Jim Tompkins, MudPreacher
I have not always been a mudpreacher, but God has always viewed me as a hunk of mud. For many years I tried to make something of this mud, but it was to be God’s working and not mine. God most definitely and dramatically called me to preach after I had made a decision to give everything to him. It was at a Teen Impact series of meetings at High Street Baptist Church in Springfield MO. Elmer Towns was the speaker. I don’t remember what he was speaking on, but I felt led to go forward and surrender my life to God-everything I owned, every desire, every dream, every hope for my future. I was already accepted at Washburn University. I had excelled at debate and though Law would be a good career. I had already made a couple trips there to see which fraternity I was going to pledge. I was amazed at all the fun and girls and booze the frat guys enjoyed. Yet God met me at a critical juncture of my life. I wanted to be a lawyer and make lots of money. I loved debate, I loved politics. God had other plans. Once I prayed before Him at the altar, God started to work. Friday, July 30th, 1971, I was back at work at Tompkins Industries, where I was counting parts for my dad’s young business. Suddenly waves of emotion poured all over me and all I could do was cry. I cried and cried and cried for a couple hours at least. Fortunately only one other person was there at that time (it was a real small business back then). I was overwhelmed with the presence of God. I was overwhelmed with His great love for me. I was left with a burden like nothing else I had ever experienced. God wanted me to be a preacher.
I got an application to Baptist Bible College in Springfield, MO, and in less than a month I was driving to Springfield.
I loved Baptist Bible College, the people, the strong Biblical teaching, the professors, but I hated the rules. My quest was to see how I could get around the rules. God wanted me to get more serious about serving HIM. January 10, 1972, I was in a head-on collision with a tractor-trailer rig that completely demolished my ’71 Plymouth Duster. The trooper who dragged me from the wreckage said he could not believe I was alive. In fact I had no cuts, no broken bones. I was not wearing a seat belt. I had no airbag. The car had even been hit by an elderly couple in the rear. It had been crunched in over 3 feet front and rear. The only thing that came across my heart was that God had rescued me. I looked on the ground and found a metal “P” broken off from Plymouth. I have kept it as a reminder that I am to “Press” toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
February 9, 1972, the Holy Spirit revealed that there was still more ‘high places’ in my heart that I had to surrender to His control. April 23, 1972 I was baptized at High Street Baptist. April 27, 1972 I stayed up all night (1am – 6am) in prayer with my friend, Don Porter. I trusted God to fill me with His Holy Spirit and to anoint me with power to preach the Gospel. April 28-30, 1972 I was privileged to preach a youth revival at Overland Park Baptist Temple. Don was there as my prayer warrior. We had some BBC students providing the special music. It was a truly remarkable time. 18 people accepted Jesus Christ as Savior. Eight people were baptized. 250 people made decisions or dedication to the Lord. I was so pumped.
I had a problem with pride, with rules. I was very involved with the college. I was even elected the Senior Class (3 year college) President for the 73-74 school year. This was very uncommon because a married guy hot on the trail of a Pastorate after graduation usually got the coveted spot. I remember the loser telling me the whole (BBFI) world would be mine once I won the election. It did go to my head. I thought I was somebody. I wanted to be up there with Dr. Dowell and GB Vick.
I was God’s. But my strong pride and flesh was enmity with God. God had to show me the truth of 2 Cor 4:7-10.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed– always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (NKJV)
He wanted me to know intimately that I was just a hunk of mud. I was a disposable clay jar. The power of the Gospel is about Him, about His Son. He can only be seen when we are cracked and broken. The flesh gets in the way. I ran afoul of the Baptist Bible College Discipline committee and was put on probation. Then I messed up, so I had to resign before a special meeting of the entire Senior Class. This was November of 1973. It was the most humbling thing I had done in my short life. I remember walking back to our dorm room and going into a prayer closet we had made because we only had three guys in a room for four. I cried and cried for hours. There were no waves of love and joy flowing upon me this time. I was broken and needed God to make sense out of the pieces. It was there that I really touched God. It was in that prayer closet that I learned what true surrender is. It was there that I learned what true worship is.
I had learned to thank God in everything. And now, I did. I gave Him control when I thanked Him. Surrender is just that-giving God, Almighty God, control over our life. God had given me a sweet girlfriend (Lydia Langston) who stuck by me, and at the Thanksgiving break I told her I loved her. I was old school. You don’t tell a gal you love her unless you intend to marry her. We indeed became engaged and married May 18, 1974. (Oh yeah, I got us both kicked out of BBC because we broke social restriction. I took some soup into her dorm room because she was having a bad time after her wisdom teeth were pulled. Her room-mates turned me in.)
I went back to BBC in the fall of 1974. I was no longer somebody. I was a nobody, married, with a baby on the way. We had all the normal struggles of real life. I graduated 3rd & 4th year in May 0f 1975 (with the help of some summer courses). Because of my ‘fall’ I could not get a job that a family of three could live on, so when a job with Tompkins Industries opened up, we moved to Kansas City.
The calling to preach was ever on my mind. My Dad insisted I get my Masters Degree, so I did from Calvary Bible College Seminary in1979. Butt we kept having babies. Six kids before I was 30. Life was hard, pressures were great, yet my faithfulness to God and church never waivered. Yet God had much pruning to do still. A family fight in 1988 resulted in my being fired as President of Tompkins Industries. The next three years were a true test of my faith in God’s ability to provide. Yet God was at work. He led me to start an asphalt paving business in 1991. He used that to get our family back together. He blessed the business in extraordinary ways. I just needed a job so I could pay bills, but God gave us so much more.
Then my Dad died suddenly in 1995 at the age of 63. Mom followed him a year later.
God spoke to me about focusing on eternity once again. I had started to enjoy the trappings of success. I remembered His calling upon my life, and put my name in at Midwestern Baptist Seminary to provide pulpit supply. In 1997 I preached several times at a little rural church in Edgerton Ks. They liked me, but had already hired a Midwestern grad. He quit after a year, and that Monday they called me and asked if I would consider being a bi-vocational pastor. I said yes! Evidently working 80 hours a week running a paving business wasn’t enough. I soon discovered that there is no such thing as a part time preacher. To do it right requires a full-time commitment. In spite of problems which I encountered (welcome to the Pastorate) I loved being a Pastor. I loved the ministry of the word.
God led me to put my paving business up for sale in January 2005. I had tried once before in 1999 but nothing happened. This time God was at work. Two buyers appeared in a matter of weeks. We chose one and closed in Septemeber of 2005.
In September 2004 God shook a growing rural church in Belton, MO. He wanted them to offer sincere worship, and so removed much of the flesh. They had been without a Pastor for almost two years when they decided to take a chance on me. I am so grateful they did. I hated to leave Edgerton Baptist, but we had prepared them well for the transition to a new Pastor. They are still going on and we still have friends there. GraceLife Community Church is where God had planned to use me way back when. I was not ready to be the man that God required way back in Bible College. I am finally the man He can use because I am a totally broken vessel, fit for the Master’s use. For the one instance of brokenness was only the beginning. I could write pages on God’s grace and His dealings with me and my flesh. Not that I have arrived, but I keep pressing for that Mark!
All I know is that God’s name is jealous. Anyone who gives their life to Him will soon learn that God is never satisfied with second best, or partial ownership. HE REQUIRES ALL OF YOU! You can resist and try to do it your way, or you can submit to His leading and those things which will bring brokenness into your life. Only when we realize we are just a hunk of mud will God ever be able to use us.