Proverbs 21:21 “He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour.”
Recently, I mentioned during a sermon that during my life I had had 4 men who had impacted and influenced, spiritually, me more than any other men in my life. I referred to these mentors as the Mount Rushmore of my life. I want to take an opportunity today to share a little about those 4 men, and say some things about the value of having mentors in your life.
Unfortunately, a few months ago, the last of these 4 men passed away. His passing is kinda what sparked this thought about mentors in my mind. I’m now a “free agent” so to speak. Not that we follow man, but I’m a believer of that fact that we all need someone we can look to for influence, council, guidance, and even rebuke, when needed. Since my Pastor, Wade Sheffield, passed away, I’ve been trying to cultivate some relationships with older pastors and men who walk with God. I think I’ve taken for granted that my mentors have always been there, and am suddenly realizing that I’ve not done a good job preparing for the fact that they’d be gone.
Before I tell about my mentors, let me give just a little background about myself, which might explain why these men were so important to me. As a child, I did not grow up in a Christian home. (My mom and my stepdad have both gotten saved in the last few years and are growing in the Lord) However, as a child, I wasn’t in a home that prevented me from going to church. Thankfully, they allowed me to be picked up for church, and to spend time with those who helped encourage me in my walk with the Lord. Praise the Lord that they are saved now, and Praise the Lord that their willingness to let me be around God’s people help set me on the path that would lead me to where I am today.
With that said, I’d like to tell you more about the men that I consider my Mount Rushmore of Mentors: Wyndle Duncan (my grandpa), Cisco Bryant, Hirstle Henson, and Wade Sheffield.
Wyndle Duncan: My grandpa was my hero as a child. He got saved later in life and became a pastor. When I was a kid we would spend many weekends at his house in Waddy, Ky. I thought at the time that we were there to help with mowing grass, taking care of my great grandmother (who was bedridden), and to do random chores around the house. I now realize that my grandparents had us there on the weekends so that they knew on Sunday, that we’d be in church. As a kid, you’d never convince me that my grandpa ever did wrong. He was the strongest, the smartest, and the godliest man I knew, in my mind. He was patient, he was kind. I would listen to him weep when he prayed. As a young kid, even before I got saved, I could tell that he knew the Lord and that he loved the Lord. Once, when grandpa was between pastorates, he preached at a small church in New Albany, IN. (about 15 miles away from my home) He, and my sister Becky, told the pastor of that church, Wade Sheffield, that her siblings, (and his grandkids) lived nearby and if the church had a way to pick them up, they were sure their mom would let them come. Bro. Hirstle Hinson, an older gentlemen in the church heard and got our address. We started attending Calvary Road Baptist Church the very next week. My grandpa died, suddenly, on October 18, 1991, when I was 12. Later that year, I moved in with grandma for about 8 months. During that 8 months, God called me to preach. I later got to preach my very first sermon in the same pulpit where my first mentor preached his last sermon. Grandpa probably would’ve never dreamed that I’d end up preaching and pastoring. His influence played a huge role in my life even though I only got to have him in my life for 12 years.
Cisco Bryant: Bro. Cisco Bryant was a member of Calvary Road Baptist Church. Simply put, the primary reason that I always held Bro. Bryant in such high esteem is that he wasn’t a preacher, and he wasn’t old, but he loved the Lord. I know that sounds stupid when put that way, but let me explain. Up until that time, the only men I really knew who loved the Lord, were old men (grandpa, Bro. Henson, etc.) or Preachers (grandpa, Pastor Sheffield, Pastor Griffis, etc.). Brother Bryant was the first “regular guy” who was just a “dad” and not a grandpa, who loved the Lord and was the same away from church as he was in church. I’m sure there were other men in our church who had similar testimonies, but I did not get a chance to see them up close like I did Brother Bryant. On Sundays, I would go to their house for piano lessons from his wife. She was a sweet, godly lady, but I had seen many of those…..but a godly man? That was only for preachers and old guys, right? Not so with Bro. Bryant. He was our Sunday School teacher for some time, and he was not easy. He used to give us quarterly exams and actually grade the tests and tell us we were wrong from time to time – imagine that! Bro. Bryant died on January 25, 1997, during my senior year of high school. 1 month later, I became the Sunday School teacher for the senior high sunday school class. It was the FIRST time I ever had to step into the shoes of a mentor. To some, he was a “guy in our church”, to me he was “the guy” who showed my that loving God wasn’t just for the old guys and preachers.
Hirstle Henson: I mentioned earlier that Bro. Henson (and his wife Bernice) began picking me and my sisters up for church when I was a kid. I was about 9 years old at the time. If you would have asked me at the time, I would’ve guessed that he was 100 years old when he started picking us up. At that age, everyone seemed old. He seemed old compared to the old people. I knew him for over 25 years and I cannot tell you one negative thing about that man during those 25+ years. Him and his wife (along with some others) helped plant our church in their garage in 1974. Up until the time he could barely walk he was faithful to go soul winning at every opportunity. When he couldn’t walk much, he would use his yard sales, where he sold nothing but socks, as opportunities to witness to anyone who would stop by. He was a decorated war hero, but he was an even greater soldier for Christ. Him and his wife would pick me up for church, not only on Sunday mornings, but Sunday evening, and Wednesday evenings as well. They lived 1 mile from the church but would drive 20 minutes to pick us up and 20 minutes to drop us off……3 times a week. That sacrificial spirit, without ever a complaint, allowed for some great discipleship on those car rides to and from church. One of my greatest joys was being able to be his pastor for the last few years of his life. Bro. Henson passed away on February 9, 2015. Every week, before I preach, I look at that second pew where him and his wife sat for so many years and thank God for the impact they had on my life.
Wade Sheffield: Pastor Sheffield, has really been the most influential man in my life, humanly speaking. He became my pastor when I was in the 4th grade. Pastor Sheffield was a part of my life for about 30 years. Early on, he was “just” my pastor. Later on, after I surrendered to preach, he really took me under his wings. He would take me to nursing homes so I could preach, he’d let me preach in church frequently, even by the time I was 15 or 16. At 18, 6 months before I headed to bible college, he gave me the opportunity to be the Sunday School teacher for our teen class. He allowed me to come and be his Associate Pastor for about a year when I first got out of bible college. After moving away for about 4 years to be a Youth Pastor somewhere else, I was so thankful that God opened up the door for me to return to CRBC and serve along side my pastor once again. I moved back in March of 2004, took a job in Louisville, and became his bi-vocational Associate Pastor once again. God is so good to have given me a second opportunity to come home. When he retired, I became the Pastor of Calvary Road Baptist Church. The SECOND time, I had to step in for a mentor of mine. After he retired we had 10 more great years of serving together here at Calvary Road Baptist Church. He was the model church member and the finest of examples for all pastors who enter and retirement but still wish to continuing making an impact for the Lord. Pastor Sheffield passed away on October 30, 2017. I miss him more than I ever thought I would. I’m sad that the young people of our church will miss out on knowing this hero of the faith.
So now, unfortunately, my Mount Rushmore of Mentors are all gone. Not unfortunate for them, just for us. So now what? Time to cultivate some relationships and find more mentors. Also, it’s time to BE to others what those men were to me.