In 1954, a young man who grew up in the backwoods of the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee made his way to Carson Newman College. He traveled light with just enough money in his pocket to pay his tuition and carrying a suitcase which held a few items including two white shirts and a tie for class—one of the shirts borrowed from his grandfather.
Little did he know this short journey from his home in the mountains to Jefferson City would eventually lead to the plains of West Texas and practically around the world preaching the Word of God. There in a rented room near the campus of Carson Newman, he gave into a longing deep in his heart and soul. He gladly surrendered his life to the gospel ministry, and at the ripe old age of eighteen accepted the call to be the pastor of the Biltmore Baptist Church in Elizabethan, Tennessee.
Most eighteen year olds can barely tell the difference between up and down, even though they believe themselves to experts in life. At eighteen being a pastor of a local church, even a small one, can be a heady experience. How can a “kid” lead men and women in their walk with God? Even though Paul encouraged Timothy, his son in the faith, to not allow people to look down on him because he was young, being a pastor as a teenager will soon put one’s character to the test.
In the cauldron of the pressures of ministry this young pastor started out preaching the best sermons he could find off the desks and out of the pulpits of other preachers. But he knew deep inside that this practice robbed him and his people of the “Word from on High” needed for life and fruitfulness. He also came to the realization that he needed a power within that could only come from on high.
So this teenage preacher dropped out of school for a semester and enrolled in Jesus’ school of servant leadership, and yearned for the Holy Spirit of God to unlock the mystery and wonder of the Holy Scriptures. From sun up to sundown, he devoured the Word of God as the “bread of life” and during a matter of months a “preacher boy” began his journey toward becoming a “man of God.”
Soon the little mountain church began to grow as people feasted on the Word of God delivered from the pulpit by the pastor who grew up right before their eyes. This humble beginning led to further studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, and it was there in those days God burned the state of Texas on his heart and soul.
Over the course of the next fifty years, he served Oak Ridge Baptist Church in Weatherford. The call of God moved him to First Baptist Church of Lorenzo and Calvary Baptist Church in Lubbock, where he fell in love with the people of High Plains. God took him east to North Fort Worth Baptist Church in Fort Worth where he preached to a generation of young preachers who learned as much about expository preaching sitting at his feet as in class in seminary. After ten years, God prepared him for citywide leadership by calling him to First Baptist Church of Texarkana which led to the call to the historic First Baptist Church of Lubbock, the great love of his life. He served this great church on two occasions for a total of seventeen years.
God also included in this journey stints as a state wide leader as president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and Executive Director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
This month sixty years ago my father Dr. D.L. Lowrie began this journey by faith. Like the Apostle Paul, he “poured out his life like a drink offering to God” and his sacrifice has made our world a much better and richer place. My life and ministry has been shared by the privilege of following such a great light into the darkness. So how does one make sixty years in ministry—simple—love God and love His people with all your heart. Praise God the journey continues!