Bro. Max Lynch

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Eulogy for Bro. Max Lynch

 Max W. Lynch 1929-2000

by George E. (Jed) Smock

August 28, 2000 

As a graduate student at Indiana State University in the late sixties, I first heard of Max Lynch. He was the infamous lone voice on the ISU faculty who boldly supported the Viet Nam War and vigorously spoke of his Christian faith. My comrades and I considered Max Lynch to be some kind of right wing religious fanatic. 

I am a former socialist college professor, who became involved in the drug, radical and revolutionary movementMax Lynch of the sixties. However, in 1972 I experienced a dramatic conversion to Christianity. One of the first persons I sought after my new birth was Max Lynch, who was teaching math at the ISU Laboratory School. I visited him during his office hours and we would pray together for the campus and he would usually give me a short Bible lesson. 

Max shared his testimony with me. He had been a successful engineer who traveled extensively as a trouble shooter for the General Electric Co. In the Spring of 1961, he suddenly realized that he had never sought the perfect will of God for his life. 

As a step of consecration, Max fell to his knees and asked, “God, what can I do for you?” 

God answered, “Go to Farmersburg, Indiana, and join the Friendship Baptist Church.” In obedience, Brother Max quit his job with GE and went with his wife and five children to live in Farmersburg. He was soon hired by Indiana State, but took a big cut in pay. Later, he became the pastor of a Baptist church and continued to teach at the Lab School. 

From 1961-1968, Max had the freedom in the classroom to read the Bible, pass out tracts and even preach from time to time; but the radical elements began to grow in strength, and in 1968, the university president ordered him to stop these practices. This action provoked Brother Max to research exactly what his legal religious rights were inside the public classroom. He discovered that in 1963 the United States Supreme Court had outlawed prayer and virtually outlawed Bible reading in the public schools. Realizing the freedoms that Christians had lost, Max was shocked and enraged. 

In the Spring of 1970, in defiance of the state, he started opening his classes with a short Bible reading. The next Fall the president gave Brother Max the choice of either discontinuing his Bible reading or taking an administrative position. Because he felt it important to keep some contact with the students in order to be a witness to them, he chose to stay in the classroom and to curtail his Scripture reading. Max had the reputation even by those who opposed his Bible reading of being an excellent teacher and had received outstanding teacher awards. 

Three years later, God awakened Max from a sound sleep to dictate a letter to the president that Max must obey God rather than men, and if God instructed him to read the Bible to his students, he would. Shortly thereafter, upon God’s orders, Max resumed his two-minute Bible reading at the beginning of class. This action caused an immediate stir on campus. Considerable pressure was put on Max to recant, but he stood firm. Eventually, he was given an ultimatum: The Bible or your job. Max choose the Bible and was fired from his job. 

Max later said, “It was one of the most difficult things I’d done. But that’s what the Lord wanted me to do and I’m glad I did it...I’d rather preach than anything else in the world.” Max and I soon joined forces to preach on campuses throughout the country. 

Ironically, twin girls in his class, who had complained to the administration, were later converted to Christ. Max’s stand for Truth had made quite an impression on them. Later, when they attended Indiana University, the girls regularly listened to Max preach in the middle of campus. 

Why would a highly educated, skilled, intelligent, tenured man like Max give up a secure and prestigious position with good benefits at a university to preach the Word of God open-air to unappreciative college students? I am sure that this was a question on the mind of many of his family and friends back in 1974. 

Perhaps a young man by the name of Paul Stamm can best answer the question for us. Paul was a freshman in business aviation at The Ohio State University when he heard Max preaching on the campus lawn in the Spring of 1986. Paul was wavering between atheism and theism. Paul was amazed that an educated man in his late fifties would spend his time preaching to a crowd of jeering college students. 

Paul later said with tears, “I was impressed that he was not out golfing. I remembered two scriptures that Bro Max quoted: ‘Be ye holy for I am holy,’ and, ‘Except ye repent ye will all likewise perish.’” Max had a way of quoting scriptures so that they would forever be impressed upon the hearts and minds of students. One of his favorites was Rev 20:15: “And whosoever is not found written in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire.” 

