As I give honor to those who helped me early on as I began preaching, I must mention Johnny Ramsey. Johnny Ramsey was affectionately known as the “Walking Bible.” In all my life, I have never known another man who had committed Scripture to memory like Johnny Ramsey had done.
Johnny Ramsey and his wife, Iris became friends with my mom and dad many years ago. In fact they stayed in our home several times as he preached in gospel meetings in Chester, WV.
To me, as a young man, Johnny Ramsey was right up there with the apostles. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to receive periodic mailings from him. Whenever Johnny would would write a book, I would usually receive an unsolicited signed copy from him, along with an encouraging note. As I look back at his gifts, it even means more to me today than it did when I was in school. As busy as he was, he took the time to encourage and help me in my desire to preach.
Johnny passed away ten years ago, but before he died he spent some time with me when I was preaching in Glasgow, KY. I had mentioned to him in passing some trouble I was having with a lady who was pushing an agenda about which I had reservations. I’ll never forget the night this lady tried to enlist brother Ramsey to join “her side” on this issue. By the time brother Ramsey got done talking about her proposal, she had to have wished she would have never brought the subject up to him. She was left speechless. He said what I would have never have said, although I must admit that I had day-dreamed about saying those things ;-). Anyway, as we left the building that night and were walking to my car, he looked at me and winked saying, “There! I hope that puts that issue to rest for you.” No one ever accused Johnny Ramsey of not being straight-forward.
Through the years, I have listened to hundreds of sermons preached by Johnny Ramsey. But one of the more memorable sermons I heard him preach was in St. Albans, WV. He told of a time in his life that he turned his back on God. He said that if he had died during that period of his life, he would have been lost. But he came to himself, repented, and committed himself to a life of service to the Lord. His humble admission of failure was not something I had heard many preachers admit to, but by sharing this story, he made himself more real to me. I have used his story through the years many times to impress upon people God’s grace and what can be accomplished by one who was once lost, but decided to change his ways.
I am indebted to Johnny Ramsey for his example, for all the ways he personally tried to encourage me to preach, and for all the insights that I still glean from listening to his sermons.