Have you had a spiritual mentor who God used to strengthen, define, or refine God’s call?
A couple of weeks ago, I lost a friend who had a great impact on my life and not mine only, but thousands of others as well. His name was George Bogle, and he was well known in the Detroit Michigan region. In fact, George played an influential role in my moving to Detroit. And if it were not for him as the catalyst to get me to Detroit, I would not have met Shelly Nagle and thus missed out on 44 years of marital bliss.
George Bogle had one of the most influential churches in Detroit in the seventies. He was best known for his radio show seven nights a week from 12 midnight to 3.AM. George had thousands of listeners who would call in for prayer each night and he prayed under a mighty anointing. So how did a young Jewish minister living in North Carolina in 1976 get to Detroit? Here are the details of how God led me, in his sovereignty, to Detroit and subsequently to work with Pastor Bogle.
As previously stated, in 1976, I was living in a small town in North Carolina, helping a friend I knew from Florida lead a church. One day the phone rang and another good friend from Florida who had recently moved back to Detroit called to urge me to come to Detroit and hear his new pastor. So almost the same day or soon afterwards, I jumped in my car and drove non-stop to Detroit. The following Sunday I eagerly awaited hearing my friend’s new pastor who assured me was the best preacher on the planet. When I arrived at the church, I met Pastor George for about thirty seconds in the parking lot and warmly shook his hand. Then, I awaited his’ message.
Well to say the least, I was not disappointed. George was a powerful exhorter who preached passionately, encouraging people to do everything to the glory of God. There was something majestic about his preaching. Leaving church that morning I asked my friend if we could return and hear him again at the Sunday evening service. As long as I was in Detroit, I wanted to receive more from this powerful man of God.
We arrived early that evening to ensure we had a seat up front. During worship, George sat on the stage facing the congregation. Suddenly, he motioned to my friend to come up on stage and whispered something in his ear. My friend immediately returned to his seat next to me and whispered in my ear, “You’re not going to believe this; George wants you to preach!” I was stunned and thought I had misheard. But my friend confirmed it — “he feels like the Holy Spirit told him that you are supposed to bring the word.”
As I sat there pondering what to do, suddenly the words of I Kings 17 were quickened to me regarding the ministry of Elijah. With fear and trembling I stood up and preached (so much for sermon prep). I felt a powerful quickening by the Spirit as I spoke. When the meeting ended hundreds of people came up to me and shook my hand thanking me for the message. George himself seemed pleased and asked me if I would return in the summer and hold two weeks of special meetings. I was already committed that summer to teach at a discipleship camp for Jewish believers in Texas and told George that the earliest I could come would be September. Dates were agreed upon and after fulfilling my summer teaching responsibilities, I returned to Detroit to hold two weeks of special meetings in the church.
Not surprisingly, within a month I was associate pastor! Our church bought the historic Grande Ballroom which was a famous rock concert venue in the sixties featuring such bands as Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Yardbirds, Cream and solo artists like Chuck Berry. I taught a Bible School Monday through Friday from 10AM to Noon and 10PM-Midnite. Immediately after the night session, we broadcast the three hours of prayer. After a while, George asked me to lead some of the prayer broadcasts.
We even showed Christian movies during that time. My good friend Steve Fatow was with me one night during the showing of the Cross and the Switchblade when my dearest wife Shelly Nagel walked in with her girlfriend. When I saw her, I turned to Steve and said, “I’m going to marry that girl.” A year later I did. And after marrying her we moved to a suburb of Detroit and planted a church.
None of this would have happened if not for the loving obedience of Pastor George and his sensitivity to the Spirit. Although I had already been in ministry some five years before moving to Detroit, it was working with Pastor Bogle that I learned much of what I needed for the last forty-five years. His faith in me (in Jesus) helped to hone my call to the ministry and develop my preaching and teaching.
Rest in peace Pastor George. I know a rich reward awaited you as you entered heaven. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to work by your side. Its impact lives on as a lasting legacy. I invite you to leave a short comment, tribute or mention of one who has served as a lasting legacy in your life.