Jack Birdwhistell was Dr. E. Glenn Hinson's Garret Fellow at Southern Seminary when I enrolled in 1973. He was my first and one of two of my favorite Church History professors. Long before Baptist Seminary of Kentucky was needed, Jack was an innovative professor who encouraged us to be both creative and practical in the writing of papers.
In the years since seminary, Jack became a friend and a peer. He was one of the first of my peers to affirm my decision to remain the pastor of a small-town church. As he had been as my seminary instructor, he remained an encouraging and motivating force in my life. Besides ministry, we shared a passion for baseball and good books. He was an avid Facebook user, and his use of it enhanced the lives of those of us whom he befriended.
For the past couple of days, Facebook has been filled with comments by peers, current and past students, and strangers who were introduced to “Doc” via his “Doc’s Books” page on Facebook. From those who knew him the longest to those who were only recently introduced to him, the comments have been true and very similar. Jack was Jack and we are blessed to have had him among us.
Reading back through my sermon this morning, I thought about the ways in which Jack’s life, flawed as all lives are, reflected so much of what Jesus urged in his sermon.
- Jack knew his need for mercy; and having received it, he acted mercifully toward others.
- Jack knew his heart; and out of that purity of heart, he drew close to his friends, and particularly to his students.
- Jack was a man of peace . . . at least to be in his presence was to leave more at peace than you came.
- Was Jack persecuted? Jack would need to answer that, but my guess is that in whatever way he was, he would pass it off as part of life, forgiving those who persecuted him.