The late G.A. Mangun was my pastor for only a few months. He was the presbyter of my home section for more than 50 years. I learned from him — by observation, which led to my poor efforts to duplicate him.
I learned: get on your message and stay with it.
At each sectional meeting, G.A. Mangun had one consistent message: "Pray, fast and reach the lost." He said it every meeting.
I learned: "Repetition is the mother of learning."
Later I applied the principles of prayer chains and focused prayer, which I learned from him.
In the late 1970s, Vesta Mangun heard me preach a youth celebration in Colfax, Louisiana. She suggested to her husband that I preach a weekend in Alexandria. I suppose she had faith that I'd not be able to tear anything up in one weekend. I sure didn't add anything. But I learned, oh did I ever learn that weekend.
This was shortly after the Jim Jones massacre in Guyana. The weekend I was to preach at the Pentecostals of Alexandria, a lady had written a letter to the newspaper comparing G.A. Mangun to the cult leader Jim Jones. AND, that week a high-profile fellow from the church had abandoned his wife and children.
The way Pastor Mangun led the church on that Sunday you'd never have known a negative letter had been written, and it seemed every saint in Alexandria was doing well.
Both situations, the man leaving his family and being compared to a cult were certainly unpleasant, but based on the demeanor, the leadership, the way the church service flowed, no person would have known that something was wrong. On that Sunday, I learned: don't let the negative things or actions of other people affect your worship or leadership.
After the evening service, Pastor Mangun left Norma and me in the care of a church leader. The person who hosted us took us to Howard Johnson's. There was Pastor Mangun with a lost couple he had taken out for coffee. His priority was clear trying to reach this family. (He was also likely reassuring them that I was not going to be back to preach the following Sunday.)
His behavior matched his message. I learned - reaching out to sinners is more important than any visiting preacher.
G.A. Mangun was never boring. From "wildly" decorated church buses to his radical approach to reaching people, he did things that pushed boundaries. I'm sure some things didn't work as well as he'd have liked, but G.A. Mangun didn't focus on what wasn't working for him. He celebrated what had worked and what was working for him. I learned - you have to have a personality, you have to try different things, some of which won't work, and you have to accept that everyone is not going to like everything you do.
I learned from G.A. Mangun to expect people to be baptized EVERY week. This was where I learned, "Sundays are for sinners." Pastor Mangun was not waiting for a special event or an evangelist to come to town. The lost would hear the gospel every week. It worked for him and then it worked for me. I practice that method to this day. "Masterful Preaching" is a book I wrote that attempts to reclaim the concept of preaching to lost people. If you are interested in owning this book. . . click here.
In time, we pastored a baby church in Vidalia, Louisiana. We had a small group of largely undeveloped people. We planned a special event with our District Superintendent who became ill. G.A. and Vesta Mangun came to "pinch hit." There would have been at least twice as many people in Alexandria's Youth Class than in our special service. But the Manguns rocked that little mess of a building. And a mess it was, you could see through the walls and there were significant holes in the floor. That night we baptized Curtis Thornton's father in the Name of Jesus. Curtis had been our first disciple in Vidalia. I learned - don't let the size of a crowd affect your ministry; every service and every soul counts. Give it your best - always.
I learned from G.A. Mangun, whatever else I was asked to do, the local church is the main thing. In later years, Brother and Sister Mangun would tell Norma and I, "Don't do this like we did." They took few breaks. Both of them did not miss Sundays in Alexandria. Learning from them, for years our family vacations were Monday through Saturday. Sunday was for sinners. It was a day for the pastor to be at home.
Finally, at the memorial service for this very high-impact man, I noticed that those in attendance wore everything from expensive suits bought at “Jerry Lee's” men's clothing store to their best pair of khaki pants or jeans. One gentleman was wearing overalls with a well-ironed crease. For G.A. Mangun - a soul, it was a soul, it was a soul; and every soul was important. He shepherded them all. He loved them all.
I miss that uniqueness. To hear his unique voice as he would begin to pray in tongues. To anticipate him breaking out in the well worn tune, "Jesus, I'll never forget what you've done for me, Jesus I'll never forget how you set me free, Jesus I'll never forget how you brought me out. Jesus, I'll never forget no never!"
I wish I had paid more attention and I wish I had more time, there is so much more I could have learned. Things I learned:
- Get the message - stay on the message!
- Don't let negative things affect your worship or your leadership.
- Reaching out to sinners is more important than almost anything else.
- God's work doesn't have to be vanilla.
- Plan to see people won EVERY week. Preach in a way that it happens!
- Don't let a small crowd deter you from being God's man in that moment.
- The local church you lead is the main thing.
- Love the saints. . . love people
Many of you may learned things from G.A. Mangun that I did not have the privilege of learning. Maybe you spent more time near his fire. Please add to my poor list in the comment section below.