Mentioning my Mentors
I recently began reading “For the Fame of God’s Name, Essays in Honor of John Piper”, graciously given to me by Chris Canuel. The book is a collection of brief but moving stories or essays from men who have been impressed, encouraged, and educated in one way or another by John Piper.
Reading this book has reminded me how fortunate I am to have had men to mentor me over the years, even when I didn’t realize it was happening. My point in this blog and several to follow is to mention those mentors and publically thank them for sharing their knowledge, wisdom, and themselves with a very undeserving beneficiary…me.
It was in the early 70’s when my family began attending Park Avenue Baptist Church in Wilmington. I was between 5 and 7 years old. The pastor, at least in my mind had a funny sounding name, Worley G. Hawthorne. His appearance was even funnier than his name; he was easily 6’ 8” tall (which served him well when he played basketball for the University of Kentucky) with white hair, and an old suit; and he bobbled his head when he sang hymns. In spite of how very odd he seemed to me, I was drawn to his kindness, gentleness, and genuineness. I was a pretty shy kid (that’s a huge understatement) during this period of my life, but Pastor Hawthorne always made me feel like he was genuinely interested in me, consistently looking for something to compliment me on and encourage me. Looking back, that was priceless! But it was much more than his kindness that impacted me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but those attributes stemmed from the gospel that dominated his life.
Sunday after Sunday I heard the gospel; in simple yet profound terms I heard the gospel. He didn’t preach like some picture an Independent Baptist preacher; he was soft spoken, rarely raising his voice, pointing his finger, or pounding the pulpit; he simply exposed the Scripture and preached the gospel. He never had a large church, a television show, or even an article in the local paper, but he was faithful in preaching the gospel.
Sunday after Sunday the gospel stirred my soul and gripped my heart until I could no longer resist. It was a Sunday evening as I recall that I approached Pastor Hawthorne and told him that I was ready to surrender my life to Jesus. He led me to his office, opened the Bible, and strived to explain to me what God was doing in my life. He pointed the tip of his long finger to John 3:16 in his giant KJV Bible and read it like this, “For God so loved Joey, that He gave His only begotten son…” The gospel became personal to me at that moment.
I certainly didn’t understand the depths of the gospel, for that matter I will never fully grasp the depths of it, yet I knew that God had done an amazing work in my life. I had been made alive spiritually. God was the author of my salvation; He gets all the credit and glory indeed, but He chose to use a man that is dear to my heart because of his obedience to His sovereign God, to share the gospel with me, and I am eternally grateful.
Pastor Hawthorne continued to faithfully teach me the things of God from the Word of God until God took us in different directions and ultimately called him home. I have used the things taught to me by Pastor Hawthorne to equip the saints in the churches that I have pastored; nuggets of biblical truth that I gleaned from a faithful man many years ago. I wish I could stand before him and say thank you…one day I will.