Paul recalled, “I knew that if what Bro Max was saying was true then I was in trouble.” In February, 1987, Paul professed faith in Christ and claimed the salvation experience. After his graduation from college, he followed Max’s example of preaching on campuses for three years before taking a position in the business world. 

Cindy Lasseter was a junior at the University of Florida in 1977, who used to make fun of my preaching. One day she was laughing at me almost hysterically. I pointed her out of the crowd and said, “Repent of your sins you wicked woman.” The next year I returned to the University of Florida with Max. I discovered that this girl, Cindy, had had an attitude change and was open enough to the gospel to go to church with me on a few occasions, but she refused to respond to any altar calls. One day after preaching on campus, I invited her to have coffee with Max and me. I said, “Max, perhaps you can reach this girl I have tried everything I know.” Cindy later testified that she was fearful of Max because he preached like this, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” But Max’s witness made the difference that night and he convinced her to pray a sinner’s prayer. Soon she also started preaching on campus. It so happens that this girl is with us this morning, she is now my wife, Cindy. We have been married 17 years and have 5 daughters. Very likely without Brother Max’s witness, she would not be saved today. 

Yesterday, I received an email from Leland Ray which read, “I am one of the many "sinners" to whom Brother Max preached at the University of Illinois in the mid-eighties. While Max never succeeded in converting me to Christianity, he did become a constant sparring companion to me and many others. Off the podium, I found Max to be a warm and compassionate human being, always willing to chat about that latest sporting events or whatever else was going on. He was a man who knew what be believed, made no apologies for it, and would never abandon his principles. Please convey my condolences to his family and friends.” 

Jesus said in Luke 6:26, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” This is one admonition that Max never had to worry about. He was not a man pleaser, but diligently sought to please God. He was never ashamed of the Gospel. He had his enemies and even his friends sometimes did not understand his complexities. Once Max was convinced that he had heard from God, neither family, friend or foe could deter him from his course; nor could all the demons of Hell. Max once said, “If I wasn’t stirring anyone up, something would be wrong with my relationship with God.” 

But Max had a tender side. On a number of occasions I saw him weep before a crowd of raging students as he warned them of God’s impending judgment and hell fire. He was a consummate story teller who could enthrall the students hour after hour. Once after a long afternoon of preaching at Purdue University with Cindy, they were invited to a fraternity house for dinner. After dinner the brothers invited Max to speak. Cindy testifies that the boys seemed spellbound as they listened quietly to Max speak for over an hour. Perhaps this was the first time many of them they had ever heard a godly man speak to them in such a profound manner. 

In one of Max’s favorite stories I had the privilege of playing a part. It was October, 1976, a presidential election year. When Max and I arrived at the Southern Illinois University free-speech area, a crowd of thousands had gathered. Upon inquiry, we found out that the democratic candidate, Jimmy Carter, was scheduled to speak at noon. An open-air platform had been built for the occasion. We circled the crowd, praying, and finally stopped under a big oak tree behind the platform. 

Max who had always been athletic said, “Here, Brother Jed, hold my Bible.” Then he began to climb the tree. Soon he was high in the tree, mostly covered from sight by the foliage. Soon, the Carter entourage, with some of the top state and local politicians, drove up in limousines. They took the platform and, when Jimmy Carter opened his mouth to begin his speech, a voice from the tree top cried, “REPENT!” 

Carter was startled. I could imagine the secret service reaching for their guns. 

Carter addressed what he considered the issues: inflation and unemployment. 

Brother Max yelled, “What about abortion? What about the rising crime rate? What about drunkenness and dope addiction? What about divorce? Max knew that these and other sins were leading to the breakdown of American society. He wanted the professing, born-again candidate to address the sin issue. Jimmy Carter had nothing about sin in his notes and, becoming very frustrated, he cut his speech short. He and the other politicians then sped away from the scene. 

Hundreds of people then gathered under the tree to see who had interrupted their political rally. Several were so irate that they climbed the tree, determined to get him down. One woman got out on a limb and grabbed Brother Max’s coattails, attempting to pull him from the tree. He became concerned about the woman’s safety, so he agreed to come down if she would stop pulling. 

