What I Learned from My Grandfather

WHAT I LEARNED FROM MY GRANDFATHER

By Wayne S. Walker

     [Note:  This article is a biography-tribute regarding my grandfather, Glen Workman, a little-known gospel preacher in southern Ohio.  When he passed away in 1979, I wrote nothing about him in the papers published by brethren at that time.  About fifteen years later, I finally got around to putting some information together which I presented along with four main points in a sermon to the congregation where I was laboring at the time, and the brethren really seemed to appreciate it.  This article is a result of that lesson and contains that material.  WSW]

One can learn many good things from his grandparents.  Please consider what Moses said in Exodus 10:6 regarding the plague of locusts on Egypt.  “They shall fill your houses, the houses of all your servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians—which neither your fathers nor your fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were on the earth to this day.”  This indicates that God considered the knowledge of “your fathers’ fathers” important even among the people of Egypt.

I hope that everyone has as pleasant memories of his or her grandparents as I have of mine.  Of course, some have never had the privilege of knowing their grandparents, and that is unfortunate.  Several people who are grandparents have told me that having grandchildren is one of their greatest blessings.  But speaking from the standpoint of having been a grandchild, I can say that having had good grandparents is a great blessing too.  Just think of Timothy and his grandmother Lois.

Certainly the most beneficial situation is when one’s grandparents are faithful Christians.  And, except possibly for my grandfather Lawrence Walker, whom I never really ever knew because he died when I was just two years old, all of my grandparents were members of the Lord’s church.  In fact, my Grandfather Workman, my mother’s father, was a faithful gospel preacher.  Not a lot of brethren knew him.  He did not hold many evangelistic meetings.  He did not preach in large congregations with fancy buildings and huge contributions.  He did not write articles and reports for the leading brotherhood publications.  He never edited a mass circulation bulletin.  He was content to live in the country and work with a small, rural church.  But he taught me a lot of worthwhile things, and for that I am still very grateful to him.

Charles Glen Workman, called Glen by his family and friends, was born on Oct. 29, 1896, in Clay Township, somewhere between Pricetown and Buford, in Highland County, southern Ohio, the son of William Wirt and Mary Susan (Hopkins) Workman.  While still a boy, he moved with his parents and older sister Edith to the family farm which his father purchased from a relative, near East Danville (or Winkle) in Whiteoak Township, also in Highland County.  They became members of the nearby Union Chapel Church of Christ, which we would identify as a Christian Church, but which was much more conservative then than the Christian Church is today.  His education was obtained from the nearby one-room Shofner School and from Whiteoak High School in Mowrystown.  Then on Oct. 27, 1927, just two days before his 31st birthday, he was married to Mildred M. Holladay.  To this union were born four daughters—Mary Ellen Walker, my mother, now deceased; Lois Mae McMillan, also deceased; Ruth Edith (Mann) Carpenter; and Joann Bohrer.

During his early life, my grandfather made his living as a farmer, a school bus driver, and a school teacher, also did some plumbing, and pursued his hobby of carpentry.  But he was always deeply interested in spiritual matters.  He obeyed the gospel while still a young man, probably being baptized in Whiteoak Creek which ran through the family farm as well as beside the Union church building.  My grandmother was a Methodist when they married, but just three years later, through my grandfather’s influence and teaching, she too was baptized into Christ.  At one point, he served as an elder in the Union church.  However, later in life, he decided that he wanted to preach the gospel.  So he enrolled at Cincinnati Bible Seminary and studied Bible under R. C. Foster.

He began preaching at the May Hill Church of Christ near Seaman in Adams County, OH, which again we would identify as a Christian Church, on Sept. 2, 1951, and continued there through Dec. 28, 1952.  His first sermon was entitled, “Why I Preach the Gospel.”  I still have his notes on that sermon and have even used his outline before.  On Jan. 4, 1953, he, my grandmother, and my Aunt Jo moved to Deming County, KY, near Mount Olivet, where he started work with the Christian Church in the small town of Piqua (pronounced pick-way in Kentucky) and continued there through Aug. 14, 1955.  During this time, my parents lived on the Workman family farm in Highland County, and that is where they were when I was born.

When my grandfather finished his work at Piqua, KY, and moved back to his farm in Ohio, he had grown very dissatisfied with the Christian Church and so began visiting with the (non-instrumental) Park Ave. church of Christ in Hillsboro (now known as the Northside church).  After continued study and discussion, one Sunday in 1955 my grandparents went down the aisle at Park Ave., confessed their error in worshipping with the Christian Church, and became identified with the non-denominational, New Testament church of Christ.  Then on Dec. 15, 1955, Grandfather began his labor with the Mt. Zion church of Christ near Belfast southeast of Hillsboro in rural Highland County, OH, where he continued for the next eighteen years.  Interestingly enough, the May Hill church, where he began his preaching work, had resulted from a division that had occurred around the turn of the twentieth century in the Mt. Zion church where he ended his labors.

Sometime in the early 1960s, they even sold the family farm to my Aunt Jo and her husband and bought a house in Belfast so they could be nearer the church.  I should say bought the shell of a house which my grandfather, with his knowledge of carpentry, rebuilt into one of the quaintest and coziest homes that I have ever been in.  But on Dec. 24, 1971, my grandmother had a massive stroke.  After that, I did some of my first regular preaching at Mt. Zion, filling in for Grandpa whenever Grandma’s situation and needs kept him from speaking, until I left for college in Aug., 1972.  Taking care of my grandmother began to wear on my grandfather’s health (he was now 75).  Thus, in the summer or early fall of 1973, he finally gave up his work with the Mt. Zion church.  They moved into Hillsboro and once again identified with the Park Ave./Northside church, where he continued to speak occasionally as opportunities arose.

