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Aaron Johnson: The Great One

I finished my master’s degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1987. In 2003, I finished my doctorate in education from the same. Along the way I earned all the hours for an Ed,S, at the University of Alabama and a doctorate in ministry as well. All that just means that I am a slow learner and went to school way too much to still be functionally useless.

Along the way I have had many professors. None of them can stand in the shadow of the great one: Dr. C.C. Randall. Though he stood barely 5-foot-5 he was a giant. No professor could measure him in heart or passion.

One day, in a required class, Dr. Randall took a tangent in his lecture. He often did this and these were his greatest lessons and this was the greatest of all. In the midst of his lecture, he paused and waved his arm like a machine gun over the entire large class. Then he said, “Let me tell you all something! You leave football out of the pulpit.

“Your passion for your team may be the very thing that turns someone from making the most important decision in life.”

Sitting front and center, right in front of Dr. Randall, was a large man who frequently slept during class. He woke from his slumber just in time for this exchange. 

“Dr. Randall,” he said, “I don’t know where you are from, but I’m from Jackson, Miss. Now, you see, Jackson is a football town. We have Mississippi College, Jackson State, and each year Ole Miss & Southern Miss play their rivalry game in Jackson.

“Dr. Randall, I don’t know where you are from, but football belongs in the pulpit in Jackson, Mississippi.”

Dr. Randall stood beside the lectern and held it with his left hand, the lectern level with his left shoulder, and calmly replied, “You may be right. But for 22 years I was the Pastor at First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa, Ala. We had six national championships those years and Bear Bryant frequented our worship services as did many of the players, most you know because they played in the NFL.

“Football doesn’t belong in the pulpit in First Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Ala.”  

In all my years of higher education, that was the only moment I stood to my feet and tearfully applauded.  

Dr. Randall never knew of social media. Had he known, he no doubt would have offered the same stern warning about parading any personal passion, politic, or agenda that would in any way cause someone to turn away from listening to a more important message. The truth that changes lives is more important than my team, my party, my opinion, even my rights.  

When someone finds a higher cause in life, then it is easy to sacrifice all other lesser agendas for the sake and purpose of that higher cause. I love to see people succeed.  I love to see people grow. I love to see people move from where they have been stuck for decades and find a new place in life. In short, that is my life purpose: helping people find a better way.

I hope that my social media footprint doesn’t have enough evidence to convict me of being either Democrat or Republican; Auburn or Alabama fan; or any other that would keep you from finding a better way.  

Purposeful sacrifice of the expression of my personal opinion is a small price to pay for you to have a full and meaningful life. The great one might have said something like that. 

Thank you, Dr. Randall.  

Aaron Johnson is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News. He is pastor of Christ Redeemer Church in Guntersville.

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