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89-year-old’s decision for Christ caps 60 years of church’s prayers


MOUNT CARMEL, Tenn. (BP)–Joe Arnott grew up in the community and attended Oak Grove Baptist Church, Mount Carmel, Tenn., longer than most current members can remember.

Though Arnott attended Sunday school and church with greater regularity than many members, he never made that all-important decision to surrender his life to Jesus Christ.

“I suppose every pastor the church has had in recent years has talked to Joe about his relationship to Christ,” said current pastor Benny Keck, “but his answer was always, in some form or another, ‘I’ll think about it’ or ‘I’m not ready yet.'”

It seemed everyone at Oak Grove had prayed for Arnott. “Some had prayed for him so long they wondered if he would ever come to Christ,” Keck said.

On Sunday, March 5, 89-year-old Joe Arnott finally made that walk down the aisle everyone had been praying for.

“It was a typical worship service for us,” Keck recalled. “The invitation hymn began with no particular sense of anticipation. I stood in front of the altar, prepared to receive anyone making decisions.

“The congregation was standing and singing. Joe is not a tall man and I did not notice him coming forward until he appeared in front of me. I was virtually speechless as I asked Joe why he had come.

“He said, ‘I’ve come to give my life to Christ.'”

Tears flowed from many in the congregation as they saw Arnott talking with their pastor and then “heard me announce that he had trusted Christ as his Savior,” Keck said.

The men in Arnott’s Sunday school class came forward to stand with him. They were weeping with joy, Keck said.

Charles Marshall, one of Arnott’s Sunday school classmates, voiced the thoughts of each class member.

“I’ve prayed for Joe for over 60 years,” he said. “Our church is preparing to launch a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week ministry of prayer,” Keck said. “I believe God gave this special event to encourage us to be faithful in our prayers as Jesus taught.”

The Oak Grove pastor observed there are many joys a pastor experiences in the course of ministry. “One of the highlights for me will forever be the baptism of Joe Arnott the following Sunday.

“Joe stood with me in the baptismal waters and repeated the baptismal confession. I suppose fewer words will ever sound sweeter to my ears than hearing Joe say, ‘I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.'”

    About the Author

  • Lonnie Wilkey
    Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.Read All by Lonnie Wilkey ›