That time I ignored Lynn Anderson’s advice

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Somewhere at home there are pictures of Lynn and me, photos from the days before Social media or cell photos, they are lost in some box.  I’ve listened to Lynn all across the country, from St. Louis after his release of They Smell like Sheep to Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration, but my fondest memories of Lynn are from the days of the Tulsa Soul winning workshop.

I have every book he published, and what many people may not realize is, Lynn loved to inscribe his books whenever you bought one at a lectureship.  He would get to know you, then write a kind word, and sign his name.  For a young minister it was like meeting your favorite celebrity but they already knew your name.

One time I was talking with Lynn at the end of the day at the Tulsa workshop.  His booth was largely being overlooked by the hungry crowds leaving the Fairgrounds after a long day, and I once again had Lynn all to myself.  He was full of smiles and encouragement, as always.  I’ve had five or six such conversations with him over the years, we’d talk, he’d sign his latest book, and we’d go our separate ways.  That night in particular has stuck with me, vividly, for over 20 years now.

I was seeking Lynn’s advice about a change in pulpits, and I really wanted to hear what he had to say.  I was in a small Midwestern church in rural Illinois, and we had an opportunity to serve in a church in Tennessee with all the bells and whistles, a larger church than I had ever preached for before, and it seemed like an incredible opportunity to me.  

Lynn earnestly leaned into the conversation, asked me questions about our children, the work we were doing where we were, and about our relationship with the church I was currently serving in.  After about 30 minutes of us talking back and forth, he unequivocally advised me to stay put where we were.  He told me to chase the bigger churches after our sons were grown and gone, that there would be other opportunities later on, but that I would be better off in that smaller church for the time being.  

Well, I had just earned my second Masters Degree from a local Seminary and I was feeling like I deserved to be in a bigger church, so, sadly I ignored Lynn’s heartfelt, sage advice.  And, I paid the price.  

How could Lynn have been so perceptive and wise and insightful and how could I have been so arrogant, prideful, and immature?  He was 100% right.  I wish I had listened to him.

Things went okay for a while, I managed somehow to last 7 years with that church, but it was filled with conflict and heartache before all was said and done.  I wished over the years I had taken Lynn’s advice to heart, and I even cried about it more than once.

I miss the old-timers like Jimmy Allen who loved to mentor younger preachers, and now Lynn’s passing adds one more to be missed as well.  I  guess I will crack open a few of his books over the weeks to come, re-read my favorite underlined parts, but these days I know better than to ignore his wisdom, I just wish I learned to listen to him earlier in life.

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