Dr. Frank R. Lewis drew from his own experiences and New Testament scripture to advise and challenge students at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School recently.
Senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Nashville, Tenn., Lewis spoke during consecration services Dec. 2 for 20 Beeson students who will receive degrees during fall Commencement on Dec. 13.
“Get to know your congregation well,” advised Lewis, whose pastorates have ranged from a church planting assignment in Las Vegas, Nev., to his current post at a 185-year-old church in the Bible Belt.
A Samford graduate, Lewis holds degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the founding editor of Let’s Worship magazine and the author of The Team Builder.
Lewis recalled advice from Paul to Timothy in II Timothy 4: 2-5. The passage, he said, includes a “great list of things to do first,” regardless of the size of church or type of ministry.
First, preach the Word. “The times demand it,” said Lewis, who assumed his first pastorate in the 1980s when several religious leaders were involved in personal scandals. Now, post Enron and post 9-11, there are still scandals involving celebrities and sports figures, he noted.
Secondly, he said, keep your head in all situations. “Keep your eyes on what’s in front of you. Don’t give in to the buzz around you. Stay focused on preaching the gospel. Nurture your spirit, and your families, because your family is called with you,” he said.
Thirdly, endure the difficult times, he said, recalling his early struggles with a small congregation. “God used the hard times to help make me the pastor I could be.”
“Also, endure the hurting times because they will come, too,” he advised.
Fourthly, do the work of an evangelist. “There’s nothing else like it. People are dying to hear the good news,” he said, telling how a Gamblers’ Victorious program in Las Vegas resulted in the conversion of a cocktail waitress who brought many of her co-workers to witness her Baptism.
Finally, discharge all the duties of your ministry, he said. “Be a bridge builder. You’ll do things they didn’t prepare you for in seminary. God will have ways for you to build bridges for people to walk across to get to the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said. “Be wise, be strong and be pure in Jesus’ name.”
The consecration service included the blessing of the graduates by each Beeson faculty member.