Lessons While Laboring With Bob Jennings During His Death (Part 2)

Clint Leiter shares how God called him into the ministry, as well as his privilege of having the time of co-pastoring with the late Bob Jennings and the lessons learned during that time.


James: As far as the transition from going from Illinois to Missouri and co-pastoring with Bob Jennings, how did the Lord bring that about?

Clint: Well, I was working full time as an electrician. And I began to feel less and less tied to my occupation. My mind and my heart were more and more in ministry than in electrical work. And it progressed to the standpoint, if you could view it on a scale - the one scale of being an electrician got lighter and lighter, and heavier and heavier the work of the ministry. And so I knew that my days were numbered in the electrical trade and sooner or later, the Lord would move me out of that. At that point in time, I had years as an electrician. I had been conversing with Bob by email back and forth. And Sedalia is my hometown. I was born here. So, my parents and our families would make return trips to Sedalia to visit relatives and so on. And when we were in town, we would always worship with Highway M Chapel and sit under Bob's teaching so we were very familiar with Highway M Chapel. And Bob and I had been corresponding back and forth by email. And in the providence of God, he was in a very difficult season in the church. He signed off an email one time - an email that was simply me asking a Bible question - he signed off that email saying "wish you were here." And it was those words right there that instantly the Lord used to plant in my mind that this was the direction that He had for me. So at that point in time, it started the ball rolling which only snowballed and got bigger. I approached Bob with this idea, this thought, and he was very supportive of it. I began to talk to others - Charles and different ones - anyone I could talk to to ask them for any counsel they would have positive or negative, and it was all positive. Some wanted to not influence the decision and so their counsel was somewhat reserved in the sense that they did not say, "I think you should do it," but rather, "I think this could be of God." And others were very much supportive of it. "I think you should do it." So He began to put things in order in Illinois. The first thing was my career which was a good career, a lucrative career, an established career. But I determined I needed to sew that up. And so I had been employed by my contractor for at least three years in one location. And I went in and I talked to my boss and I told him what I was going to do and I said, "I'd like to put in my two week notice." And he said, "Well, as a matter of fact, you're going to be laid off tomorrow." And so that sealed that up very abruptly. But nonetheless, a confirmation. And that was only one step along the way. We put our house on the market and began to make trips to Missouri to hunt for a place to live, those kinds of necessary things. One by one, they began to fall. I've never had faith in my life so far as I know as I had during that season that I was marching in the course that God had for me. I'd set my sights on that goal, and one by one, He was removing things, confirming them along the way. And so, by the grace of God, we arrived in Missouri.

James: Was there any specific wise counsel that above the rest stuck out and was specifically used to help in that season?

Clint: One of the things Bob said to me, I recall. He said, "the world has a lot of electricians, but not many preachers of the Gospel." That was very helpful.

James: So you get to Missouri here and how long were you co-pastor with Bob Jennings before he died? About how long was that?

Clint: Well, we came to Highway M Chapel not on a call to be a pastor, but just to be a part of the church and let God do it in His own time. So we moved to Sedalia and we were here roughly six months maybe before the Lord brought it to pass and the church appointed me to co-pastor with Bob. How long I was a co-pastor with him before he was diagnosed with cancer, I would have to do the math. It would be kind of difficult for me right now in front of the camera. But it was a couple of years, a few years, and then he was diagnosed with cancer.

James: So I wanted to ask in regards to Brother Bob Jennings, you had a unique insider perspective as his co-pastor with how he dealt with his cancer diagnosis, his final years of suffering, making preparations for the church's welfare following his death. Are there any memories from that season that might be insightful and encouraging to share?

