21 February, 2024

Used of God

by | 29 January, 2021 | 0 comments

Steve Carr posted this remembrance of our former editor Sam E. Stone at his website on Tuesday, the day after Sam died at age 84. We are sharing it here with Steve’s permission.

Sam E. Stone shares some thoughts on ministry at Steve Carr’s class at Cincinnati Bible Seminary in 2016.

By Steve Carr

Yesterday one of my mentors passed away.

But he wasn’t actually my mentor.

My wife and I were truly blessed to get to know Sam and Gwen Stone. Through Kelly’s work at Standard Publishing and my job at Cincinnati Christian University, our paths continually crossed with the couple. They had been married for over 50 years, raised an amazing family, and devoted their entire lives to the kingdom of God. They were two of the humblest representatives of Christ I’ve ever met.

I visited with them the day before Gwen passed away. Convinced that Sam would struggle in her absence, I wanted an excuse to spend time with him. I devised a subtle plan to stay connected.

One day I took Sam out to lunch and made a simple request.

“Sam, I could really benefit from your wisdom. I’m wondering if you’d be interested in mentoring me.”

His response was simple.

“No thank you.”

I was taken aback because it seemed like he was enjoying our time together. So after the meal, as I dropped him off at Mason Christian Village, I innocuously asked, “Do you think you’d want to grab lunch again in a few weeks so we can talk more about life?”

“That would be great,” he said.

That’s how I tricked Sam into secretly mentoring me.

In our time together, I soaked up his wit and wisdom. After our lunches, I’d take notes about our conversations. After hearing of his passing, inspired by his wordsmithing, I felt compelled to share just a small part of his story.

Sam grew up in urban Albuquerque, New Mexico. His father convinced him to enroll in Bible college for at least one year, so he went to Missouri to attend Ozark Bible College.

As a freshman, he started preaching at a small country church in Summersville, Missouri; it was a four-hour drive from campus. It was a such a remote town, only three families had indoor plumbing. He told me, “That little church took a chance on me. It was the best place for me to start preaching. I didn’t know much, but they were so kind and encouraging to a young preacher. They always sent food home with me.” When his car wouldn’t run, he’d hitchhike across the state so he could preach on the weekends.

He made $17 a week.

The week after graduation he married Gwen. Edwin Hayden, a professor at Ozark, was a gifted writer. He left campus to become editor of Christian Standard magazine, part of Standard Publishing Company in Cincinnati. When the company was seeking someone to edit the teen curriculum, Edwin recommended Sam. With Standard Publishing, like the small country church, he admitted, “they took a chance on me.”

The couple moved to Cincinnati. On the weekends, Sam and Gwen would drive out to Monterey, Ohio (only a 50-mile drive) and he would preach at the Church of Christ there. I loved this aspect of their story because it intersected with our own: I once preached at that same church while a college student, and Kelly ended up as editor of the same teen magazine Sam edited when she first worked at Standard.

At this point in life, Sam was grateful to be have completed his education, but realized he still needed to learn more. He resigned from both jobs, took a full-time ministry job in Richmond, Indiana, and enrolled in graduate school at Cincinnati Bible Seminary. While taking classes, he became acquainted with a professor named Lewis Foster (my mom was Lewis’s assistant in the late 1960s). Lewis devoted significant time to preaching at Western Hills Church of Christ, but the Seminary wanted him to increase his teaching load. He encouraged the church to hire an associate minister, and Sam was the natural choice. He and Gwen moved back to Cincinnati to live on the westside. [Sam eventually became senior minister there.]

According to Sam, preaching at Western Hills was the most intimidating venue he’d ever experienced. There were nine Seminary faculty in the congregation, including R.C. Foster, the most revered professor at the school. Sam knew he was doing a good job when he could make R.C. laugh. They stayed there nine years.

Gwen and Sam felt called to return to Missouri so he could preach at a church in Columbia. At the same time, he was an adjunct professor at the Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly. Sam said, “Gwen and I were convinced that this would be the place where we would spend the rest of our lives.” But, once again, Cincinnati came calling. When the Seminary in Cincinnati was searching for a dean for the graduate school, multiple faculty members recommended Sam for the job.

This surprised him. Sam never viewed himself as an academic, despite the fact that he continually pursued education opportunities everywhere he went. Gwen and Sam (again) returned to Cincinnati. He embraced the call and helped usher the graduate school into a new era. After years as dean, Sam was asked to be editor of Christian Standard, a position he held for 25 years. It was in this role where I first became familiar with Sam. Every week, as I half listened to the Sunday morning sermon, I’d leaf through the magazine, reading what Sam wrote in his weekly editorial.

In April 2016, I sat in on the last lecture Sam Stone would deliver at Cincinnati Bible Seminary. I had invited Sam to lecture students about how they should set up their lives and careers to have fruitful ministries. Even though he had written thousands of words and multiple books on the topic, Sam called me numerous times to make sure he nailed down the content. As he taught, I snapped the picture above. It’s a night I’ll never forget.

That evening he recited for students the lyrics of an old hymn. It was called, “They All Were Used of God.” The hymn focused on biblical characters who used humble items to do extraordinary things for the kingdom.

Shamgar had an ox-goad, David had a sling.
Dorcas had a needle, Rahab had some string.
Samson had a jawbone, Moses had a rod.
Mary had some ointment, but they all were used of God.

I’m grateful that Sam Stone took a chance on me. Without a doubt, he was used of God.

Steve Carr serves as vice president of ministry development with CDF Capital. His free curriculum on the Restoration Movement is available at houseofcarr.com/movement.

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