You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:5-9
He was the ultimate church planter. Eleven churches were started either by, or on account of him, and that’s all we’re able to decipher from the records we have. That number could easily be higher.
Oh, I’ll also mention that he did this in the Roaring Twenties and throughout the Depression. He started out on a horse and graduated to a Model T. He had no budget to purchase a sound system (not to mention the lack of technology), special age-specific programs, or paid staff. Who needs all that when you have access to a great accordion player!
What he did have was a burning passion to reach lost Hoosiers with the good news. It was a passion that kept him away from his family of 12 for weeks at a time. It was a passion that set Southern Indiana on fire for God during a time when most hope had flickered out after the events of the stock market crash and rampant illnesses now unheard of with today’s medical advances.
And his eleven children? Well, seven of those eleven either became preachers, missionaries, or else married one. Let me add that he highly encouraged two of his “preacher’s wife” daughters, one of those being my grandmother, to become ordained themselves in a day when that wasn’t so popular.
He was my great-grandfather.
He’s a part of my heritage that I won’t deny, as I tend my own parsonage. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder how his passion may have shaped my own life decisions. From the choice of undergrad studies, to marrying a minister, to my own path of full-time ministry, his life continues to impact mine: this man I never met.
Not everyone’s heritage is so glorious. Not all of my heritage is so glorious.
However, the heritage I leave is a choice. Not in the ancestral choices of yesterday, but rather in the choices I make for my progeny. I am fortunate to have J.H. Carroll’s legacy as part of my heritage, but it is up to me to make sure that heritage is passed along to my boys.
The events of last week leave me searching my soul. I shudder at the culture of terror and evil that seeped into the souls of the assailants. My heart breaks for the heirs of spiritual ignorance as they were thrown into the afterlife without comprehension of where they were going. I rejoice with sorrow for those who died with an everlasting hope, because I will meet them someday, and I thank the one who introduced them to that hope.
Am I leaving a heritage that my boys will want to pass on to my grandchildren? Am I leaving them a heritage that, in the face of evil, will give them the boldness to say, “Yes, I am a Christian”? Am I leaving them a heritage that gives them peace and security in Christ as the world around them crumbles?
My great-grandfather’s legacy could have just as easily ended with me, as it has for many other family members. But where does that leave my children? My great-grandchildren?
If you don’t have a heritage worthy of passing down, it’s never too late to start one. Your great-grandchildren might thank you for it decades later.