Charles “Ches” McCartney (b.1901) had quite a following in small Georgia towns along the old Dixie Highway. He was a preacher known as the Goat Man. His circuit was along those tree canopied, two lane highways adorned by old barns with “See Rock City” fading on their rusty tin roofs.
For decades, beginning in the 1940’s, he traveled via homemade wagon pulled by goats. His goatskin apparel and transport apparatus were quite the smelly, noisy spectacle. He camped along the road and in nearby fields. Locals offered him and his critters sustenance along the way. Schools would release the pupils and townsfolk would flock to see the Goat Man passing through again. He sold postcards of himself and his herd to raise pocket money.
It’s hard to sort which stories are true, and which are only legends. He may have influenced author Flannery O’Connor. He may have taken his goats on a barge to Cuba. He may have sold a wife once. He may have woken up in a funeral home after being thought dead. What we do know is that losing the family farm in Iowa and having some kind of religious awakening motivated him to escape the monotony of an ordinary life.
McCartney placed signs along the roadway like, “God Is Not Dead,” and “Prepare to Meet Thy God.” Some characterize his message as “hellfire and brimstone.” He was as likely to utter a swear as a prayer. He was coarse, but that attracted curious people. On Sundays he would preach a sermon, sometimes accented by a scrap tire fire belching black, acrid smoke. His lifestyle drew attention to his message.
That’s true for you, too. For followers of Jesus, it matters because ultimate truth is at stake. “Keep your behavior excellent,” Peter writes, so that as people observe you, they “glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:12). Paul writes, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Col. 4:5-6).
Jesus is our model for living like that. His words, deeds, death, and resurrection aligned for one purpose. “For this I have been born,” He said, “and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth” (John 18:37). What is truth? “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” he said, “no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). That is the invitation of a lifetime.
The Goat Man’s lifestyle gave him a hearing in bygone days. I’m not advocating his goat-themed wanderlust, nor can I vouch for his message. But this I can say: today, your lifestyle is the platform for your life’s message, just like the Goat Man.