On Wednesday, May 30, 2007, I attended the funeral of one of the truly great Christian leaders of our time, Cline R. Paden.
He has been called a “modern-day Paul” and, from the beginning, that’s exactly how I saw him. To be in his presence was awesome. Here was a true missionary who had actually suffered for the cause of Christ!
I first met Cline in 1965. I had been recruited to attend Sunset International Bible Institute by Ed Wharton (who is still going strong teaching at Sunset and around the world). I came with $90 a month support. When I tried to tell him that I couldn’t live on that he insisted I come anyway. Those of you who know Cline know what I mean when I say “insisted.”
My late aunt Margaret who, when she found out I wanted to preach, offered to pay my tuition and expenses if I would attend a Christian College. But after 5 years in university I had had enough. Now I only wanted all the Bible I could get as fast as I could get it. So, I asked her to help me at Sunset. She refused. Twice Cline called her (seemed like he spent an hour each time) and tried every ploy in the book to persuade her to change her mind. She still refused. It was the head-on collision of two very stubborn, determined and immovable people. (Many years later my aunt apologized and admitted she had made a mistake…very rare for this highly intelligent and insightful lady. Over the years she made some very generous contributions to our ministry.) I eventually found enough support but I will never forget those phone calls.
Once I needed to borrow $100 just to make it. I had heard that there were emergency funds available and I nervously approached Cline to ask for the loan and, though I don’t remember what was said, I do remember how he immediately set me at ease.
I remember his humor. I remember the pranks he pulled on student and instructor alike. I remember how he would invite me into his office out of the blue and run some idea or project by me or share a thought he was having about a sermon. And he actually wanted to know what I thought…amazing! I felt so important, so honored when he did that. I think it was his way of giving us students a boost.
All those thoughts kept running through my head as I sat in the Sunset auditorium listening to those chosen to speak. The mood was not of sadness but joy. The room was full of victory. Truly we who are in Christ Jesus do not mourn as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
Brenda and I have been struggling in the past few months to stay true to the vision that drives our ministry in the face of several discouraging influences. But as I listened again to the stories of this spiritual giant (he would not like that description) and how he never let the struggle destroy the vision my spirit was refreshed. Cline Paden, though dead, is still speaking, still teaching. My determination was renewed. My commitment was buttressed.
In 1967 I left Lubbock transformed because of Cline Paden. In 2007 I walked out of his funeral, once again, a changed man.