Lunacy or Legacy
Pam and I were attending a pastors’ conference a few years ago when one of the speakers invited all of the pastors and spouses to come to the front of the auditorium for prayer. It was at that moment that God spoke to me in a way that I will never forget. Ironically it was not during the prayer that I heard His voice, but it happened as I was walking back to my seat.
I had one of those dreaded name tags on, and as I was making my way through the crowd, an older gentleman stopped me and asked, “Are you related to Hartley Wigfield?” I knew this man by reputation. He pastored a very large church and had led thousands of people to Jesus Christ. I responded, “Yes, he’s my father.” But the gentleman continued, “No, he would probably be much older than your father.” Then it hit me. “Oh, that would be my grandfather.” He responded, “Did he plant a church in Paw Paw, West Virginia?” I answered affirmatively.
He then told me the story of how my grandfather led him to Christ at age eleven. He began to weep. Through the tears he said, “Everything that I have ever accomplished in my life that was of value, I owe to your grandfather.”
That moment, the impact of those words changed my entire outlook on ministry, and ultimately on business. This was one of the top five God-Moments of my life. So let me explain the back-story.
My grandfather was a businessman. He owned a paint store and became very successful running his store, painting houses and hanging wallpaper. But my grandfather had another passion…church planting. Every summer, he would take his family to a nearby community where there were no churches, and he would set up a tent and hold evangelistic tent meetings. His family would camp out in another tent or nearby barn and call that vacation. Throughout the summer, he would lead enough people to Christ to be able to start a church. Then he would do something radical. He would mortgage his own home and use the money to actually build a church building in that community. He would find someone to pastor the church, and then he would take his family back to Cumberland, Maryland where he would work in his business to pay off the mortgage. The next summer, he would do it all over again in another community.
He did that six times…He planted six churches and built the church buildings from his business earnings. Today, some seventy-five years later, all but one of those churches are still in operation. He was also instrumental in starting about six other churches, but he did that with other friends.
Here is the clincher. As a very young child, I was able to attend the last church that my grandfather planted. There were only about twenty-five people in the church. I later found out that he never pastored a church with more than about twenty-five people. Seems rather unremarkable, doesn’t it? But there is one man I met in a pastors’ conference would push back on that thought. He alone led thousands of people to Christ. And that does not count the thousands of people my father has ministered to over the years; nor does it count any of the people whose lives I have been able to intersect with. That’s what God showed me in that moment a couple years ago. The kingdom of God does not work the way we typically think. Jesus has a history of taking a few things and turning them into infinite miracles. At this point, there is no human way to even count the number of people who will spend eternity in Christ because of a small business owner that decided to use his business to serve God’s purposes. What an amazing business plan!
January 6, 2018 @ 4:47 pm
This story precisely demonstrates God’s intent for mankind. One man/woman with a vision desiring to
sacrifice, accept risk, to spread the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Praise Almighty God for Greg’s desire to continue his Grandfather’s legacy.
January 6, 2018 @ 7:32 pm
What an amazing heritage you have Greg! Your stories are THE best!!
January 6, 2018 @ 8:18 pm
Greg: I had never heard this story and it was such a blessing to read and know what God does “in the process” of working His will. We just had breakfast with the Pastor from the Paw Paw church this past week. I was happy to read and know more of your heritage and life. Blessing for a great year ahead.
January 6, 2018 @ 9:06 pm
I love to hear of the testimonies of Pastors who have made an impact in a child’s life. The rich heritage that gets past on is priceless
January 8, 2018 @ 2:42 pm
Amazing testimony. I too love your stories of God at work in your life! This one reminds me of Pastor Lon Solomon and the street preacher who led him to Christ. He often says that he might be the only person who this man led to the Lord yet look what God accomplished through him at McLean Bible Church. I believe that’s what God wants to do through all of us, if we will let Him.
January 8, 2018 @ 2:58 pm
I’m 100% feeling the impact of this story. Thanks to your grandfather, you’re a turning point in my life. Also, I hope to be that grandfather one day that leaves a legacy of love for my children to build on.
Pat & Greg Malcolm
January 9, 2018 @ 1:10 am
You and your dad have made such a miraculous difference in our lives. Your dad led my dad, Greg’s dad and mom, Greg’s aunt, Greg himself and numerous other friends and family members to the Lord. And, you will never know the impact you had on Greg and I when we sat under your ministry in youth group. Your messages have always spoken directly to our hearts. You and your dad have made us in Christ, who we are today. You are one of my favorite people and we continue to lift you up in prayer. Wish you were closer in location. We would be there every Sunday! Pat and Greg Malcolm
January 11, 2018 @ 12:17 pm
Great story Greg and very encouraging. What an awesome God we serve! Thanks for sharing.