I don’t know where I’d be today without a man named Lenis Black. With the trajectory I was on, I hate to think about where I likely would have wound up. Who is Lenis Black, you ask? He was my very first Sunday school teacher when I began attending church in 1980. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about him today.
Earlier this afternoon, I was talking to a very successful church leader who mentioned to me the lifelong impact her first Sunday school teacher had on her as a young child. Her comments caused me to go back in my memories to 30 years ago. I vividly remember the incredible impact that Lenis had on my life.
As my first Sunday school teacher, Lenis gave me so much:
1. He provided stability.
After my parents divorced, mom began taking her three children to church, hoping the environment of Acworth United Methodist Church would provide us with some level of stability. Thanks to Lenis and others, Mom was right.
2. He made church interesting.
Lenis was a great teacher, and the Bible came to life through the interesting lessons he prepared. He also had a great sense of humor and talked about topics that teenage boys appreciated and needed to hear.
3. He engaged my life.
Lenis had a son who was one of my best friends. This was a good excuse for him to periodically show up at school to simply see how I was doing.
4. He called me.
The thing I remember most about Lenis was when he called me during the Georgetown vs. Villanova showdown in January 1984. He had no agenda but was just investing in my life. Funny thing, I remember every aspect of that phone call to this very day.
5. He modeled the life of a Christian man.
The reality is that when a divorce happens, a child’s life suddenly has a large void. Lenis filled that void for me by being a Godly man. He provided me with a practical, flesh-and-blood picture of what a man sold-out to Christ looks like.
6. He introduced me to church leadership.
Shortly after becoming a Christian, Lenis walked me into Senior Pastor Jim Lowery’s office to pray before a worship service. Due to my naivety, I had no idea what was going on or what to pray. However, that single decision to bring me into that setting propelled me on a path that I’m still on to this day.
7. He embodied generosity and sacrifice.
Lenis taught our class for my entire four years of high school. Each year, he wrestled with whether he should return or not. He always did, thankfully, and my life was never the same as a result.
Many of you reading this post work with children, and you may periodically wonder if it’s worth it. Using my life as a case study, I’ll tell you this: You may never know until you get to heaven what God will do in the life of the kids you see each week. Who knows, they may grow to be someone like me, who helps churches and writes about leadership!
Lenis, I will spend every day for eternity in heaven thanking you for caring about me. I’ll never forget your investment in my life as my first Sunday school teacher.