I met Charlie Bris-Bois about five years ago in Winston-Salem while doing a seminar on preparing the church for the 21st century. Charlie voiced skepticism about some of my ideas and even confessed he "liked things the way they were."
The second time I saw Charlie, in a similar setting some months later, God had worked in his heart and life. As a three-time retired insurance salesman, consultant, long-time men's Bible class teacher and deacon, he was seeing a new vision!
He embraced me and said, "I've been thinking about what you've said and have been praying about it, and I now believe you are more right than wrong about the current state of the church and how unprepared we are to be effective in the 21st century. What can I do to help move our church to greater effectiveness in accomplishing the Great Commission and the Great Commandment?"
Since that day, Charlie has been on an intense mission. He has helped the hurting and less fortunate. He has dealt with racial reconciliation issues. And he has provided significant leadership, as an 80-year-old Christian, to help move the church into the future.
He has used his business savvy to birth an inner-city, ecumenical ministry call SOS—Serving Our Savior—operated by volunteers. SOS helps the poorest of the poor, those with emergency needs for food, clothing, economic support, ramps for wheelchairs. He has also spent many days in eastern North Carolina helping hurricane victims rebuild.
Yes, this 80-year-old man was busy as a bee, investing deeply in caring for the hurting, sharing his faith in Christ and helping his church move forward for a greater ministry in the years ahead.
Charlie has recently been diagnosed with cancer, and his health is rapidly failing. I visited him and listened to him talk of how good God has been, how he's so grateful for the last three or four years of fulfilling life and ministry. Every time we see each other, he says, "Thanks for helping me find and follow my calling—I almost missed this part of life."
What a testimony! I asked Charlie what he wanted to say to others, and he shared some of the lessons he's learned. I hope you find as much strength, hope, encouragement and guidance in his wisdom as I do.
Lessons from Charlie's Journey
- "Stop worshiping traditions and begin to worship Jesus." He says he's spent too much of his life trying to preserve traditions rather than developing his walk with Christ.
- "Stop using so many words to communicate to others you're a believer—show people you care. Help the hurting, the lost, the wounded, the straying. Create incarnational ministries!"
- "Believe and trust God." He is filled with stories of how activating his belief and trust in God has unleashed God's blessings and power in his life so he could help those hurting around him.
- "Use the skills and resources God has allowed you to gain to help others. We spend far too much of our time and money on making our lives more comfortable rather than sharing those resources to help the less fortunate."
- "Just because I'm 80 years old doesn't mean I can't change. I simply have to open my heart to the work of God in my life. Change is essential if the church is going to be relevant and effective again."
- "I may have to leave my comfort zone in my faith in order to help someone else find new life—that's worth my discomfort!"
- "I am the happiest now I have been in my entire life. I never knew serving others could bring such joy." What makes this particularly powerful is that Charlie enjoyed the fruits of much "worldly" success.
Charlie's days are limited, but he's facing death a fulfilled man and believer! Without the transforming experiences he's had in the last four years, he would likely have died just a good churchman. What about you? Are you helping move your church forward to greater effectiveness in fulfilling the Great Commission and the Great Commandment?
Eddie Hammett is leadership/discipleship consultant for Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and adjunct professor at Gardner Webb Divinity School.
Buy Eddie's new book and read more about Charlie's journey!
Reframing Spiritual Formation: Discipleship in an Unchurched Culture