The first time I met Tim Barton was in 2005 when I visited a church where he worked as a youth pastor in Aledo, TX. I did this mostly on a whim, but also because I had been advised to meet Tim by a mutual acquaintance. Upon meeting him, Tim invited me to stay for their youth service which was a bit awkward for me since I was 24 years old at the time. Honestly, I’m not sure why I agreed to stay and sit through yet another youth service. At the time, my wife Ashley and I were youth pastors at our home church, so we had experienced our fair share of teenagers by that time in our lives! Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed it, but it wasn’t what I had in mind when I decided to go to this church in Aledo on a Wednesday evening. Nonetheless, I stayed. If for no other reason than to be kind to Tim’s invitation.
I’m glad I stayed because afterward we decided to go to a nearby fast food restaurant and grab some late evening food. I’m not so sure I would do that again since I’m 33 with two kids, and fast food doesn’t exactly metabolize at the same rate as it used to! Over our greasy burgers we began the usual conversation that two people who know nothing about each other engage in. You know, surface Q&A in order to gain common background and see if you have anything in common. We actually had a lot in common because we both worked in church ministry, we were both raised by pastors, and we both loved sports. Conversation wasn’t hard to come by, and thankfully not at all awkward. As the evening ran on he asked me what my father did, to which I replied that he pastors a church and owns a custom home building company. I returned his question with the very same one to which he replied by becoming very quiet. Now, I’m sure this moment of “quiet” lasted all of half a second, but when you’re trying to get to know someone those moments can tend to seem like an eternity. Even worse when you ask them about family and you’re met with silence. There are multiple thoughts that began to scroll through my mind: 1) Does he have a bad relationship with his dad, and did I offend him by asking the question? 2) Is his dad in the CIA? 3) Is his dad in prison? 4) Is his dad deceased?! Thankfully none of these was his actual answer, although the CIA one would’ve been pretty cool! His answer was, “Well, it would be easier if I just showed you.” To which I replied…. “Huh?”
Before I knew it I was in my truck and following him to his dad’s office. I could have ridden with him, but honestly, how safe can you feel with someone you’ve just met? Especially when you ask them what their father does for a living they say… “Let me show you!” Upon arriving to the office building, it didn’t seem like anything too impressive. It just seemed like a normal office, where normal people do normal business. Upon walking in, we strolled past his father’s office where multiple photographs of his father (David Barton), himself, and other family members were hanging on the wall. Pretty normal, right? Except that these photographs also pictured then sitting President of the United States George W. Bush, several other political leaders, Christian music artists, and many others that fail my memory at this time. Needless to say, I began to think that my presumption of normalcy might not be accurate. I mean, the rest of the offices around the building seemed average, so who knows? That’s when he asked if I wanted to see the vault. Vault? There’s a vault? The office building didn’t seem like a bank, so I couldn’t imagine what they would have in a vault, and why he would invite me to see it. Remember those thoughts that caused me to drive my own truck? I started having them again! Nevertheless I endured through the uncertainty and ventured on to the vault.
Upon entering, I saw stacks of books, not piles, but stacks as you would in a library. Several glass enclosed cases with items, which seemed really old along with even more books. Once my eyes had adjusted to the different lighting, I began to notice that every book in the room was quite old. Tim picked up one very tattered book and opened it for me. Upon viewing the books pages, I found some of the most beautiful penmanship I’d ever seen. The handwriting brought about visions of someone of great renown sitting in a quiet study with a quill pen made from a bald eagle’s feather, writing to the light of an oil burning lamp, while sipping whiskey near a wood burning fireplace. Maybe this isn’t how this particular book was written, but as I gazed at its pages that’s where my imagination took me! I asked Tim what I was looking at and he replied with, “That’s George Washington’s handwritten journal.” To which I replied, “Wow! How did you guys get a copy of this?” I was wrong again. It was the original journal, not a copy at all! In fact, I quickly learned that I was standing in a library that contained the largest private collection of books that predates 1812. In that vault they have over 100,000 items/books/artifacts that are mostly originals, with some copies of originals, from before 1812. Not a bad end to an evening which started with, “Hey, I think I’ll go to this small town church and meet this dude, that this other dude recommended I meet.”
As I continued in a friendship with Tim Barton over the next 9 years or so, I’ve learned what you will easily learn while listening to his podcast episode. He is passionate about the same things his father David is passionate about. You’ll also learn that this hasn’t always been the case. The Barton family has dramatically impacted the lives of thousands, if not millions, in this country as they share the history of our nation and of our founding fathers. America has been greatly impacted by this organization, and chances are so have you, even if you don’t know it. Tim didn’t build this organization, and had no hand in its founding, so why would we interview him and not his father David Barton? It’s because Tim made a decision to begin to carry and build upon the legacy that his father has spent years building. You see, organizations like Wallbuilders can be built and become incredibly impactful when men like David Barton are the driving force behind it, but to truly have a lasting impact someone has to adopt the same vision as the originators. If this doesn’t happen then the legacy dies with the founders.
At Uncommon Legacy we talk a lot about building and leaving a legacy that lasts. Up to this point we’ve mostly talked about building a legacy… period. However, building a legacy that will last for generations is something altogether different. That requires time, effort, and the ability to work with people who are willing to carry on your vision. Whether we realize it or not, each of us, at least those in America, have a duty to continue carrying on a legacy that’s been left for us – one of freedom and liberty for all people. Furthermore, if you are a follower of Jesus, then your duty extends far beyond the limitations of patriotism. We have a responsibility, and I would say an honor, to live a life that shows the true nature and character of Jesus. We’ve been given a legacy of love, hope and joy that should extend from our lives to the lives of those around us.
Every great legacy, movement, country, culture, or even business must have founders. It also must have those who are willing to stand on the shoulders of their forefathers in order for it to have a lasting impact. Learning to receive, humbly, the work that someone else has done, even before our own existence, is seminal in carrying on any long-term effort, no matter the label. Recognize the hard work and dedication it took for someone to create what you are benefiting from, and give honor to where it’s due. Never forget the struggle of those who’ve come before you, and make every attempt to judge not their mistakes, because we have the benefit of starting where they will finish. After all, this is the cycle of legacy which my own father so eloquently says, “Son, I pray that my ceiling is your floor.” Today, friends, we have the same prayer for each of you. It is our sincere desire that you would encounter people in your lives that would help you build upon what they’ve already done. Here’s to building something that lasts!