I was only 85 when I accepted Ken Austin’s invitation to join his team at the New Walk of Life Church on Council Street in west Montgomery.
It was not a difficult decision. I remembered that Moses was 80 when the Lord assigned him to return to Egypt and “set my people free.” Joshua, leader of the Israelites after the death of Moses, was still going strong at age 85, and like me, thankful that the Lord had kept him alive all those years.
Working with Ken has blessed my golden years immeasurably. His church is appropriately named because following Ken around requires a lot of walking.
Every first Saturday, hundreds of people join Ken in walking the streets of Montgomery to call for an end to violence in the city. More and more people are joining this effort to overcome hatred with love and kindness.
Ken is forever walking. He is walking to the bus to take 60 kids to school every day. He is walking to the Mercy House to help Angela Gilchrist minister to folks who need help with food or clothing — or a few words of loving encouragement.
He is walking to the Pathway House to arrange classes to help people with basic needs. He is walking to Valiant Cross Academy to cheer on Anthony Brock and his brother Fred in their amazing effort to teach young African American males to become men of character “who will rise up to lead, serve and inspire others.”
When I joined Ken in speaking to the graduating class at Hope Inspired Ministries, I “discovered” this awesome ministry led by Michael Coleman.
I had passed by Coleman’s building on Coliseum Boulevard hundreds of times but had no idea that inside was a team of people dedicated to preparing folks who are “low skilled, poorly educated and chronically unemployed” to obtain and maintain employment. To say it simply, Michael’s team is teaching people “how to fish.”
It was inspiring to meet a man who is driven by a passion to demonstrate the love of Jesus to the marginalized of our society. He operates the same ministry in Birmingham as well as Montgomery. Meeting people like Michael is what happens when you walk with Ken Austin.
Walking is common
Walking, of course, is as common as dirt. God gives us feet and legs so we can walk. In many nations, more people are walking than driving.
In America, most people are driving; our highways are jammed with cars and trucks. But in Zambia, for example, more people are walking than driving. In our country, the doctors constantly encourage us to walk more for our health.
We love songs about walking. My contemporaries will recall loving to hear Mario Lanza sing “I’ll Walk with God.” And who can forget listening to Fats Domino sing “I’m Walkin to New Orleans,” Nancy Sinatra singing “These Boots Were Made for Walking” or Johnny Cash singing “I Walk the Line.”
All my life I have loved singing the song “Trust and Obey,” which begins with the words, “When we walk with the Lord in the light of his word, what a glory he sheds on our way!”
Christians know that being a disciple of Jesus means walking with the Lord on a daily basis. So in church we enjoy singing “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” “We’re Marching to Zion,” “Footsteps of Jesus” and “Walking with Jesus.”
One of my favorite quartet songs is “Step into The Water,” which invites us to “wade out a little bit deeper and wet your feet in the water of his love.” And whose heart is not touched by hearing someone sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
We evaluate other Christians by the way they walk. When we discover that some person is “a street angel and a house devil,” we are quick to say, “He does not walk like he talks.”
Though we are all inflicted with the propensity to recognize hypocrisy in others, while overlooking our own, we all recognize the necessity of walking like we talk and practicing what we preach.
Much to tell us
The Bible has much to tell us about walking. In Genesis, we find God walking the garden when he confronts Adam and Eve about their disobedience. Enoch walked with God 365 years, “then he was no more, because God took him away.”
The ark builder Noah was a righteous man who walked with God. Many years later when God parted the waters of the Red Sea, Pharaoh’s army drowned but “the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground.”
When Moses shared the Ten Commandments with the people, he instructed them, “Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you.” Both Moses and Joshua warned the people to fear the Lord and “walk in all his ways.” Later Jeremiah hears God telling him to instruct the people to “walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you.”
Isaiah offers a bit of humor when he says, “The Lord says, ‘The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, tripping along with mincing steps, with ornaments jingling on their ankles. Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the Lord will make their scalps bald.’” The prophet must have had a twinkle in his eye when said that!
But it is Isaiah who gives us these beautiful words: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” And that light, we believe, was Jesus, the Light of the world!
The New Testament boldly invites us to repent and walk with Jesus. To repent is to stop walking in the wrong way, turn around and begin walking “in the ways of the Lord.”
Paul reminds us that we must stop walking in the old ways and learn to walk by the Spirit, live by the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit. Paul admonishes Christians to walk in the way of love, being “kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
John teaches us to walk in the truth and in the light. So the New Testament reinforces the Old Testament — believers are to walk in the ways of the Lord, the Lord Jesus!
“How to find Jesus”
When we walk with the Lord, the way we walk, the way we live, will point people toward Jesus. We cannot save people — but Jesus can! Our walk should show beggars where to find bread, the Bread of Life, our Lord Jesus.
I love the story about Jana, a little girl who was excited about her part in a Christmas play.
The night of the performance, Jana’s parents were puzzled to see Jana sitting off to the side when the shepherds and Mary and Joseph took their places in the manger. They heard the voice of the children’s teacher saying, “A long time ago, Mary and Joseph had a baby and they named him Jesus. And when Jesus was born, a bright star appeared over the stable.”
That was Jana’s cue. She got up, walked behind Joseph and Mary, and held up a large tinfoil star. When the teacher spoke of “the shepherds” coming to see the baby Jesus, Jana jiggled the star up and down to show them the way. When she saw the “wise men” coming, she stepped forward a little to meet them and lead them to the crib. Her face was beaming — like a star!
On the way home after the play, Jana said with great joy, “I had the main part!” Wondering why she thought that, her mother said, “You did?” To which Jana responded, “Yes, because I showed everybody how to find Jesus!”
Would to God all Christians could share Jana’s excitement and understand that when we truly walk with the Lord, we are showing the world how to find Jesus. That is what my brothers and sisters in the New Walk of Life Church are all about — living in such a way that their walk will inspire others to join them in loving and serving Jesus.
If you know someone who needs to begin a “new walk” with the Lord, point them our way!
Walter Albritton is a Methodist minister and writes a weekly column for the Opelika-Auburn News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.