There was a high magnitude quake in the evangelistic spiritual realm over Chicago today. At its epicenter was the passing away of one of the finest evangelists I have ever known.
- “I can’t believe that she lets people smoke at her Bible study.”
- “A woman shouldn’t teach men.”
- “She’s not under anybody’s authority.”
- “She doesn’t believe in the old sin nature.”
- “Her ear rings are too big.”
- “She said ‘damn’.”
Others despised her for these reasons. The rest of us loved her for them.
Lois conducted a Bible study in an unadorned Chicago basement for decades. By Bible study, I mean this: stacks of worn, Bibles–gosh-awfully smelly–stacked on rickety tables with even ricketier chairs crammed into a room much too small for all of this. Ashtrays on the tables. No windows. Lucky to find a place to park. No signs. Walk around the back. Enter through the back basement door. No good reason to come.
And yet people came by the thousands, I suppose. Most of them desperately lost. I guess the p.c. term is “unchurched.” Shacking up. Drug addicts. Alcoholics. Mentally ill. Atheists. Catholics. Lutherans. Baptists. Buddhists. You name it–it came to Lois’ Bible Class.
Lois sat on a stool, and read through a paragraph of Scripture. Dangling earrings swayed. Smoke swirled around her head. A room that could hold 20 crammed with 80 or more shifted nervously as she read. Lois then commented on that paragraph for a few moments. A few questions. A few debates. Some laughter. Light up another cigarette (not Lois–she didn’t smoke)… And move on to the next paragraph.
No powerpoint. No handouts. No bulletin. No announcements. There was an offering–it was used to buy the [bad] coffee. Which we drank by the gallons in that glorious chapel dug six feet into earth. We listened to a lady named Lois, but we heard the voice of God.
I can’t tell you why. Her insights were edgy, but always orthodox. She was not a master of erudition. She spilled her coffee as she taught. What was Lois’ secret?
Her sense of grace was without parallel. Lois taught the gospel of grace. Which is why she and I were kindred spirits. That unadorned gospel announces that the worst of us, and the worst parts of us, are never sunk too low for the love of God, and for the effectiveness of the Cross of Christ to take hold. And that in a simple act of faith–express it however you will: through prayer, through nodding your head, through smiling–though a simple act of faith a person is born again into the family of God with everlasting life as a permanent possession. It is the old time gospel.
- It is not what you give to God. It is what he does for you.
- It is not changing your life. You can’t, and he won’t until you have first believed on the the Lord Jesus.
- It is not fix up your life, and then come to Jesus. It is just as you are.
- It is not “quit shacking up” and then you can be saved. It is you’re dead and can’t stop sinning until after you’re saved;.
- It is not “follow Jesus.” It is trust Jesus, and then he will “will and do” in you all the following he requires.
Lois spoke this gospel, and then ended the Bible class. No prayer. No formality. Just a ragtag crew of strangers and friends crammed into a basement listening to a lady comment on the Bible.
Yet it was the power of God. I would estimate that thousands of seekers found what they sought in that basement. From the ranks of druggies and addicts sprang forth pastors and missionaries and church leaders. A race of grace-oriented newbies populated churches and filled Sunday school classes throughout the land. The number of pastors who first met Jesus in Lois’ class has to be in the dozens.
After Lois finished teaching, it was time to “move in.” That meant that us veterans would strike up a conversation with strangers at our table, and–sipping coffee, and breathing their tar and nicotine–gently open a door to Jesus. Okay, sometimes not so gently. We did what we had to do: ardent for Jesus, and I must confess, for the smile and approval of Lois.
There was not a church in town that didn’t have some of Lois’ converts helping out in ministry. How the devil hated her. Week after week, somebody “got saved”–a phrase I still use and always will, even though our postmodern friends don’t like it. I want people to get saved, and if your ministry doesn’t get people saved, it isn’t Christian.
Lois got people saved. In her Bible study. Vacation Bible School. Awana. Camp Awana. In her neighborhoods. Wherever she could teach, she taught.
And the remarkable thing to me was her unremarkability. She was not a dynamo. She was not particularly eloquent. She was not utterly brilliant. She was not erudite or educated.
She was, however, anointed by God. And that made all the difference.
Lois taught me to live on the edge. To pray. To expect that God would use his word to save people. To expect that God would use ME to save people. To breathe other people’s smoke and not get hung up on it. To laugh. To dig into the Word. To be an evangelist. To not despise small things like basements and styrofoam cups of coffee. To clarify the gospel of grace, and hold fast.
I loved her. She was a spiritual mom to me and so many others. I’m sure that I was her favorite. Her influence on me continues every time I step behind a pulpit to preach.
When she slipped into eternity, I have no doubt that her precious Savior took her hand and walked her home. In that smoke-free zone of heaven, Lois enjoyed Jesus and Don in that order.
The quake in the spiritual realm is still rippling. Who will take her place? It can’t be done. Lois’ death is the end of an era.
No dismay, though. God always has a new era up his sleeve.
I am told there was a party for Lois last week. I wish I could have gone. She told her friends, “See you over there.” Yeah, Lois. Thanks for embracing me. I’ll see you over there too.
Anybody with pictures of Lois, or her Bible class, please send them so I can post them, okay?