(ROCKWALL, TX — November 6, 2018) The Baptist preacher is well known in his circle and beyond. At retirement age, he’s transitioning to a new role with the North American Mission Board. You could say he has a good reputation. Or, you could say he has a most improved reputation. He was once a notorious sinner.
My husband and I recently visited the North Georgia church where Johnny Hunt has been a pastor for over thirty years. Our visitor bag included Hunt’s autobiographical story, From the Pool Room to the Pulpit. The 32-page booklet has a singular if-God-can-change-me-he-can-change-you message based on 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” *
Hunt grew up in the rough environment of a government housing project. His hard-drinking father left the family that included six children. His mother worked in a factory to support them. From age 11, John trailed his older, whiskey-drinking brother and knew where the bottles were hidden. The boy began drinking every day. He dropped out of high school and worked at a poolroom, where besides shooting pool he honed some other skills: cursing, brawling, and gambling.
As a young man Hunt secured both a job at a hardware store and a pretty wife who—unknown to Johnny—had recently asked Jesus into her life. His wife begged him to go to church, and a frequent customer at the store kept inviting him to one. When he finally showed up at the local Baptist church one Sunday morning, he couldn’t stop weeping. He even skipped his afternoon visit to the drag strip so he could make it back to the evening service.
Hunt didn’t understand what was happening in his heart. After weeks of crying at church every Sunday, he decided to give his life to Jesus. Some forty-plus years later, it appears that he truly did.
The bad boy turned preacher has never stopped sharing the love of God. Like the apostle Paul (another former troublemaker), his life has overflowed with appreciation for his redeemed life. From the beginning of trusting in Christ he wanted to share the good news with others: “Jesus changed my life!” He proclaimed it to his mother and his whole family (one brother also became a preacher). He also told the local barber and his friends at both the saloon and the poolroom.
Practically illiterate, Hunt relied on a Soul-Winner’s New Testament to share his faith step by step from the book of Romans (see Romans 3:23; 5:8; 6:23; 10:9). The poolroom owner came to faith and put a for sale sign on the door the next day.
The pastor at the Presbyterian church in Hunt’s town asked him to come share his salvation story with that congregation. (Not all church attenders have experienced the transforming power of Christ).
Reading Hunt’s testimony reminded me of the Bible story of a “sinful” woman who, weeping, washed Jesus’s feet with her tears while he visited the house of a Pharisee, who distained the woman’s show of gratitude to Jesus. The Lord explained to his host that the woman had much love to show because of receiving forgiveness for her many sins, “But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little” (Luke 7:46-47).
Maybe I’ve been living more like the seated Pharisee instead of the grateful woman at Christ’s feet. Without Jesus, I was lost in my sins. I want to show more appreciation for what God has done for me—everything.
*Scriptures from the New King James Version
By Patti Richter. Patti writes and edits Christian faith articles and has co-authored Signs of His Presence: Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering (available March 2019). Read more of her essays at blueribbonnews.com/category/faith.
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