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  • Paige Patterson

Can Heaven Get Richer?



That which is perfect, by the nature of the case, cannot become more perfect. Consequently, there is nothing that we can add to heaven to make it – well, more heavenly. God has prepared a place for us, and what God conceived and produced simply cannot be improved. However, the wealth of heaven is extended with the entry of every redeemed life, as God effects the concluding redemptive act of glorification. And some individuals constitute an exponential increase for heaven, even if they are not so widely known as a John Chrysostom or Charles Spurgeon.


As a matter of fact, that is precisely what transpired on March 18, 2021, when God’s clarion call for Emerson Lyle was authoritatively issued. “EM,” as some of us spoke of him, was a most remarkable servant of Christ. Not known as widely as some pulpiteers who have graced the pulpits across the land, I have an idea that the heavenly congregation, lining up to welcome Emerson Lyle to his heavenly home, must have been a sight to behold. You will comprehend that statement when I add that Emerson Lyle was the greatest contemporary personal soul-winner whom I was ever privileged to know, and I have known some of the best. He departed his home in Huntsville, Alabama, and trod the pavement of heaven on last Thursday morning.


While on this orbiting space station called Earth, Emerson served with Jerry Vines at West Rome Baptist Church in Rome, Georgia, and then at Dauphin Way Baptist Church in Mobile. From 1983 – 2008 he led the program of evangelism for Jimmy Jackson at Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama.


As vividly as though it had happened only yesterday, I can recall approaching a home not far from the seminary in New Orleans. On the front porch sat a man in an undershirt and jeans. He cradled a beer in his hand and harbored a scowl on his face. “Hi there,” voiced a smiling Emerson, stunning the angry man by taking the seat next to him. “You look like you are staying cool on a hot New Orleans afternoon. If you run me off, you will never guess what I have to do next,” chortled Emerson. “I have to go to my room at school and study Greek! Would you do that to a friend like me?” The man, thoroughly astonished, murmured, “No, I would not do that to anybody.”


While I stood just out of reach, Emerson began the most pleasant presentation of the Gospel that I think I ever heard. Halfway into his presentation, I wanted to be saved but then realized that I already had become a follower of Christ! About thirty minutes into his avoidance of Greek, Emerson looked compassionately at his new friend. “Well, Greek is calling. Before I go, could I ask God to bless your family and home?” “Uh huh,” replied our new friend. As Emerson completed his prayer, he extended his hand, and the man took it. Emerson said with such sincere kindness, “Sir, would you ask Jesus to forgive your sins and make you His child?” “Yes,” volunteered the man, still balancing the can of beer. I watched in amazement as he wept his way to Christ, then embraced Emerson as they wept together.


That man has long since been in heaven. He was waiting for Emerson to arrive. The greatest need of the church today is not for God to raise up a generation of great preachers but rather a generation of men and women who are lovers of souls! That is why Jesus taught us to pray, “Pray the Lord of the harvest will send forth laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:38). My guess is that this gentleman is grateful that no iPhones were around on that sultry day in New Orleans. Instead of sharing Jesus, Emerson might have been penning another tweet.


Heaven, I say, is richer and earth is poorer with the transfer of Emerson Lyle into the heavenlies. And I cannot help thinking about what would happen to our churches if we became soul-conscious. What if we began earnestly to ask God to raise up an army of men like Emerson Lyle, who lived each day hunting for lost and dying men to introduce to Jesus? What if every church had only one soul-winner, who won only one person to Christ each week?


In honor of him who is one of our greatest personal evangelists, would you join me in seeking God’s face and asking Him to make the first thing first among our churches once more and let that prayer include that the Lord begin with you?