Memories of Johnny Ramsey
Today (Friday) my mind is on a mentor of mine, brother Johnny Ramsey. He passed away last night (Thursday). It is reported that this past week he was, even in his delirious state, quoting scripture and exhorting young preachers to be faithful to the word. He was hard wired with the Bible.
I first came to know brother Johnny Ramsey as the full time preacher for the Southwest church of Christ in Austin. It was in the late 70s that he held this position. I was 8-10 years old during this time. The two things that impressed me most about brother Ramsey’s sermons was the amount of scripture that he used and that he memorized each one. I took notes and wrote down the scriptures that he quoted, trying to keep up. The other kids and I compared, after services, the number of scriptures he used in one sermon. It was sometimes in the hundreds. He impressed upon us the great need to “speak as the oracles of God” and to give a “thus saith the Lord” for everything that we say in preaching the gospel.
Brother Ramsey did not compromise the gospel. He spoke plainly and clearly the simple truths of God’s word. It made some people mad, but that didn’t stop him. I remember him saying, “Have I become your enemy for telling you the truth?” His preaching laid the foundation for my becoming a Christian in later years and has greatly influence my preaching to this day.
The attendance at the congregation in those days varied between 350-450 on Sunday morning. I remember one particular month in which brother Ramsey exhorted the congregation to see if we couldn’t get attendance up to 500. He preached and exhorted, and admonished us to do this, and we did! It was quite a feeling of congregational accomplishment. But was brother Ramsey satisfied? He was glad, but he preached on that Sunday that we ought to press for 1000, 2000, enough to knock the walls out of the back of the building and put seating in the balconies. It was a moment in time I will not forget and a great lesson. One can never do enough in service to the Lord.
While brother Ramsey was no longer around after I became a Christian, I still benefited from his preaching when he held gospel meetings and spoke on lectureships. I still have some of his tapes and continue to listen to them even today. His sermons are just as relevant, interesting, and forceful as they were in the 1970s; truth is always relevant.
I saw him for the last time this past April at the Southwest lectures. He even remembered who I was. He was thin and frail, but still preaching. He didn’t stop publicly preaching either, until a few months ago. Ever a champion of God’s word, he was, in a word, relentless.