What a Moonshiner Taught Me About Faith.

March 26, 2014 — 13 Comments

I never met my grandfather. Everything I know about him I’ve heard second-hand.

He was a man whose large physical stature was matched by his outgoing personality.

faithphoto credit: nealh2008 via photopin cc

By day he was farmer who raised tobacco and by night he sold homemade moonshine.

He loved his family and he loved to hunt.

From everything I can tell, he was like many other hard-working Americans of his generation, doing his best to provide for his family.

But the most important thing I know about him is that one day he made a critical decision that not only altered his life, but the lives of many generations to come.

At the age of 35, my grandfather gave his heart to the Lord and shortly thereafter surrendered to the call to become a preacher.

His moonshinin’ days were over. He turned them in for something even more potent.

From the rooftop of his barn, he started his very first church. And for the next 20 years prior to his death, he preached the gospel faithfully, leading hundreds of people into relationship with Christ and impacting many more.

At his funeral, hundreds of people showed up to pay their respects to this “giant” of Christian faith.

Here are 3 important lessons about faith that I’ve learned from his life:

  1. You don’t have to be ready, you just have to be available.

    Whenever you operate in a spirit of humbleness and obedience, God will use you.

    Education, income level, talents…none of that matters. God is bigger than your circumstances and He always gets the glory when you are obedient.

  2. In your Christian walk, seldom do you know all the steps.

    When my grandfather preached his first sermon from the rooftop of his barn, I doubt he realized the eternal impact that he would ultimately have.

    And I can almost guarantee he was scared.

    But neither fear nor uncertainty disqualifies you from ministry.

    In fact, a certain level of both is healthy. It forces you to pray and continually seek the face of God.

    You don’t have to know all the steps, just the first step. God will reveal the rest.

    For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

  3. Decisions you make today have an unseen and eternal impact.

    My family’s legacy looks substantially different today than it did over 50 years ago when my grandfather gave his heart to the Lord.

    When I look around I see generations of pastors, church leaders, and people who serve faithfully in their local congregations…

    …And it all started with one man’s faith.

    Your faith has the ability to either bless future generations or curse them. When you leave this world, it’s the only thing that matters.

I want to encourage you and challenge you to begin thinking more generationally.

Let’s begin sowing seeds today that our future generations will be able to harvest.

It’s time for us to step up and become our own “giants” of Christian faith.

QUESTION: Who in your life has made the most impact on your faith? What’s the #1 lesson they’ve taught you?

  • Charles Johnston

    Hey Larry, great post I too can look to my grandfather(s) as ones that had the most impact. One in his stout silence and few but powerful as he tought me to fish for more than just fish, the other showed the way a faithful servant loves until the end. Thanks for sharing a bit about your grandfather as well.

    • http://www.larrypoolespeaks.com/ Larry Poole

      Charles, one of the things that I’m most looking forward to in Heaven is getting to meet my grandfather and letting him know how much of an impact he made on me and my family.

      I had the thought the other day, “Larry, you need to start praying for your grandchildren.” It had never crossed my mind before, but that day I started praying for them. I, too, want to have that kind of impact someday.

  • Adam Byerly

    Great thought in making Christianity “generational”. I’ve heard people say that the world is your mission field, but your first mission is to the family God has given you. When we were taking our doctrinal exam for ABWE the examiner brought up a good point I had never thought of before. The questions was age-old, “How can God hold accountable those who have never heard the Gospel?” His answer was insightful. If we believe we all came from Noah, then if our ancestors had been faithful in carrying on the message from God and the coming Messiah, the whole world would know who God is. However, there was a breakdown somewhere along the way. Just a thought. God bless!


    • http://www.larrypoolespeaks.com/ Larry Poole

      It’s almost beyond comprehension to think that we can make decisions today that literally impact a thousand generations (Exodus 20.6).

      Thank you for sharing that insight. I’ve often struggled with this question, “Why was I raised in a Christian home in a Christian nation while others were not?”

      The answer is as you’ve already stated…it’s because of the decisions of our forefathers.

      I want to leave my children and children’s children a legacy of faithfulness and love of Christ.

  • http://www.ugochi-jolomi.com/ Ugochi

    I have made up my mind to follow God, whether or not I know all the answers and even when I am scared. I intend by His grace to impact my world positively for Christ. Thanks a lot for sharing this Larry!

    • http://www.larrypoolespeaks.com/ Larry Poole

      Amen to that! When we walk by faith we are always at the center of God’s will. There’s no better place to be.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and to leave me a comment.

  • Charles Church

    WOW! I love this Larry and I have always heard great things about your Grandfather, especially of his great love for working youth camps throughout NC! We all have a world to influence and the rewards of our decisions and prayers of today will continue far past our last breath! Much love my brother in Christ!

    • http://www.larrypoolespeaks.com/ Larry Poole

      Charles, do you think our grandfathers have already met in Heaven? Now there’s a thought that will put a smile on your face.

      I’d say, “Yes!” And hopefully they’ll be the welcoming committee when we make it too.


    Is this ur grandfather?

    • http://www.larrypoolespeaks.com/ Larry Poole

      Hey Lisa, this is not my Grandpa. The man in the picture is Popcorn Sutton, probably the most famous moonshiner to ever live.


        I have seen him on a Documentary about people from NC Mountains

  • Kristy Smith Barlekamp

    The Wisdom that flows through you is awesome!

  • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

    Love point #1 God often uses the people most others would put off as not usable. A willing heart is key for being used by God. Great post Larry!