Apart from my father, the man who personally influenced me the most in my preparation for ministry was J. Dwight Pentecost. Yesterday, three days after turning 99, he entered the presence of his beloved Lord and Savior.
Dr. P, as he was affectionately known by all, was the first pastor I remember having. He was the pastor of Grace Bible Church in Dallas and our family attended there and he baptized me when I was 11-years-old. In later years after our family moved away from Dallas, he often visited in cities where we were living and taught seminars and conferences in nearby schools and churches and stayed many times in our home. I usually sacrificed my bed for him to use. And I did so gladly. He was a pastor, and even more a godly friend.
During my college years, when I was contemplating preparing for vocational ministry, he sent me a lengthy personal letter to encourage and help me in my decision. It was gracious, balanced, and biblically profound. When I then entered DTS, he continued his personal interest in me, providing a place for my girlfriend and then fiancée to stay when she came to visit me. After I graduated from seminary and we had no place to live, he graciously allowed us to house-sit for him that summer. When we had no furniture for our first apartment, he helped us locate a couch, and he refinished a filing cabinet and table for us that we still use to this day — more than 25 years later!
In my seminary course-work, my declared major was Bible exposition; but my major really was “Dr. P” — the school just didn’t have a declared major for his courses. I took everything I could with him — The Life of Christ, Transitional Problems in Acts, Hebrews, Kingdom and Covenants, and the Prison Epistles. Many of his books line my shelves — and I still reach for them regularly. But what I value more than what I learned in the classroom (and there was much to learn from this profoundly gifted teacher) was his personal ministry to me.
He was a gifted man; now he is receiving his eternal reward. I will miss him on earth; I know there is coming a day of restoration of our fellowship!