Most of the people who read this don’t know Whitey Davis, and won’t know him this side of Heaven. He died on Sunday, September 28. It has been at least five years since I last spoke with Whitey. I last worked with him in 1997. He was the pastor of Oak Forest Baptist Church where I was the youth minister from 1993-1997.
I am thankful for something very specific as I remember him. Whitey gave me chances. When I became a senior pastor, I had already baptized someone. I had already preached sermons and participated in church leadership meetings. I was not doing those things for the first time. I did not receive my first flight instruction while the plane was in midair. Whitey gave me chances. He trusted me and I’ll always be thankful.
It is more than just gratitude though. I vowed back then to follow his example. I knew the day would come when I was an experienced pastor with young, eager seminarians around me, and was determined to give them the chances I was given. I have never wavered on that.
Maybe that’s why God brought me to a college town. This principle applies to many situations, not just the pastorate. We have talented teenagers and people in their early 20’s all around us in Chapel Hill. We need to trust them, accept the mistakes they make, and help them grow as leaders and as Christ followers. If you are reading this on the blog and you live somewhere else and there are fewer young adults, you might have to look a little harder, but there are potential protégés around you too.
Think of Barnabas taking John Mark under his wing after Paul rejected the young disciple (Acts 15:36-40). Or Paul; though he would not tolerate John Mark’s failure (Acts 13:13), did in fact mentor Timothy (Acts 16:1-4). Mentorship never looks the same twice; Paul was a different teacher than Barnabas. I am very different than Whitey. But I hope I am as dedicated to the Gospel as he was. And I know I am the type of leader I am because of the opportunities he gave me.
I thank God for Whitey Davis. I thank God I was fortunate enough to be a youth pastor with him as my supervisor. I am thankful I could call him friend. As his daughter put it with simple eloquence, he is now with Jesus. There is sadness and joy, the appropriate emotions that come when we say farewell to a man of God.