AMARILLO—Veteran Texas pastors Jimmy Draper and T.C. Melton looked out at the youngest pastors attending a luncheon in Amarillo and expressed enthusiasm for their ministry among Southern Baptist churches.
“Without apology I’m very encouraged,” Draper told the Ministry Café luncheon during the annual Bible Conference hosted by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. “I really believe the younger generations of 20- and 30-somethings make one of the greatest generations ever seen.”
“Men coming out of our seminaries today can preach the Word of God,” Melton added, praising their faithfulness to Scripture.
For over an hour the two men drew from their experiences to answer questions posed by two of their younger counterparts in ministry—Wes Hinote, pastor of First Baptist Church of Plum Grove in Cleveland and John Powell, pastor of First Baptist Church of Hamlin.
Draper pastored six churches in Texas, including First Baptist Church of Euless for 16 years. Prior to being called to Euless, he served as associate pastor to W.A. Criswell at First Baptist Church of Dallas. In addition, he led Lifeway Christian Resources as president from 1991 to 2006.
Melton served in pastorates across Texas, including 30 years at Elmcrest Baptist Church in Abilene. He has spent the past decade serving in various capacities with the SBTC, primarily as an area ministry coordinator for churches in West Texas. Additionally, he has served as interim pastor of more than 15 churches, many of them in rural communities.
“God saw something in us that would meet the needs for the time in which we pastored,” Melton said. Looking to the younger men at the table, he said, “I believe God saw something in you guys specifically designed for a ministry today. Rather than feeling second class, you should feel something very special. I would not be nearly as successful today.”
Hinote and Powell led off by asking how to guard against moral failure and gain wisdom by being mentored by older pastors.
Melton told young pastors to be careful “never to take that first step” in succumbing to temptation.
Draper agreed, adding, “It’s not rocket science. If you don’t want to get wet, don’t go out in the rain. It’s your choice,” he insisted, encouraging ministers to avoid situations where “it’s your word against someone else’s.”
Draper and Melton agreed to the priority of a pastor loving his own wife and including her in ministry. “Your wife is your greatest protector,” Draper said. “There are two reasons to take your wife with you when you visit—they will be nicer to you and she will be your protection against any kind of advance women may make toward you or you feel tempted to make.”
Melton said he had never heard his wife speak a negative word about the churches he served. “That probably has done more to keep me encouraged than anything.”
Both men said they sought to maintain contact with and to encourage friends who had failures in ministry. “All of us are going to fall sometime,” Draper said. “It’s not whether we are going to fall, but whether we get up when we fall.”
“A lot of times when a preacher does fail we tend to forget that person,” Melton said, recalling a friend who admitted feeling abandoned. “One day I just got him on my heart and called him up.
“Don’t give up on people. Look them in the eye and say, ‘You may never be able to pastor again, but God still has a purpose for your life.’”
Melton also encouraged older ministers to make the time to befriend and encourage younger pastors. “You don’t know what it means to a young pastor in a small church for you to call him up and say, ‘Let’s go to lunch.’”
“I think you’d find that most older, more established pastors would welcome the opportunity,” Draper said, recalling the time he asked Oklahoma City pastor Herschel Hobbs to meet with him. “We built a relationship we maintained all through the rest of my ministry and until his death.”