This is the last of my blogs on “Mentioning my mentors”. There are many more that have had an incredible impact on me but I’ve chosen to focus on the ones that have been in a pastoral role in one way or another. This blog is dedicated to Ron Bryan, my pastor at Southside Baptist Church from 1992-97 (approximately).
“Pastor Ron”, as we called him, came to Southside at a crucial time in my life. Ramona and I had been married a few years and were expecting our second child. The church was in the midst of a difficult time, a handful of bozos trying to grasp power and glory in the church; obviously they couldn’t obtain it elsewhere so they were relegated to the church. I had no idea at that time how much pressure pastor Ron was under; there seemed to be a constant onslaught of power plays and glory grabs, but he persevered. Looking back, it was during that period that I learned a lot about the realities of pastoral ministries…good and, well, not so good.
I watched as Pastor Ron patiently and compassionately ministered to an old, established church that was set in its ways; not the entire church of course, but a large enough proportion to make things extremely difficult. In spite of the odds against him God used him there to do some truly great things. It was during his tenure at Southside that God called me to be a Pastor. I eventually, under Pastor Ron’s guidance, enrolled at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest, NC. Southside averaged about 200 people on any given Sunday, but there were five of us enrolled at SEBTS! That is an incredible percentage and speaks volumes of Pastor Ron’s influence and spiritual guidance.
After I acknowledged my call, Pastor Ron spent much time with me, warning, exhorting, admonishing, teaching, and equipping me to be a good Shepard. I remember one of the first things he said to me; “If you can do anything other than pastor…do it!” I’ll be honest, at first I was a bit taken aback and even confused by his statement, but after spending time with him ”in the field” I quickly began to understand it. He was simply telling me that ministry is more than anyone can handle…more than a man without a call can handle. In other words, if God had truly assigned me to it, He would seal it in my heart, equip me, empower me, and not allow me to do anything else…sage like wisdom form a seasoned man of God indeed!
One of the greatest, most beneficial things I learned from Pastor Ron was the importance of Exposition of Scripture. This was all new to me…I was used to more Topical sermons…the idea of using proper hermeneutics, understanding what the writer of the text was intending to say, and relaying that to the hearers was fascinating to me! Pastor Ron was simply telling me to tell the people what God was saying; nothing is more important than people knowing what God is saying, and that is done through expositional preaching! I soon fell in love with exposition of Scripture…I certainly haven’t mastered it, not even close, but thanks to Pastor Ron, I understand the importance of it and have strived to make it a priority in my ministry.
Exposition of Scripture is indeed high on the list of important things I gleaned from this man, but there are many more. Obviously I have not the time nor space to name them all, but I must list a few, including having a well-balanced ministry, true pastoral visitation, healthy ecclesiology, Christ-centered corporate worship, a Godward evangelism, etc. He also taught me the value of wisdom, and I saw it manifested in this man more than anyone. Again, all those things are priceless, but I must also mention his genuine love for the people that God had called him to shepherd. He would consistently tell me, “Love your people”. I was amazed as I watched him lovingly minister to his flock, even those who so fervently rose up against him. There was nothing fake about this man…he truly loved his people, even as some were plotting his demise in the church. He modeled Christ as he loved a people who were sometimes very unlovable and I was forever changed by that.
A million “Thanks” can’t begin to repay what Pastor Ron invested in me, but I want to world to know that God poured much grace on me by placing me under Ron’s leadership and mentorship, and I want Pastor Ron to know that I am joyfully indebted to him and his precious family. He is one man that can be assured that God used him to change someone’s life…