I have been blessed to enjoy the friendship and tutelage of four great mentors. Three of them have already gone home to be with the Lord, but their influence remains with me everyday. And, there is hardly a day I do not think about them at least once.
The four men you see pictured are four of the finest preachers of the gospel I have ever known. From each of them I learned vital lessons that have brought me to where I am now as a preacher of the Gospel.
- From Wendell Winkler I learned to always be prepared. "Never step into the pulpit without something to say," he used to tell us "preacher boys." His skill in crafting and delivering a sermon was often nothing short of amazing. From him I learned to be a preacher.
- From Franklin Camp I learned the value of scholarship. I might should add that degrees do not make for scholarship. Not that there is anything wrong with having degrees. Marshall Keeble said that every man should have 98.6 of them. But Frankin was the consummate student. He did not hold Master's and Doctoral degrees from our universities, but if it lay between the jackets of his Bible, there was nothing a professor in any of our schools could tell him he wasn't already familiar with. He was also not afraid to buck the traditional understanding of a passage or topic, if it was what he truly believed the Bible teaches. Interestingly enough his views were often what some today would call traditional, because that was what he truly believed the Bible teaches. From him I learned to be a student.
- From Flavil Nichols I learned the love of brethren. Few men I know have experienced or seen the bumps and bruises in ministry that Flavil has, but his demeanor is always pleasant. He always speaks in loving tones about everyone. He is a sweet and kind gentleman. Flavil is still with us, although his health is not what he would desire. When I still see him from time to time, that smile never fades, and that sweet spirit is always there. I am afraid I may not have learned the lessons of love of brethren quite as well, but perhaps that is why he is still with us; so I will still have that example of such a great man. From him I have learned to be loving.
- From Bobby Duncan I learned the value of common decency in ministry. Bobby was a great defender of the faith. Some may have seen him as bullish and overbearing. But, if you knew Bobby Duncan, he was neither of these things. If he challenged a brother on a doctrine or position, he did not do it out of a mean, vindictive spirit. He was genuinely concerned about that brother, and/or the church where he was preaching. I knew of many occasions when Bobby spoke to a brother privately about a disagreement before he ever put pen to paper, or took the matter into the pulpit. From him I learned to be honorable and civil in disagreements.
I miss those who have gone on. I wish many days that I could pick up the phone just to converse with them. I am grateful to have known them. I am thankful for their influence in my life. As I have heard of others, so say I now about my friends, "may their tribe increase!"