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My Brother Ernie Reisinger

Category Articles
Date July 3, 2004
[Extracts from a moving tribute by John G. Reisinger]

Yesterday I attended my older brother’s funeral. This is the second of my two brothers that have gone home to be with the Lord. At the time of refreshments following the funeral there was an opportunity for personal testimonies and nearly everyone who spoke had come to faith in Christ through my brother Ernie’s witness. On my drive back to New York I kept remembering things about both of my brothers. In some ways they were very much a like and in other ways radically different. At my brother Donald’s funeral over half of the people spoke to me and said, ‘Your brother Donald was the first person who ever told me the Gospel.’ An elderly Amish man said, ‘I knew a lot about Moses and works but not much about Jesus and grace until I met your brother.’

God used my brother Donald’s funeral to bring Ernie’s son Donald to a clear understanding of God’s sovereign grace. In some ways, my two brothers were two of the greatest Christians I have ever known. Ernest was by far the most famous. I used to say, ‘My only claim to fame is that I am Ernie Reisinger’s brother’ since I was constantly introduced that way at conferences.’ Under God, I owe my soul to Ernie’s witness to me. I also owe him for many other things over many years. As I said, he was in some ways one the greatest Christian I have ever known. Let me share some things that I think made him the great Christian that he was. I would remind any who feel it is wrong to pay open tribute to a believer’s faithfulness that Scripture says, ‘Honor to whom honor is due.’ It also gives us many examples of God Himself testifying to the faithfulness of some of His saints. Hebrews chapter eleven is only one example.

1] First of all, Ernie was never bitten with the love of money. He viewed his business as a ministry unto God and seriously treated it as such. The business could have made ten times more money than it did and he would not have been one penny richer. It was God’s business and God’s money. He paid himself a salary and put everything else into a Gospel foundation to help further the cause of Christ. He did not live in expensive homes or drive ‘rich men’s cars.’ He enjoyed the good things of life but never allowed anything to possess him or his affection except the Savior. ‘Love neither the world nor the things of the world’ was not a struggle with Ernie since his heart and life were occupied with something, or Someone, far better.

2] Secondly, Ernie never did anything in a half hearted way or with a lukewarm attitude. Some may feel he did not always act as wisely as he could have but no one can ever question his zeal or his motive. He could have well answered any critics by saying, ‘I like the way I do it better than the way you don’t do it.’ Let me give a few instances of what I mean. Not long after Ernie went into the construction business, he went to listen to John Rice preach. He arranged to have the Sword of the Lord, a paper John Rice edited, send for three months to every home with a Carlisle mailing address. During that three month period there were Sword of the Lord’s wrapped around telephone poles, laying in the gutter and doorways, sticking out of garbage cans, etc. I do not know if anyone got converted through that effort but I do know that one whole generation of people living in Carlisle, PA will never say, ‘No one ever loved me enough to put the Gospel in front of me.’ The whole town of Carlisle will be ‘without excuse’ because of Ernie’s effort. Several years later Ernie went to hear Donald Barnhouse and was greatly impressed. He arranged to have every professional person, doctors, lawyers, dentists, teachers, college professors, etc. living in Carlisle to receive a subscription to Eternity, the magazine edited by Dr. Barnhouse. Again, I have no knowledge of the results of that effort but I do know that one generation of all the professional people in Carlisle had the Gospel set before them through the efforts one building contractor.

3] Thirdly, Ernie knew how to see the big picture and always keep it in view. He had that rare ability to be a 100% idealist and 100% realist at he same time. It was this gift that enabled him to accomplish many things that the pure idealist would never touch with a ten foot pole and the 100% realist would say it was neither practical nor possible. Ernie was chided for going into the Southern Baptist. He was called a compromiser because he bent over backwards to take people where they were and slowly teach them ‘a better way.’ Few, if any, Reformed Baptists could have started or developed the Founders Ministries in the Southern Baptist. I personally think the Founders was one of Ernie’s greatest accomplishments.

Ernie’s body will lie silently in the grave until the resurrection but we will still hear him speak. Though he is dead his voice will be heard for a long time. We will see his foot prints in a lot of places and in a lot lives for many years to come. Ernie’s death coincided with Ronald Reagan’s death. As I listened to the many changes that had taken place in the world of politics because of Reagan’s vision and influence, I thought of Ernie. I heard Reagan list a few of the things that he and his philosophy had changed and then he said, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’ I thought of a ninth grade drop out well on the way to being an alcoholic being rescued by sovereign grace and then having the unbelievable effect on so many lives and the well being of the Church of God at large and I thought, ‘Not bad! Not bad at all!’ Before he was converted Ernie had never read a single book. He did not even read the funny papers. His conversion filled him with a thirst for knowledge and truth that made him wiser than his peers. Despite his lack of education his greatest influence was with professional people. Again we can rightly say, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’ God took a nobody and really made him a somebody. He took a drunken carpenter and made him a Prince in the House of Israel. He will be both remembered and missed.

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