We Will Abandon It All
“We will abandon it all, for the sake of The Call,
No other reason at all, but the sake of The Call
Wholly devoted to live and to die
For the Sake of The Call”
(Steven Curtis Chapman, 1990)
What does it mean to “abandon it all,” as Steven Curtis Chapman wrote in the titular track of his 1990 album, “For the Sake of the Call.”
For Calvin and Char-La Fowler, that call came in the early part of the 2000’s. After an education at The Baylor School and four years at Southern Methodist University, Calvin was working at his family’s furniture store, The Furniture Shoppe and The Patio Shop (now Fowler Brothers Furniture). A fifth-generation member of the leadership team, Calvin and Char-La (a 1984 alumna of Girls Preparatory School with an undergraduate degree from Emory University and a law degree from UGA) and their (then three) children had settled into a comfortable routine – work, church, family, activities – life in Chattanooga, a town they loved and where they had both been raised.
But the Call of God is a mysterious thing. And for Calvin, that Call convinced him to begin praying about what God had in store for his young family – not knowing the adventure they would take over the next twenty years.
Calvin and Char-La could not deny the call that God had put on Calvin’s life to leave the comfortable world of the furniture business – a business he’d known his entire life – and answer the call to full-time Christian ministry.
“God made it abundantly clear, through prayer, through His Word, through the counsel of our pastor and wise friends, that I was being called to the pastorate. It was an exciting time – and also one full of uncertainty.”
For Calvin and Char-La, The Call meant uprooting their young family and moving to Louisville, Kentucky, so Calvin could pursue a Master’s Degree in Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“We had no idea how this was going to work. I was the primary breadwinner for our family. We had three young children. And yet the call was so evident, so real, that we knew we had to follow the Lord’s leading and take the next steps.”
For Calvin, that meant applying for a Dora Maclellan Brown Scholarship from the Chattanooga Christian Community Foundation (now The Generosity Trust). At that time, the scholarship program was over thirty years old, and was designed precisely for students like Calvin. Calvin applied for a scholarship, was invited by the Scholarship Committee for an interview, and met with that body in March 2003.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Fowler. “They asked me about my testimony of faith in Christ, they asked me about my call to the ministry, they dug deep into my life, trying to ascertain if God had really nudged me in this direction. I told them God had made it abundantly clear that I was to follow this call on my life, and that He’d continue to make my path clear as I trusted Him.”
The committee and the Board of CCCF ended up extending to Calvin one of the largest scholarships it had ever awarded. That, combined with a separate Timothy Scholarship the Foundation ran, provided in remarkable ways for Calvin and Char-La.
“The DMB scholarship was amazing. They sent a payment every semester to SBTS, applying it directly to my tuition bill. And the Timothy Scholarship allowed others a tax-deductible way to help with our schooling, housing, and living expenses.”
In the three and a half years that followed, Calvin was able to focus on four major areas: his walk with God; his relationship as a husband to Char-La; his role as father to his three (and soon-to-be four) children; and finally, his seminary studies.
“I was one of the few members of my seminary class that didn’t have to have an outside job. The others were truly amazed by what CCCF and our friends and family were providing for me. I didn’t have to add a fifth role – breadwinner – to the stress of going to school.” Because of this support, Calvin graduated on-time and with a 3.98 GPA.
Following seminary, Calvin worked on several church staffs, and then, in August, 2008, responded to the call from Bull Street Baptist Church in Savannah, GA, to be its Senior Pastor.
“Bull Street was, when we arrived, a predominately older and predominantly white congregation.” Calvin has spent the last fifteen years pouring into that congregation, preaching expositionally through 34 books of the Bible [24 NT, 10 OT] – word by word, verse by verse, chapter by chapter. His goal has always been to make the Truth of God’s Word alive in the hearts and minds of those under his leadership.
But Calvin also had the goal of changing the make-up of the church, spending the last fifteen years pursuing the vision of a “multigenerational, multiethnic community of faith,” one centered on the Word and on the person of Jesus Christ.
The church looks very different than it did fifteen years ago. It looks more like the vision the Apostle John was given in Revelation 7:9 – “I looked and saw a multitude too large to count, from every nation and tribe and people and tongue, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” A church that truly reflects the entire body of Christ.
But God’s Call can continue to develop and move in the hearts of those wholly devoted to Him. And for Calvin and Char-La that meant listening – intently – to God’s Call to take the Gospel to the nations.
At an age, and in a time of life, when most people are pointing towards retirement, God called Calvin and Char-La to go and make disciples among the unreached peoples of the world. To leave their children, and multiple sons and daughters-in-law, and a successful pastorate in a growing church. To move to a part of the world that doesn’t speak their language, and doesn’t know their accomplishments, and doesn’t really care that they’ve left it all to follow God’s Call.
On December 31, 2023, Calvin and Char-La left it all – they abandoned it all – for the Sake of God’s Call. They are now serving as disciple-makers and church-planters in a part of world that is often hostile to God’s Word and His Truths.
And yet Calvin and Char-La know – they TRULY know – that God has been at work in every step of this journey. They KNOW that He has called them. They know that they are “wholly devoted to live and to die for the Sake of The Call.”
“Looking back over the last twenty-plus years, we’ve seen God’s Hand of provision everywhere we’ve gone. Three and a half years of seminary without having to work to provide for my family – who has ever heard of that? A call to a church revitalization where the people returned to a love and commitment to biblical preaching, Christ-centered worship, and their responsibility to take the Gospel not only to the neighborhood, but also to the nations? Who has really heard of that?
And a call to the nations – near the age of 60 – to leave friends and family behind and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who may never have heard it, to those who may be hostile to the Truths of God’s Word? This is all of the Lord, and we give Him the glory.”
“This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Psalm 118:23).
Please pray for Calvin and Char-La, for their four children and their families left back here in the States, and the one son they are taking with them. For their outreach. For their ministry. For their faithfulness. For safety and God’s abundant provision for open doors and eager hearts.
You, our faithful TGT family, help to make ministries like this possible. Through your support of TGT, and our Dora Maclellan Brown seminary outreach and the other ministries of the Foundation, YOU are a part of this story. God’s provision through you is making is possible for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be taken to the “uttermost parts” of the world.
Thank you. And God bless you. And may God richly bless Calvin and Char-La for “abandoning it all” and responding to God’s Call.