My Childhood Pastor, Garvan Walls.
‘Preacher’ Walls influenced me greatly by his compassion for people. He has always had a knack for remembering people’s names – I always thought it was a gift, but I think maybe he just cared enough about people that it was easier for him to remember.
The reason my family began attending the Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in the grand metropolis that is Oliver Springs, Tennessee is very simple. When my brother Jess was in the hospital with a severe medical condition, Garvan Walls came by to see my Dad and Mom. At the hospital and at our home. Here’s the thing though – He wasn’t their Pastor. He was after that show of compassion though.
Two days after the miscarriage this summer, ‘Preacher’ called me and Julie to let us know that he was praying for us. I haven’t been a regular at Mount Pisgah in 8 years. He just loves people.
Preacher Walls never pretended to be perfect. Though I esteemed him greatly as a child growing up in the church – I never felt he was perfect. That may seem like and odd lesson, but it taught me to be authentic, and willing to expose my faults to my congregation.
Thank You, Garvan Walls.
Youth Pastor/Assistant Pastor – Keith Price.
Humility. That is a trait hard to find these days it seems, but I saw it and see it from ‘Brother Keith’. As the assistant to Pastor Walls Keith always supported his leadership. I know there had to be/has to be differences of opinion, but Keith was always loyal and supportive. He was never careless – and always sensitive to other people. I wished I would learn that quality. I am so often brash when I should be a little more like Keith Price.
Here is a secret, I’ve never told anyone to my knowledge: When I was a young preacher and didn’t know how to preach, and was uncomfortable with finding my own personality – I would just try to emulate how ‘Brother Keith’ did it. In most churches the Senior Pastor is significantly superior to the other pastors in preaching ability. Not at our church. When Pastor Walls was gone there was never a let down! Keith always knocked it out of the park.
Pastor Walls used humor – Keith Price made every sentence dramatic. When he would really begin to bring his point home he would always take 3 or 4 steps back from the podium, stretch his arms out, then bring them back in, then slowly approach the podium again. You would have to see it, too fully understand what I mean. I knew when he backed away from the podium it was coming…a truth, a principle, a point of celebration. It was the top of the roller coaster moment of the sermon.
So, as a young preacher, when I would want to make a big point – I would take three or four steps back from the podium, stretch out my arms, bring them back, and then slowly walk back to the podium. There is the secret…I tried to copy ‘Brother Keith’ when I preached. (BTW – There is this message I have preached called “Follow His Steps”…I stole it from him. It is one of the top 5 sermons I have ever heard, and I’ve heard the best!)
One more note on the Bro. Keith. I grew up with his kids, and we all played sports together. It was very rare that Keith wasn’t in the stands supporting his kids. He was ALWAYS around. That isn’t always the case with a pastors schedule. I want to be like Bro. Keith when I am a Pastor/Dad.
Thank You, Brother Keith.
My father-in-law, Jim Wigton.
There have been few, very few, who have endured more as a pastor than he has. Long story short – most other men would be out of the ministry if they had toiled in his shoes for just 5 years, much less 25 years.
Yet, he remains the most optimistic person on planet earth. He has Faith, the real stuff.
Few men with his age and background are willing to admit being wrong and change. They are too arrogant, prideful, scared, intimidated – or whatever the reason they just remain in the status-quo. He admits when he is wrong, and is willing to change.
I have watched him ‘on and off the field’ – he has character and integrity.
His family is a testimony that stands by itself.
On the lighter side – He knows nothing about cars, but is one of the best NASCAR fantasy players in the country – literally. He knows very little about computers, yet has to be the fastest, most accurate typist other than Mavis Beacon!
Thanks, Dad Wigton.
There have been many influences in my ministry life. There isn’t enough space to write about them all, so I’ll list others who come to mind. Carl Brocious, H.B., Jon Lands, Terry Copeland, Brenda Marler, Tom Green, David Bouler, Scott McCurdy, David Snow, Eddie Gandy.