Remembering Seminary Buddy, Bill Stanley

Seminary buddy, Bill Stanley, was everyone’s favorite guy. To meet him, especially to know him, was to love him. But Bill was new to preaching and giving altar calls. I, on the other hand, was a preacher’s kid and, although young like he, had already done some revival preaching. Also, I had won the annual “preacher’s contest,” so was a legend in my own mind. When both of us were asked to speak at the annual campus revival, I took it upon myself to tutor Bill how to give an invitation which I had learned from the pros.

I instructed a trusting Bill to ask his audience at the end of his message to bow their heads for prayer, then to call for a show of hands of those wanting salvation. Then I instructed him after a moments delay to just begin saying, “Yes, I see that hand over to my left, and here up front, and also those hands at the back. God bless you.”

I explained that this would encourage others to also respond, although the number of hands raised would not be quite equal to the number his acknowledgments would seem to indicate, but no matter, heads would be bowed and no one would know the difference.

Also, I suggested that he then instruct his audience to stand with their heads bowed and for those who raised their hand to come forward to the altar as soon as the invitational hymn began, and for them not to delay.

I continued to mentor: "As soon as the music starts," I said, "begin to say, 'That’s right, come on. Amen! Praise the Lord! That’s good. Others, won’t you join these who are coming? Thank you, Lord, for this good response!'”

Bill was a good apprentice. On the evening of the big event, Bill spoke well enough, then gave the invitation. As instructed, he acknowledged hands that were both being raised, and not.

During the altar call, however, he got carried away (being a novice, you know). To hear Bill report from the pulpit the response of those coming to the altar, this could have been a Billy Graham crusade. Repentant sinners seemed to be coming from everywhere. Wow, I was beginning to tear up. The music was calling, and Bill was excited. Normally, pious church folks don’t lift their heads or open their eyes to take a peek, but this was just too good to miss. So I dared to peek and found myself along with a whole crowd of other folks looking around to see what Bill saw. Only no one had come forward and Bill stood at the front alone celebrating the great movement to the altar that was not happening.

(I lost contact with Bill and his wife, but know they have served many faithful and fruitful years as missionaries with the World Baptist Fellowship. Also this story may not have happened exactly like I have told it, but it is close enough, and certainly the way I remember it. Also, Bill may want to suggest that I suffer with false memory syndrome.)

Don Loy Whisnant/Journey Notes 8F20