Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Chuck Colson and Me

When I prayed the evening office tonight I remembered Charles Colson, in extremis, for reports have been received that Colson -- better known to many as "Chuck" -- is near death after having fallen ill several weeks ago and undergoing emergency surgery for a blood clot. I owe him a debt of gratitude on a number of counts.

I was raised in a nominal Christian family in a nice respectable church that, quite frankly, didn't talk much about my sinfulness or need for redemption, but I did spend a good deal of time at the now-demolished Myrtle Square Mall because Collins Department Store, owned by the family and (in the case of that one) managed by my dad (it's gone now too -- we sold them in 1981). We'd go there shopping and I was let loose to roam at a fairly early age. The Word, a Christian Bookstore located right by Sears (people of a certain age who were raised in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, will know exactly where I'm talking about) was owned and operated by the Herdons, good folk whom I knew from church, and sold (among other things) Spire Christian Comics. They were simplistic but actually conveyed the stories that they intended to tell pretty well and one of them was an adaptation of Chuck Colson's autobiography, Born Again. While it wasn't high art it was the first time that I can remember hearing of my need for a saviour and the concept of new birth in Christ. I later read the book and saw the movie, but that comic book was the first clear presentation of the Gospel that I can remember and was used to bring me to faith in Christ. Really.

Some years later, after commissioning and while still in college, I began considering a vocation to ordained ministry and read a number of Colson's books including The Body. While not a scholarly tome it did impact how I viewed the Church and its mission in the world -- the first ecclesiology I read. It was through his works that I first learned of a Christian world and life view, and for that I'm very thankful; his thoughtful Breakpoint commentaries fleshed that out. Charles Colson was also one of the leaders in the Manhattan Declaration, a great statement of Christian conscience of which I was pleased to be the 4177th signer (if you've not done so I encourage you to sign it as well) and continued to promote Christian engagement with culture -- all of this, in addition to his primary work reaching men and women in prison with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In 1997 I got to hear Colson in person at the dedication of Reformed Theological Seminary's Charlotte Campus and I regret that I didn't meet him that night (the crowds were considerable). Barring the miraculous, I probably won't get a chance to thank him in person in this life but want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the impact that he's had on my life and the Church of Christ at large.

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