Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica: “Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other” (I Thess. 5:12-13).
There are so many pastors, missionaries, associational leaders, Sunday School teachers and other believers who have made tremendous impacts on the lives of believers. I speak of those who are now living among us. But in the next few articles I want to focus on some heroes in the faith — those who came before us. I will share with you those who have influenced me, and I am certain that some of them have also touched the lives of many of our readers.
I was just thinking of two men who impacted my life in amazing ways. The first was J.P. Jones. Bro. Jones was my pastor in the latter part of my elementary school days. He was a gentleman and an amazing teacher. I say that because he taught in such a way that it drew me into every lesson.
Bro. Jones was also adept at woodworking. Every VBS at Central Baptist Church in Ashdown was exciting because of craft time that was led by Bro. Jones. I loved being able to go to his house, go back to the workshop and help him make cutouts that would be put together by VBS students the next week.
Most grade-schoolers have little interest in eschatology, but I was an exception. Oh, not because of me, but because of Bro. Jones’ excellent ability to make Daniel and Revelation come alive. Much of my ability to teach eschatology today is due to the fine instruction of my pastor in the 1950s. I loved J.P. Jones!
But one day I got news from my parents that broke my heart — Bro. Jones had accepted the pastorate of Eighth Avenue Baptist Church in Teague, Texas. I was crushed! In a couple weeks, Bro. and Mrs. Jones had packed up and moved. I cried so hard — I had lost my pastor.
My parents reminded me that we loved the pastor before Bro. Jones (Edwin Peters). It was during Bro. Peters’ pastorate that I was saved, but it was Bro. Jones who baptized me.
Yes, I remembered the change of pastors, but this was different — Bro. Jones was my friend! And I made it well known that no matter who that new pastor would be, I was not going to give him a chance. I was not going to like him!
Paul Bearfield was called to be the new pastor of Central Baptist in Ashdown. He was a handsome man and had a beautiful voice. He was young and had a lovely family. Although he had come to the church from Texas, Bro. Paul was born in Ashdown and grew up in Hot Springs. No matter — I was not going to like him.
Now, here is what I want to drive home today — I was wrong, and the Lord was right! Paul L. Bearfield became my pastor, my friend and my mentor! He nurtured me in the Word and helped me in the early days of my ministry. He explained to me what to expect at my ordination. To say that I loved Paul Bearfield would be a gross understatement!
Bro. Bearfield also left Central Baptist Church, after a wonderful six-year ministry. He and his family served as missionaries to Taiwan. I wasn’t mad. I wasn’t upset. Yes, I would miss them greatly, but I had learned a great lesson — I had, six years earlier, made a foolish judgment of a person before I ever met him.
These two men were tremendous examples of what a pastor should be. They took time with a kid who needed not only to be discipled but to be mentored. They are two of my heroes of the faith. I miss them, but I am extremely grateful for them.
Bro. Jones had a great pastoral ministry after leaving Ashdown. He traveled to the Holy Land many times and visited a large number of churches, teaching about the land where Jesus walked; and he continued to, in his amazing way, teach eschatology. He retired in the small Southwest Arkansas town of Willisville, and it was from there that he received his heavenly promotion.
After serving as a missionary, Bro. Bearfield followed A.R. Reddin, who was another of my previous pastors at Ashdown, as executive director of the Harvest Gleaner Hour. That ministry is known today as Lifeword.
A true leader, Bro. Bearfield developed so many ministries that continue today, including “The Walk of Faith” which is now known as “Walk for the World.” While there was excellent leadership prior to his time, Bro. Paul continued to develop programs and outreach that touched lives literally around the world.
Bro. Paul received his heavenly promotion while serving the churches of the BMA of America. My heart was full as I led in prayer at his graveside. How odd that a man whom I had no intention of even giving a chance, much less liking, became one of the three greatest male influences in my life. I truly loved Paul L. Bearfield!
These are two men who each touched my life in a powerful way, and each one deserved and received my respect. I held both in the highest regard because of their work for our Lord.
In the next several issues I plan to bring to the attention of our readers the influence of others who have come before us. Each has had life-changing effects on the lives of people across our nation — eternal, life-changing effects. Many will recognize the names despite having never met them. Some readers will have been touched personally by the ones written about, and will immediately find themselves just thinking, “I loved that person!”