Mentors have the ability to speak into your life with powerful and accurate words. Friends are often the God-given voice that you need to hear. These quotes are from mentors and friends. These quotes shaped much of my ministry. These mentors and friends blessed me in the core of my being.
“The call to salvation is at one and the same time a call to mission.”
Dr. Finley Edge
This remains the core value of Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries. Dr. Edge was my greatest professor in seminary. My very first Sunday in Louisville in August, 1976, I attended Crescent Hill Baptist Church. After services, a kind woman approached me and some other students and invited us to lunch in her home with her husband. It proved to be Dr. and Mrs. Edge and it was the start of my learning about ministry in terms of earning the right to be heard. The single best paper I wrote in seminary was for Dr. Edge and defined the people of God as a people “on and of the Rock (I Peter 2: 3-5). It was filled with examples and theology from my Christian High Adventure experiences. Dr. Edge challenged me to define what it means to live the Christian life.
“Drive safely. Stay sober. And preach the word.”
Dr. Henlee Barnette
The ending of seminary class each Friday when taking an ethics class with Dr. Barnette. The sending benediction of Sunday morning devotionals at Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries as we go out to lead 12-16 worship services.
“Resort missions is communicating the Gospel to a people caught up in a leisure lifestyle.” “Ministry is risk.”
Dr. Chuck Clayton
Chuck brought me into Christian High Adventure and into missional lifestyle. The experiences of the extreme demands of high country mountaineering and of an intentional Christian community shaped my personal approach to missions. It is from Chuck that my risk theology was born and shaped. His definition of my calling guides Smoky Mountain Resort Ministry to this day. His emphasis on “communicating” as a broad and inclusive verb utilizing all possible skill sets, particularly “listening”, remains active every day in this ministry. “Ministry is risking yourself for Christ’s sake and in Christ’s name.” My beautiful picture is Bill (looking reflective in middle) as a summer missionary being taught by Chuck in the Rockies. The featured picture is Bill teaching new missionaries on top of the Smokies.
“Do what is right and don’t tell anybody.”
Don guided the Special Ministries Department of the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board in its most creative and missionally engaged years. He set many of us free to pursue and fulfill our calls from God—no matter how different and how broad. This particular quote was spoken to me in an early moment of my ministry when what was “right” meant baptizing a man who became a Christian while I was conducting premarital counseling for him and his fiancé. Some did not feel I should baptize someone apart from the walls of a local church. Don’s guidance became a mantra that guides me still. I did the baptism. (And I recently conducted the man’s funeral —where we celebrated 27 years of his marriage and of his Christian faith.) “Do what is right and don’t tell anybody” still serves as a guiding mantra for me.
“It does not matter who gets the credit as long as the job gets done.”
Paul was my supervisor through the Tennessee Baptist Convention. He was fun and wise and gentle and strong. He modeled Christian servanthood. I learned so much from Paul about how to serve, how to have a trademark (he wore cool hats and I wear sandals), how to understand others, how to do relevant ministry, how to be professional. Paul Hall was a mentor.
“This is going to be fun.”
Esther’s casual comment came as we planned a mission group training conference together and built some risky and creative ideas into it. At that time, Esther coordinated mission groups and ministry sites for the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board. Her energy and excitement was contagious and confirmed in me the combinations of creativity and action as healthy ministry elements. Although it was said in passing, I have held onto it through the years. And ministry done right continues to be “fun”. And “fun” is a holy word.
“Remember, young man, at the Tennessee Baptist Convention, we do not go out to the Associations, nor do we go down to the churches. We go UP to the Associations. And we certainly go UP to the churches.”
Dr. Tom Madden
This was my welcome to the Tennessee Baptist Convention as a new employee in 1981. Dr. Madden was the Executive Director. It was one of our few conversations but it was a powerful statement of healthy Baptist theology, polity, and direction. As one who was raised to respect and to be a Baptist missionary, Dr. Madden’s wisdom was well received. Now, as a disenfranchised former Baptist missionary, I miss one who respected the local church and the cooperative possibilities those churches could bring. His wisdom has always guided my approach to churches and to Church.
“God is in control.”
After the saving grace of Jesus Christ for me, the single most grace-filled and graceful act I have ever received.
“Hallelujah! Now we can take Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries to where it needs to go!”
Ron’s burst of enthusiasm came as I tearfully announced the defunding of Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries in 2014. My fears and sadness were over-whelming. Ron’s excitement and commitment were shocking. He spontaneously voiced hope at my darkest moment. And he has worked personally and professionally to bring that hope into being. And the ministry is God blessed. And the hope is real. And Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries is on its way!
Thanks be to God.