That announcement got me thinking*, and when I get to thinking, I usually get to writing.
*And crying. I might have cried too.
I started going to Southcliff with my parents on Easter Sunday of 2009, the spring of my senior year. This change in churches came at an already unsettling time for me. I was about to graduate high school, make my college decision, and possibly move away from home. Then my parents switched churches and I had a big change before the other big change.
I didn’t want to join Southcliff’s youth group only to leave it in a couple of months, so I attended the college group.
And there I met Spencer.
I can’t remember how Spencer would introduce himself, but I do remember how he always used to introduce his wife:
“This is my beautiful wife, Shelley.”
I also remember Spencer’s hair. He had (still does) this great hairdo that kinda sticks up in the front.
If I could pull off that hairstyle, I would. But I am not Spencer.
Spencer caught my attention with his captivating teaching, his extensive knowledge, and his genuine passion for knowing Jesus.
I can remember some of the great lessons (and sermons) that Spencer taught, but there are three particular Spencer Plumlee-isms that encapsulate his legacy to me. (That’s convenient, because three is an easy number to remember, and it makes for a tidy blog post.)
1. Read your Bible every day.
Spencer would always say, “If you commit to reading your Bible every day, I promise you that it will change your life.”
This must be the battle-cry of youth pastors, college ministers, and pastors from time immemorial.
Please, kids—congregation—read your Bible.
I heard it before Spencer, and I have heard it since. I have not followed this advice to the letter, but when I have read the Bible every day for weeks at a time—months at a time—I see life-changing benefits.
When you read the Bible every day, you will naturally be led into prayer, evangelism, service, repentance, maturity, sanctification, humility—the list goes on. Those are all things that Christians need and should want for their lives.
I see the life-change that Spencer talked about when I read my Bible every day, because we believe that it is more than just an anthology of books and letters. We believe it’s the Word of God.
2. When you go to college, plug into a church immediately.
In the summer of 2009, before I moved to Norman, Oklahoma, Spencer told me to find a church there and commit to it.
Don’t “shop around” for a semester.
Don’t “wait until you get settled in.”
Don’t let a few months pass before you darken a church door.
I don’t think I was in too much danger of not finding a church, but Spencer exhorted me to find a church and plug in.
So I did. And the resulting rewards, joys, and pleasures are too numerous to count.
On Sunday, June 21, 2009 (Father’s Day), my parents and I attended Trinity Baptist Church* in Norman, Oklahoma. We were up at OU for the weekend so I could enroll in classes**.
*Pastor Carroll Marr of Southcliff recommended Trinity to my parents and me.
**That weekend, I met Travis Kuehler, my first friend at OU. We have been very close friends for four years, and we both go to Trinity and the Baptist Student Union (Paradigm).
I wanted a church that proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ, preached the Bible as the Word of God, and had loving people.
I walked into the Trinity college group and immediately met some great, friendly people, including Grant Keeter, Josh Malone, Jeff Growe, Aaron Hoffman, Jared Haines, and Paul Zimmerman.
My prayer for a good church was answered immediately. Trinity fit all my criteria.
I told Josh at lunch: “Well, I think I’m going to come to Trinity.”
Josh was surprised (and, perhaps, amused). “That didn’t take long.”
It didn’t. But I never had to visit another church. I’ve been going to Trinity all four years at OU.
Not everyone finds the right church immediately. But I took Spencer’s words to heart and joined an imperfect church of imperfect people who, like me, are saved by Jesus.
Don’t shop around. Find a church and commit to it.
I have passed this advice along to many younger guys. A few have followed it. Many have not.
I have reaped the benefits of this advice: the Body of Christ at Trinity has provided me with dear friends who have helped to carry me through the most difficult years of my life.
Spencer played a part by encouraging me to find a church and commit to it.
3. Romans 5:8
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
This isn't a Spencer Plumlee-ism, it's just one of his favorite verses.
In this passage, the Apostle Paul explains that you and I were lost in sin. We had broken God’s commandments, we were enemies of God, BUT GOD demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
The penalty for breaking God’s law is death, but Jesus Christ took our place and suffered our punishment when He was crucified. Then Jesus rose from the dead, and those who believe in Him have eternal life (John 3:16, Romans 6:23).
When I think of Spencer, I think of this verse, and therefore of the gospel, and therefore of Jesus Christ.
As you said to my parents and me on Sunday morning, you got to share a season of life with us.
As I said, you were instrumental in my life during a pivotal time: high school to college.
You taught me, you preached to me, you talked with me, and you prayed for me.
God bless you, your family, and your ministry.