by Joe Kirkpatrick
Back in the 1970's, James Roberson was the number one evangelist in the Southern Baptist denomination, and perhaps in the whole country. Booked solid for two to three years in advance, he held revival crusades that attracted thousands of people throughout the United States. He was buddies with Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham, but little did he know that his life would be changed forever by a chance encounter with a carpet cleaner from Cleveland, Tennessee.
Milton Green was a rough ole boy with an 8th grade education from Polk County, Tennessee. Polk County is in a rural mountainous area of East Tennessee which boarders the state line of North Carolina. Raised poor, Milton drank a lot, and ran with a rough crowd. He became a welder and ironworker, and worked union jobs. One man who knew him well told me Milton Green was the only man he ever knew that could throw up at will. He said when a new worker came on the job the first day, they all knew what was going to happen. At lunch, Milton would eat, then shortly thereafter would say, "Boys, I just don't feel good." He would moan and groan, and everyone but the new worker would know what was going to happen. After a couple of minutes, Milton would throw up in front of everyone, then proceed to reach down in the vomit on the ground, and pick up and eat the chunks out of it. I am not telling you this to gross you out, but to simply give you a picture of Milton Green. Only God knew that one day this uneducated man's chance encounter with one of the worlds top evangelists would change both of their lives forever.
Somewhere along the way in mid-life, Milton Green got saved. Many men who become middle aged have a "mid-life crisis" that totally changes their lives, but usually not for the better. Milton's salvation was not the normal salvation, as he could just not get enough. He ran daily to his Bible like a thirsty man in the desert runs to a pool of water. He was consumed by both God's spirit and grace. Who knows, maybe he had such a desire and thirst for God to pay penitence for his past bad deeds. By this point in his life, Milton had left the ironworking profession and had become a carpet cleaner.
In the 1970's, James Roberson held a crusade sponsored by the local Southern Baptist churches in Cleveland, Tennessee. Almost every night, the 10,000 seat auditorium in which it was held was packed. Hundreds were saved, and it was a great success, as were most of James Roberson's crusades. In fact, many touted young James as "the next Billy Graham." That is, until that uneducated carpet cleaner Milton Green knocked on his motel room door late at night after one of the services.
When James answered the door, Milton said "I need to talk to you." James invited him in, and Milton walked across the room, pulled out a chair, and told him to, "Come over here and sit in this chair." By James Roberson's own account, his mind was racing with thoughts like, "Don't you know who I am? Haven't you read my tracts? Don't you know I am buddies with Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell?" Milton got in his face and said, "Boy, I've been following your career for years - you're the best preacher I've ever heard, but you are also the most tormented person I have ever seen." James said as he looked over at that chair, he heard a voice in his head say, "Boy, you get in that chair and you are dead." But James found himself walking over a sitting down in "the" chair. Then, in that Holiday Inn room, Milton starting circling the now humbled evangelist yelling and rebuking the devil. James Roberson said his mind was racing, and the only thing that popped in his head was, "I hope this room has thick walls so nobody can hear what is going on in here." When he was through praying, Milton sat down on the edge of the bed near the chair, patted James on the knee, looked him straight in the eye and said, "Son, it's over - traffic stops, you're going to get a clear signal." Then, without saying anything else, Milton Green stood and walked out of the room. By Roberson's own account, he felt nothing. But within two days later, he realized he had been delivered from all of the things that had bound him spiritually.
The story doesn't end in Cleveland, Tennessee. Milton moved out to Dallas to be an advisor to James. James was still booked for over two years in advance in Southern Baptist churches throughout America, but he now took a new, bold Charismatic based message to historically conservative churches. Some members in these churches got it, but many resisted and some churches even started to divide.
How is your walk with Christ? Do you really walk with him, or just have sort of a casual friendship? Sometimes you may have a really good relationship with him, but think you are not adequate or have enough stature in life to share what he has done for you. Milton Green was a true example that it doesn't matter what you have been or what you have done, you can be chosen to be a force for God.
By the way, the thousands of people who split off from their churches to follow a deeper walk with God? The Dallas-Fort Worth newspaper had a name for them: "Greenies." So approximately named after Milton Green, the uneducated carpet cleaner from Cleveland, Tennessee.
Authors Note: This is an accurate description of a true event that happened in the 1970's. I am in no way implying that you cannot have a deeper relationship with God in the Baptist Church, or for that matter, in any other Christian denomination.