Robert Ketcham was a stubborn boy. Although he had loving, godly parents, he refused to yield to Christ. He deliberately broke the rules of his home. One way he did that was to read the trashy novels his father said he could not bring into the house. At sixteen, tired of their efforts to discipline him, he walked out of his Pennsylvania home, telling his parents he would not be back.
His father called after him, "Son, if you ever bump up against a row of stumps you can't pull, just call on Dad." Those words infuriated Robert. He could handle what was out there!
With broken hearts, his step-mother and father prayed for him. Robert smoked, hung out at pool halls, fooled around and got into trouble.
It was four years before Robert recognized his need for a savior. On this day, February 16, 1910, he listened as Harry S. Tillis preached in the Galeton Baptist Church. He asked Jesus to become his savior that day. But had he really meant it? For a year, there was little improvement in his behavior. He clung to his old sins.
W. W. Rugh led a one-week Bible conference at the church. Robert planned on making himself scarce. However, Rugh's Sunday presentation was so interesting that he came back to hear more. As Rugh's theme developed through Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evening, Robert grew uneasy. With little or no knowledge of scripture, he thought Rugh was blaspheming when he taught that God the Father loved each Christian just as much as he had loved Jesus.
He waited for one of the church leaders--his own dad even--to challenge Rugh. When none did, Robert rose to his feet. "Mr. Rugh, I don't believe that!" Kindly, Rugh began to question the boy. Would he believe it if the Bible said it? Yes, Robert would. Knowing that Robert had no Bible, Rugh asked him to read John 17:23 which he said proved it. Robert didn't know where to find the verse when Rugh loaned him his Bible.
So Rugh helped him. In that verse, Robert read that God loved each of his children just as much as Christ. When the impact of those words sank home, the young man collapsed onto his seat and sobbed. He told God that God could have his whole life. Others sobbed, too, recognizing a truth they had neglected.
Robert committed himself to complete obedience to God. Two years later, still untrained, he accepted a position as a pastor of a tiny church. Revival soon broke out. Many people became Christians.
Eventually, Robert's determination to follow God led him to challenge modernism in the Northern Baptist denomination. When crucial issues of faith could not be resolved, he became a leader in forming the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. For years he edited its journal, the Baptist Bulletin. Once asked to sum up his advice for pastors he said, "Preach Christ, give the whole counsel of God, expose error, obey God, be available to your people." He died in 1978, obedient to the end.
- Fisk, Samuel. Forty Fascinating Conversion Stories. Grand Rapids, Mi: Kregel, 1993.
- Murdoch, J. Murray. Portrait of Obedience; The biography of Robert T. Ketcham. Schamburg, Illinois: Regular Baptist Press, 1981.
- ----------------------- "Robert Ketcham: Obedient Servant." Fundamentalist Journal. (January 1983) 46 - 51.
Last updated June, 2007.