Cecil B. Douthitt (Picture taken by my father, 1950’s, Ft. Smith, Arkansas)
You Have To Start
After being discharged from the Army in 1969 and marrying Paula, we moved to Arkansas (our home state) in 1970. The plan was for me to enroll in college, she would work and I would eventually begin preaching. The preaching part happened earlier than we expected.
One of my mentors lived in Ft. Smith where we located. Cecil Douthitt was one of the preachers of my youth and a close family friend. He was semi-retired from preaching but filled a weekly appointment every Sunday at the Etna church of Christ (near Ozark, Ark.). Back and forth to college classes I would sometimes visit bro. Douthitt.
In the fall of that year it was announced one Wednesday night (at the Southside church in Ft. Smith) that bro. Douthitt had suffered a stroke. The next day I visited him in the hospital. He wasn’t able to say much or react. Sister Douthitt was there at his side. Her fear was that he would never be able to preach again.
She said, “I’ve called the brethren at Etna to tell them they need to call you.” “What?” I said. I think I almost quoted Moses: “I am not eloquent … Please send someone else!” (Exodus 3:10-13).
All she knew was that I wanted to preach someday. “Someday,” not next week! Later than day I received a phone call from Kyle McElroy, who said I had been recommended. Could I be there Sunday morning. I agreed (you’ve got to start somewhere).
On a Big Chief Tablet with a Bic pen, I wrote out about a 15 minute sermon based on John 4:23,24. I wrote every word, making the point I still make today. If you want to know what it means to worship in spirit and in truth, just keep reading from there to the end of the New Testament.
After being stuffed with food at the McElroy’s house, Kyle said, “can you come back tonight?” I said, “no I’m sorry, I don’t have another sermon.” He said, “all right, next Sunday.” That’s how it all started 50 years ago this year.
One word captures it all.