Grandpa and Grandma celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1977, at which time they had nineteen grandchildren and one great-grandchild (another great-grandchild was born shortly thereafter).  But late the following year Grandpa came down with a cold that just would not go away.  After several tests were run, it was confirmed in February of 1979 that he had Hodgkin’s disease.  Eventually he was taken to Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati, OH, where he died on Mar. 22, 1979, at the age of 83.  My mother, her three sisters, and I, his oldest grandson, were all present at his death.  It has been a number of years since my grandfather died, yet I still miss him and think of him often.  My grandmother, continuing to suffer the effects of her stroke, survived until her death four years later on Mar. 3, 1983.  But enough about Glen Workman’s life.  Now I want to share with you what I learned from my grandfather.

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First, my grandfather taught me to test all things by the Scriptures.  It was his love for, knowledge of, and determination to stand on the Scriptures that led him to recognize the error of the Christian Church and identify with the truth.  And that same emphasis on the Scriptures characterized all of his life and his preaching.

The Scriptures were given by inspiration for our benefit that we might know what God wants us to do (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Thus, these Scriptures must be the standard by which we test all beliefs, teachings, and practices in religion with which we come into contact (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, 1 John 4:1).  Only those who base their religious faith, doctrine, and activity on the doctrine found in the Scriptures can be assured of pleasing God (2 John vs. 9-11).

Second, my grandfather taught me to use wisdom in making decisions.  I firmly believe that my grandfather was a very wise man, whose wisdom was born of the maturity and experience that come with age, coupled with a firm trust in God’s word.  He always seemed to approach matters with a great deal of practical insight, common sense, and patience.  Over the years I have had preachers (and preachers’ wives) who knew Grandpa tell me that when they faced some problem or difficult decision and went to him, he encouraged them to look at all sides and not act rashly.

And this is good advice for anyone at almost any time and place.  Certainly God wants His people to be characterized by wisdom in the lives which they lead (Ephesians 5:15-17).  Especially in our relationships with the people of this world, among whom we are to be an influence for good, we need to walk wisely in both deed and word (Colossians 4:5-6).  Of course, we are all going to make some mistakes at times, but in every situation that we face, we need to be constantly looking to God for the wisdom that is from above so that we can treat others right, be righteous examples, and accomplish as much good while doing as little harm as possible (James 1:5, 3:17-18).

Third, my grandfather taught me to think for myself.  Through the years my grandfather heard a number of different gospel preachers, listened to several debates, read some of the papers published by brethren, consulted various commentaries and religious books, and in general did whatever he could to learn what other people were saying.  But he never followed anyone or anything slavishly.  He obtained whatever good he felt he could and discarded anything he believed was not beneficial.  And since he knew that I wanted and planned to preach, this was something that he was always trying to instill in me.

The fact that something has been around long enough for it to become a “tradition” does not necessarily make it wrong, but we always need to make sure that we are not simply following the traditions of mere men (Matthew 15:7-9).  In fact, while we certainly can and should learn from what men have said and done, we should never put our trust in fallible mortals because even the best of them can let us down (1 Corinthians 4:6).  Therefore, like the Bereans, we must never accept what anyone says just because of who says it, but study for ourselves to make sure that it is in harmony with God’s will (Acts 17:11-12).

Finally, my grandfather taught me to be able to disagree without being disagreeable.  In the course of our discussions on various topics, I found that my grandfather and I disagreed about some things.  While he was opposed to instrumental music in the worship of the church, he felt that a Christian could sing hymns to the accompaniment of an instrument outside the assembly, whereas I do not believe that one can.  We also had differences of opinion on certain aspects of the divorce and remarriage issue.  But the point is that we could disagree on these subjects and even express our disagreements as we discussed them, yet still not be mean or ugly about it.

On the one hand, we must recognize that there are many issues facing God’s people, some from without and some from within, the preaching and practicing of which involve folks in soul-damning error, and which we must, publicly and forcefully, oppose (Romans 16:17-18).  On the other hand, there are issues which involve only personal conscience and application, or beliefs which, even if wrong, a person may hold as a matter of private conviction without actually teaching error or practicing sin.  Paul dealt with some principles governing these types of situations in Romans 14:1-6, 19, 22-23.  And even when we find circumstances where we must strongly oppose someone whom we believe to be in error to the point that we cannot have fellowship with him, there is still never any occasion to be unkind, nasty, and malicious in our treatment of him (Ephesians 4:31, Colossians 3:8).

Usually when we hear the term “pioneer preacher,” we think of such individuals as Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Walter Scott, Barton W. Stone, and “Raccoon” John Smith, who in this country pioneered the way out of denominationalism back to the Bible.  Or we may picture such colorful characters as Jefferson Davis Tant, Joe S. Warlick, W. Curtis Porter, or W. W. Otey, who proclaimed the gospel so forcefully among the pioneers as they moved west.  My grandfather was not a pioneer preacher in either of these senses, but he helped pioneer our family to know and obey God’s word.  Something for which every Christian can and should be grateful is the good influence in his life of his family or at least those who have taught him the way of the Lord and provided a good example.  Therefore, I thought that I would share with our readers, by way of illustration, some things that I learned from my grandfather.

—taken from Faith and Facts; January, 1994; Vol. 22, No. 1; pp. 56-61

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