Disciplined By Business Chapter 3

T. B. Gilbert knew as he grew up that a man can be in business and live for God. After spending some time in high school, he got a job in a meat packing house with a capacity for slaughtering 2,500 hogs a day. He started as a messenger boy. Later he was advanced to bookkeeper. He was moving up.

But in the midst of his business life the Lord was not forgotten. He kept his priorities in mind—God first. There was a rescue mission at 1910 W. Madison in Chicago where interest had died and only a few were carrying on. Some of the young men from the assembly went to their aid and Gilbert was among them.

One Sunday night an older brother was there with three of the younger men. The older brother said, “I’ll go out on the street corner and preach until I get tired.” His voice began to give out. Finally as a street car rattled by with a deafening clatter, he said, “I’m through!” Someone needed to invite the people inside for the following service. T. B. cried from his heart, “Lord, I can’t speak but give me words.” He then gave a fervent testimony and invited the people into the Mission. It was his first attempt to speak publicly. This was the push he had needed to start preaching.

The Mission became a center of activity. Sunday afternoons at 4:00, George Barnes, a godly elder, taught a regular study. At times other teachers were invited to speak. After the study a light lunch was served and most of the people returned to their own assemblies for the evening meetings. A number of young men who attended became missionaries and preachers. Some of these were: Harold Harper, Edwin Gibbs, A. E. Horton, Wm. Rogers, Douglas Ibbotson and Henry Petersen. The Chicago Missionary class was started at the Mission and still continues. 1910 W. Madison was a vital center for teaching and training for the Lord’s work and was a formative influence in young Gilbert’s life.

T. B. collected from butcher shops in the vicinity of the Mission. One Monday as he went to collect in one shop he was greeted by smirking clerks. The owner paid him at the cashier desk, grinned and said, “Hey, Gilbert, what kind of a Salvation Army gang is it that you preach with on the corner?”

Mr. Gilbert felt the blood rush to his face but he answered firmly, “It is not a Salvation Army gang, just a few young people who know the Lord Jesus and are not ashamed of Him. I hope you know the Lord Jesus as your Savior.”

He left the shop feeling like a beaten dog, slinking away. He boarded a street car for his next call, sank into the seat, closed his eyes and cried to God, “Oh, Lord, if ever I needed something from you, I need it now. Did I fail you in any way?”

Opening his New Testament he began to leaf through the book. Page after page slipped between his fingers. Did God have a word for him? And then his attention was seized by these words, “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye, for the spirit of glory and of God rested upon you. On their part He is evil spoken of but on your part He is glorified” (1 Peter 4:14). His heart was filled with great joy and peace. He had glorified Christ. He was determined more than ever to witness for Christ.

Another morning as he was in the shop of a German Catholic, he had a good opportunity to explain the way of salvation. Another customer overheard the conversation and said to him, “Young man, if you want to talk about the Bible come to my store. It’s a gent’s furnishing store a block away. When can you come?” Gilbert said, “I’ll be there Tuesday evening at 7:00.”

The next Tuesday evening as he entered the store the man said, “Well, I’m glad you kept your word. Some religious people have promised to come and haven’t.” The man was raised as a Lutheran but had attended other churches. He was obviously confused but hungry to know the truth. Gilbert started a Bible class in his home on Tuesday nights. He also took him to the Mission. After some time both he and his wife accepted Christ and also some of their children. This was an encouragement to Gilbert.

From 1915-1917 T. B. Gilbert was purchasing agent for the packing plant. This gave him many opportunities to witness because he had to call on every department. His testimony as a Christian became known throughout the company. One day when he was approached by a department head with a pornographic picture, his reply was, “Keep it. I don’t want to see it. I am a Christian.” Later the man dropped by his desk and apologized for his conduct.

Opposite T. B. Gilbert’s desk was that of the superintendent, a Catholic by tradition but indifferent to the church. When he witnessed to him concerning the Lord and His grace, he would often say, “I guess it’s not for me to see.” And yet he had great respect for his young purchasing agent. Consistent, godly character merits respect.

These were days of learning self discipline, to do a job well, to use time carefully and through all of the hectic details of business life to honor God first. He was learning to be bold as a witness and to confront people with the claims of Christ. These were lessons that served him well all through life. His training was not in a cloistered seminary but in the hard-nosed, practical business world. Mr. Gilbert became a very forthright, practical man.