Clint: Well, I haven't told many people. I had a real sense on occasion that God had brought me to Sedalia in order to remove him. It was a very fearful thought to me. You might call it a premonition. It was definitely in the realm of subjective. And so, typically, I don't put much weight on those kinds of things. But it would grip me and it would be very real. And I talked to Bob about that on at least two occasions prior to his sickness that I felt like I was afraid that God had brought me there to take him. Lo and behold, he comes down with pancreatic cancer. And so that set my heart to trembling as you can imagine. Bob's mother died from pancreatic cancer and she had three months from her diagnosis to her death. If it would have followed the same course for Bob, that didn't leave much time. But in the grace of God, Bob was given two and a half years of time - that's very surprising, considering pancreatic cancer and its normal course. During those two and a half years, it was a great blessing to me, a great grace of God to me, to prepare me for what was to come. And so Bob and I had plenty of time together with this looming difficulty hanging over our heads. And he set about to prepare me to oversee the church in his absence if it were to be in the will of God to happen that way. I was involved on two occasions anointing Bob with oil and praying over him as per James 5. But I'm sad to say that on both of those occasions, it was not my prayer of faith - I didn't have faith that God was going to raise him up and heal him. And so it was a melancholy time for me that way, but nonetheless, we were praying. I was praying. And I never stole Bob's hope as far as I know during those years, that season. There was a time when he was praying for twelve more years. And others came forward and said, "we believe God is going to give him twelve more years." But all the while, I was inside shaking my head. I didn't have the faith to lay hold on that. But nonetheless, I tried to support him and encourage him and give him hope during that time. After the initial shock wore off for Bob and for myself, Bob didn't want to die. You know there are verses: "For me to die is gain..." "To live is Christ, to die is gain," and so on, but the Apostle Paul said, "I'm torn between the two." And that was Bob as well. He was torn between the two. He had a son - Jared - at the time was unconverted. And he had three children that at the time they were unmarried. And there was a lot of life left. He said tearfully to me on one occasion, "I view myself as a young man still." And so, he had a hold on life. He didn't want to die. And I think there's an element of bravado that we hear sometimes where people talk like they're not afraid of dying and maybe they're not. I don't know that I would ever say Bob was afraid of dying. Surely the process of dying can be fearful for us. But I believe that God gives us life and there is a world there to take in that He's put us in and filled us with the love of life. So anyway, there was some of that with Bob. He didn't want to die. There was a point in time when he had Terri researching many different approaches to treatments of cancer. People who loved Bob - he was well known - he had an Internet ministry and so on - they would send articles. They would send holistic methods, homeopathic methods to try and treat cancer. Some of them were way out there. Some of them had a little bit of credibility. But Bob would send Terri on these missions to try and determine if there was any scientific evidence; if this could possibly be something to pursue because he didn't want to die. He wanted to prolong his life if he could. There were times when we would be in prayer together and he would be weeping and he would be praying from the Psalms. "What profit is my blood if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise You? And will the grave declare Your faithfulness?" I think it's written there. "Will the departed spirits rise and praise You?" Or, "Will the grave declare Your lovingkindness?" Those different psalms, you know. You hear it in the psalm writers. So he had that sense where he really did want to keep going. He was in the height of his usefulness in his ministry - very effective. So, those were difficult days, difficult times. But he did progress. He was concerned to establish me. And that was very loving on his part, very helpful on his part. There's a time I haven't shared with anyone - even before this interview. We had a time of prayer in the chapel - just he and I - sitting on the front row of the chapel, largely silent, kind of a sad time. And it was a time of prayer. And he turned to me and he quoted Isaiah 60:1. He said, "Arise and shine, your light has come, and the Spirit of the Lord is upon you." And that was very confirming from him. He would, from the pulpit, make confirming statements to the congregation in regard to me. I had to be ready at any time to preach during those years, those months, especially toward the end. The way Bob and I worked our ministry here he preached one Sunday, I would preach the next Sunday. We would alternate. But when he was sick, I had to be ready every Sunday to preach. But he didn't miss hardly any of his obligations to preach. The Lord would strengthen him and he'd be able. And I would doubt up till the last minute that he'd be able to, but he would. Sometimes I would be preaching and I would look over and he would sit off to my left with Terri. That was his place to sit. He would stretch out on the front rows to try and get comfortable. And I would preach to Bob laying down, if you can picture it in your mind on the front rows of the seats of the congregation. Those were difficult days. Bob was my best friend. We talked practically every day. There were spontaneous times. I would get a phone call mid-morning. He'd say something like, "I'm taking my vehicle in to have maintenance done on it, the tires rotated, the oil changed. Can you meet me at the car mechanic's place and we'll sit in the parking lot and talk and pray?" Or he'd call to go for a walk or something like that. So when he died, my phone became strangely silent. I was on my own from there. I might interject at this point that others really helped me. Brother Mack Tomlinson, Brother Tim Conway - they both preached sermons the day after we buried Bob. And their sermons were very confirming because they said things to my church that would have been extremely awkward for me to say. Brother Mack preached a sermon on the commissioning of Joshua. He said my servant Moses is dead, therefore rise up and take the land. And it was a very powerful sermon. And very confirming for me as a pastor now in Bob's absence. Brother Tim preached a sermon from Hebrews 13: Submit to your elders. And again, it was very confirming. Brother Mack made statements like: You don't need Bob Jennings anymore. If you did, God would have left him here. And those kinds of things I couldn't say. As a pastor, it would have been extremely awkward. "Rise up and follow me." "Rise up and support me." But here these men - godly men - men who our church and myself greatly respect were able to stand up and with authority commission the church to follow me and to support me. I'm very grateful for that.

James: After Bob died and you were left just the only pastor in the church, what has been an encouragement to you? It's not like these last years have been easy. There have been difficulties. How has the Lord kept you going in the midst of those trials?