Tomorrow a friend, hero and mentor of mine will be buried and I am speaking a few hours away from where the funeral will occur so I will not be able to attend. Jim Davis was a good man and a dear friend. His faith was monumental and his love for souls for all people was extreme. He wanted God’s church to grow. When I was hired to preach at Hamilton I was much too young for that role (25) but he encouraged me. I remember my first conversation with him after the elders (he was one) hired me. “We will be a 1,000 member church in 2 years.” Frankly that both scared and concerned me. Scared me because I felt he was thinking I could do that, and I didn’t (and still don’t) have church growth totally figured out. Concerned me that it might be more about numbers than I wanted. BUT what I learned is, IT WAS about numbers - numbers of souls. JIM loved souls. He was evangelistic in every good way. Let me share a neat story. He got to the building every week 30 minutes before the services to meet with a little group who prayed about souls that day. BUT more he would get there even 30 minutes earlier every week and he would start calling people. He would call people who were missing services. He was loving and gentle in it. He’d say something like “we miss you, we have a place for you, you still have time to come today, is there anything I can do to help you?” Funny thing is some of those folks had been away from the church for years and year and he still called them every week. What a great lover of souls.
But there is more on my heart in honoring this good man. He was an attorney, the chairman of one of our colleges boards, an elder, but most every Saturday you’d see this big man decked out in his finest white t-shirt and overalls going from house to house cutting yards of widows and just anyone. He didn’t want any applause for this. He was just a servant. I loved when someone would be in town and I’d be out with them and we’d see Jim. I’d challenge them to guess what that man does - no one ever guessed that he was one of the most influential attorneys in the county.
He lived his life big and loved to laugh about good stuff and bring joy into the lives of others. He gave generously and big!
He was an outstanding football player at Alabama and a lifelong fan. I told some Alabama/Auburn jokes early on at Hamilton and offended one guy who took The Game more seriously than he should have. The guy stopped coming to church. Jim, told me and as an elder told me I needed to go see the guy. I’m glad I did. He shepherded me well.
Jim loved to start fires. I know that could come across wrong but there’s not a better way to say it. If something needed to be burnt he was your guy. Time for Maywood to start, he’d show up and lead the work day - but only if he was going to get a chance to burn something. There were roughly 30 congregations in Marion County. Most of them had begun generations before when transportation was difficult, travel was hard and these communities were thriving. He thought they needed some mergers. He thought many of those small churches could make more of an impact if they were merged and could do more. So, he’s smile his big smile and say “it’s nothing a few fires couldn’t handle.” Just to be sure - no building were burnt in the 30 years I’ve known Jim, but he was available :).
He did not like to see people mistreated. He loved to tell about being an assistant (read junior) District Attorney in Fayette County. The DA invited him to have breakfast one of his first days there. As they talked the DA emphasized the names of some of the lowlifes who were abusing their wife or kids. The next day that guy would be in the hospital. Jim said the guy told him “there are some justices that are better served in ways other than the courts.” The DA knew some of the bubba’s sitting around him would hear those names and let the “gentleman” know that he better not beat his wife up anymore.
As an elder, if the other elders ever got far afield from shepherding and souls Jim would say, you know we need to be talking about souls and call them back. He was gentle but forceful.
I could go on and on. This big, loving, strong, faithful, loved, godly man will be missed. I express my sympathy to his wife, Dale and my thanks to God for bringing such people into my life.