancing and drinking are part of the evening's entertainment. Some churches charter buses to NASCAR races, or other major sporting events. And I'm talking about PENTECOSTAL churches!!

"Follow ...holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." There is going to be a sad, tragic and rude awakening on Judgment Day when all these "Worldly Christians" face Almighty God at the judgment and discover that HE WAS NOT OK with those things. "Depart from me..."

If my earliest Pastors had not preached the way they did, I would have almost certainly gone the way of the world. And I am absolutely convinced that MOVIES, SPORTS, and all the other WORLDLY HABITS have COST THE CHURCH thousands upon thousands of potential young preachers who NEVER HEARD THE CALL OF GOD, because the WORLD drowned it all out. Worldliness in the Church is the equivalent of ABORTION among America's youth. Worldliness has aborted more young men and women of God, (and older people, too) than all the fetuses that have been aborted in abortion clinics.

Worldliness in the Church produces an IMPOTENT CHURCH in which young people no longer hear the call of God to separate themselves unto holy living. Our young people desperately need to hear the kind of preaching that some of us older people were raised on. It helped us to stay in Church for decades, and it would have the same effect on them, too.

THE CALL of God is to PREACH ALL THE COUNSEL of God (Acts 20:27).

I believe that is The Call I received in 1962, at 11 years old. And that is the same call I am trying to follow at this very moment.

Continue to:
"Long Winding Road - Chapter 3 - Facing The Music"

Return to:
"Long Winding Road - Chapter 1 - The Groves"

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