My mentor is “retiring” later this month… I say retiring, because even though he is leaving the ministry where he has been since 1990, he is probably heading somewhere else to serve. “I think I have one more left in me Chris…”
I don’t know if I ever wrote about this before, but in 1994 I had a pretty clear view of the world. I graduated in three years with my B.S. in Law Enforcement from the top rated program in the country. My remaining scholarship money was paying for a year of graduate school – getting my M.A. in Law Enforcement studying training methodologies for tactical/SWAT teams. I was trying for the USAKF (the USA Karate Federation, at the time the National Governing Body for traditional martial arts) national team at the top international levels. And I was leading a successful business training LEOs (law enforcement officers) in arrest control, edged weapons defense… etc.
That is when Charlie Ferguson messed me up. I had known Charlie since 1991 – the campus pastor for Campus Students for Christ – a Christian campus ministry at WIU. Charlie was a small town, rural church preacher who had transitioned to leading campus ministry the year before my arrival to campus. I watched him, quietly, as he interacted with students, fixed broken plumbing in the building, and led this tiny little ministry in the middle of western Illinois farm country. He never made a headline… never published anything that I know of. But he was available, and he spoke honestly and authentically.
And he totally messed me up. In 1995 I was stopped short by a God-appointed series of events that left me challenging my assumptions about what it meant to be successful in life – what it meant to be influential and impactful. I came to the world-changing realization that Charlie, by quietly impacting individuals, and empowering them to impact others, would have a LOT more influence on this planet, and its people, families, friends, and relationships, than I would by training and teaching LEOs (even if I was training the guys who show up and ‘save the day’). His life of unassuming discipleship – with no publicity, no books or blogs (can you remember a time before email and blogs?!?) or other marketing – was going to impact thousands and thousands of people as each of the people he influenced deeply influenced others. And so I walked away from my martial arts and law enforcement career and switched from my M.A. in Law Enforcement to an M.Div in seminary. All due the call of God as expressed through the life of one unassuming, humble man, and the realization of his impact on thousands of people over my lifetime.
And I’ve seen that happen. The end of this month, a “quiet” going away party is happening for Charlie – not publicized, not really advertised much at all, and hundreds are traveling great distances to show up and say ‘Thanks’. And I’ve seen it in my life – Charlie was instrumental in my shift from one career field to another 13 years ago. How many thousands of people have I preached to? How many people have I interacted with? Led to Christ? Counseled? (And I, relative to many of my contemporaries have accomplished little – I say this in a spirit of humility, but acknowledging the cumulative effect of years.) All because Charlie spent some time with me, one on one, and influenced my life. I became convinced then, and am to this day, that when all is said in done, those accomplishments are what will stand the test of time.
I knelt before God in the early part of 1995 and asked him to make my life like Charlie Ferguson’s… that I would have the opportunity to impact people in the same way… that I could live a life that humble, that influential, and that meaningful. And to a guy who grew up without a great father-figure, that model of spiritualized manhood served as a guiding beacon in my early years of marriage and fatherhood.
I’m not there yet… but 13 years later, I can still see Charlie’s impact and imprint on my life. And I often, in my journal, prayers, and daily decisions, remind myself of that world-changing paradiagm I decided to pursue so many years ago; that the impact of One Man, done quietly and rightly, CAN in fact change the world.