Friday, May 22, 2009

Remembering Dale Vance

About a year and a half ago I placed a phone call to Dale Vance. He was the interim pastor of Memorial Baptist Church and had been the pastor for 16 years during the 70’s and 80’s. Everyone knew Dale. He was a man of immense kindness and a tremendous passion for the Word of God. Some guys burn brightly but flame out just as fast as they were lit. Dale was faithful. His ministry was noted for its longevity. He was a steady steward of the gospel over many decades.

Our phone conversation was rich with encouragement and insight. I was calling him because the pastor search committee from Memorial was speaking with me about becoming their pastor. This conversation with Dale was critical. Was this newly-wed youth minister considering a blessing or a curse for his first pastorate? Dale’s counsel was so wise and so affirming. Needless to say the Lord used him to lead me to Memorial and receive the blessing that waited.

After accepting the call to become Memorial’s tenth pastor in her 95-year history Dale called me up to have lunch and make a few visits. I was still officially on staff at First Baptist Groves at the time but was eager to learn and get my feet wet. That afternoon eating, chatting, and making ministry visits with Dale Vance should have been seminary credit! To observe his gentle pastoral touch on people’s lives was to watch an artist at work. He just had a gift for comforting people and making them feel like the most important person in the world at that moment.

After making visits we sat in his car talking about preaching and about the importance of faithfulness to God’s Word. These would be the first of precious memories the Lord would give me with a man I would call on as a mentor for the last year and a half. Not many older pastors are concerned with mentoring young wet-behind-the-ears pastors like me. Too busy. Too ambitious. Too many other important matters. Dale took seriously the command in 2 Timothy 2:2, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Only in heaven will we discover just how many people Dale Vance entrusted the truths of God’s Word to. Only there will we see the multitudes he baptized after sharing the gospel to. Only there will we see the many by whose bedsides Dale sat and prayed when they were hurting, ill, or dying.

On Sunday May 17 Dale Vance preached what would be his final sermon at Central Baptist Church in Port Neches and went to be with his Lord on the following Thursday. He left this earth preaching the Word- as a faithful man of God. He will certainly be missed on this side of glory. We hurt along with his dear wife Sally but we rejoice because Dale fought the good fight and is now receiving the crown of righteousness from the Lord Jesus. A man who ministered to thousands over his lifetime is being ministered to at the throne of glory because of his faith in Jesus Christ. His life is still preaching.

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