Day 43: David Bentley

You were young, dynamic, charismatic, charming and radically good looking.

Surely, someone in the 1978 Arkansas Methodist power structure made a mistake. You couldn’t be the new preacher in our small-town church.

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-5-12-03-amBy the fifth grade, I’d seen a lot of preachers come and go. Even I knew we probably weren’t the highest priority. Most of our pastors were gray or bald, a little rotund and bit crusty, biding their time until retirement, their sermons flat, canned, and probably recycled from a dusty shelf where they were placed 15 years earlier. Until you, what I remember most about church is chewing Juicy Fruit and listening to old ladies make “joyful noises” to Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.

But then you sauntered into town. So cool. So hip. So rad. A little edgy, even.

I went to church because Mom took me there. And Granny would always be there too, and lots of our friends from around the farm community. Our little country church closed a few years earlier, and in the name of progress we’d come to the “town” church. There couldn’t have been more than 50 or 60 of us in membership.

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-5-13-18-amBut on the day you stepped to the pulpit we got a taste of church we’d never experienced. You were interesting. You spoke with a passion about Christ, and you believed what you were saying. I could tell you believed it. Your voice was as thunder. You commanded attention, but not to yourself, rather to the cause of Christ.

It was almost as if you were desperate for our greater understanding. Oh, my goodness, you cared for our spiritual well-being.

So this is what church is supposed to be, the realization came clear through so many other pre-teen thoughts and obsessions. I think I like this. Tell me more…

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-5-14-47-amWe didn’t have you long. I think it was less than two years. It was like a punch in the gut when you left. Until much later into adult life I never experienced church with another pastor like you.

It troubles me, the big problem we’re having with the Church now, David. We’re worshipping our country ahead of Christ, motivated by fear, and casting aside those who need us most as so much unwanted refuse. If we’d just stop telling people what be believe, and begin showing them, everything else would take care of itself. Alas, we are an imperfect people serving at the mercy of our perfect Lord.

It was so long ago and I was so young, but I still think of you often. Your time at the Monette First United Methodist Church was a milestone time in my youth.

Thank you for being the first role model to show (not teach) me a passion for Christ. You captured my attention in a radical, prodigal sort of way. It’s something you never forget.

Time to get ready for church now.

One of the flock from long ago,

Steve Watkins

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