When Max dropped from the lowest limb, the police had to form a wedge to whisk him away from the angry crowd. They took him into a room in the administration building until the crowd dispersed. The next day, Max’s feat received the main headlines in the newspaper, VOICE FROM THE TREE TOP CRIES “REPENT!” A photograph pictured him with a broad smile as the police were escorting him away from the mob. Candidate Carter took a back seat in the news. 

Max was a master of the soundbite, that is the one-line sensational statement which would proclaim truth in a memorable manner and would sometimes be televised on the evening news or published in the next day in the student paper. When the feminist movement was at its height, Max would ask the students, “Do you know what ERA stands for?” “The equal rights amendment,” the students would reply in unison. “Wrong,” responded Max, “Eve ruined Adam.” Another one of Max’s favorite soundbites was, “This campus is a three-dimensional cesspool of sin: decadent, depraved and degenerate.” 

Max had many originals such as this, and I quickly made them part of my repertoire, as did other preachers that followed me. Usually, I did not take the time to give the credit to Max for his many pithy sayings, but today I want to make sure that you understand that Max has inspired two generations of campus preachers. Not just by his one-liners, but Max was a sound apologist who earnestly contended for the faith that was once delivered to the saints. 

When Max and I started preaching regularly on campus in the mid-seventies, there were just a few other campus preachers. Today, to a significant degree thanks to Max’s influence and steadfastness, there are scores of campus preachers from coast to coast. Many of us have more of Max in us then most of us would know. Without Max’s example, dedication and persistence there would be significantly fewer voices of righteousness on the campuses. 

In the Sermon of the mount Jesus said, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. {11} Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. {12} Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” 

If there are any Biblical type prophets in our day, I think Max deserves that title as much as anyone. Few know the heavy persecution that he came under, even sometimes suffering jail for the sake of the Gospel. A prominent Bible teacher, Norvel Hayes, who speaks to audiences of thousands in some of America’s largest churches, once said of Max, “Many men travel the church circuit teaching on faith, but I know of no one who is actually living by faith to the extent that Max Lynch is.” 

Max sacrificed much for the Kingdom. I know that his family sacrificed as well because when Max began campus preaching he still had three young children living at home. It was not easy getting the bills paid, but Max stood firm in his calling. Max once told a Tribune-Star reporter: “The Lord takes care of our needs. I receive donations from Christians, and my wife works part time at a local hospital. She has been my biggest supporter.” 

Through all of Max’s difficulties he was able to maintain his joy. Daily he would break into song while preaching on campus. One of his favorites was “I feel good, I feel good, just to know that I have been redeemed, makes me feel good.” As Max was singing he would break into a little dance. As we are mourning our loss and remembering his life here on earth, I can imagine Max in heaven dancing and singing, “I feel good, I feel good, just to know that I have been redeemed, makes me feel good.” 

Max’s ministry had an international impact. Years ago at the University of Illinois a group of Iranian students said to Max, “Brother Max, you and Brother Jed are very well known in Iran. Max responded, “How so, we have never been in your country.” One of the Moslems replied, “Iranian students study on campuses all over America when we return home from school breaks you and Brother Jed are a common experience we have all had and your ministry and message is always one of our main topics of conversation.” 

In his later years after some of Max’s physical strength began to wan, he did less preaching on campus, but still made his regular rounds to Purdue, Illinois, IU and ISU passing out tracts which he had written. Max also sent packets of his sermon outlines throughout the continent of Africa. 

Max had the hand of a ready writer. He wrote stinging letters to every president from Nixon through Clinton, sometimes he would write and address a letter to every congressman and senator. Supreme Court Justices regularly were rebuked and condemned by Max after the passage of Roe v Wade. His letters were often published in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. 

Many of you will fondly remember that Max liked gardening, basketball, ’76 Monte Carlos, playing piano and showing off pictures of his grandchildren. I would like to conclude my remarks by suggesting how Max would most like to be remembered. 

For years as a math teacher Max tested his students. Later as a campus minister he daily tested college students to see if they were Christians. Bro. Max would open his well worn New American Standard Bible and turn to 2 Cor 13:5 and read: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test?” On Thursday, August 24, Bro. Max passed his final exam. I pray that everyone here today, his family and friends, will examine yourselves to make sure Jesus Christ is in you--that you might not fail your test. 

Amen

 

Brother Jed

 

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