Like most young people, I thought I knew everything. I went through the phase where my parents couldn’t tell me anything. Soon I graduated to the level where my teachers couldn’t tell me anything. In a very short time, I became the smartest human to have ever lived. Somehow…I had come to know EVERYTHING…about EVERYTHING. I’m not sure how I mastered the universe…it just sort of happened. I hope you’re at least grinning a little bit…because chances are we’ve all accomplished this same amazing feat at some point in our lives. But, in most cases, something will happen, someone will say something, or circumstances will arise that bring our big heads and little feet back down to earth.
I had one of those moments while sitting in a classroom at Clear Creek Baptist Bible College back in the day. A professor was doing his duty of instructing the young minds who sat before him. I sat looking interested but it was one of those days when my mind was all over the place and couldn’t seem to focus on anything…much less the professor. In what seemed like slow motion, the professor said, “As the giants of our day die off, who will be left to take their place?” Of course, he was referring to the pastors and authors at the time who were literally influencing the life and direction of our churches. I had been a preacher and a student long enough to have already compiled a list of what I considered to be “giants.” Charles Stanley, Adrian Rogers, along with a handful of others seemed young enough, in my mind, to preach and write for at least another 150 years…give or take a few. In short, my mind couldn’t fathom a Christian kingdom without certain people in it.
One of those giants on my list, even then, was named RC Sproul. He was not a Southern Baptist, but in very short order, I had become familiar with his ministry, especially his writings. I probably had 4, maybe 5, books of his in my infant, but quickly expanding, library. Topics like the inerrancy of Scripture, holiness, pastoral responsibilities, and biblical exposition are just a few of the arenas where RC Sproul had made significant contributions not only to Christianity, but also to Mark Helton. Sproul believed and taught that our theology and doctrine should be fleshed out in feet, hands, and words-as the Reformers of old. As a student learning a bunch of theology and doctrine, this definitely captured my thinking.
Over the years, I would buy more books, watch more videos, and listen to lectures and sermons by this faithful giant who remained cloaked in humility. In short, he was one of the good guys. Yesterday, December 14 (around 3pm), RC Sproul passed away peacefully at a mind-boggling 78 years old, with his family by his side. I wrestle with how had he become 78 almost as much as I wrestle with how have I become 49.
Today, I’m back at Clear Creek in my head…thinking of that day the question was put before me about who will take the place of our modern giants. The once unthinkable is now a reality. He is gone…and I’m still here…and sooooo not a giant. But I will continue to preach, teach, share, and care with the days God chooses to give me. I’m thinking of a couple of quotes from RC Sproul that I never forgot. One went something like this, “Whatever else we do with this gospel, we must never, ever, ever, ever, ever change it.” A second is the mission statement of Ligonier Ministries, of which Sproul started many years ago: “Helping Christians know what they believe, why they believe it, how to live it, and how to share it.”
In closing, a giant has been called home. I found a quote from Chris Larson which I think is a fitting way to close out this blog. Before I write it, I want to lovingly remind all of us time is passing. As long as time tarries, death will come. As we prepare for it, our task is to help others do the same. RC Sproul impacted me…and for that I am grateful. My God help us to impact others…for His name’s sake and for His glory.
Chris Larson: “It belongs to others in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead to assess the impact of RC’s ministry in the history of the church. In this moment, we feel loss–immense sadness and profound loss–the loss of a pastor, teacher, a leader, a brother-in-Christ, a friend.” Amen Chris…Amen. Stay Classy Monticello!