Through the years I have had the privilege of meeting and hearing some of the greatest preachers of the gospel, and I have been stirred and moved by all of them. One particular favorite evangelist is Ron Dunn whom I only met once, but have read most of his books and listened to many of his audio tapes.
Ron, who is in glory now was raised in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and in his adult years while living in the Dallas, Texas area maintained the family farm near Fort Smith. When time permitted he, his wife Kaye and their three children often spent vacation time on the farm relaxing by hunting, fishing and spending quality family time together.
He surrendered to vocational ministry at a young age following his spiritual conversion at First Baptist Church Fort Smith and attended seminary at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in the late 1950’s. He began his preaching as pastor of a number of smaller churches where he also developed administrative skills. His largest and most significant pastorate was at MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irvin, Texas where he began in 1966. It was there the church experienced a Spirit-led revival in 1972 which continued until 1975 when Ron was called into vocational evangelism. He continued in itinerant evangelism for the next twenty-six years until his untimely death from pulmonary fibrosis in 2001.
I have learned many spiritual truths from Ron Dunn although I was only in the congregation where he preached on seven occasions. Five of those experiences were in El Dorado, Arkansas where he preached a revival meeting at First Baptist Church at just the time Dr. Mark Coppenger was leaving the church to move with his family to Indiana.
On Wednesday of that week I had a free morning from my surgical schedule, and I invited Ron to have breakfast at our home and was able to spend several hours with him discussing life situations, and what it means to walk with Christ. The time spent with him that morning was both rich and rewarding. During the visit Ron told me a story related to his formative years in Fort Smith as a young man under the spiritual influence of his pastor, Dr. J. Harold Smith. Ron had his spiritual conversion during Dr. Smith’s tenure and surrendered to the ministry and was ordained by the church while he was pastor.
Dr. Smith became pastor of the relatively large First Baptist Church of Fort Smith in the 1950’s and remained there approximately ten years while leading the church successfully in evangelism and discipleship. At times his pastorate was marked by turmoil and dissent, because Dr. Smith was a Biblical inerrantist and the moderates in the Southern Baptist Convention in those days were strong and challenged his Biblical interpretations at every opportunity. He had the reputation of being strong in his opinions and firm in his convictions concerning the Bible and its’ relevance. His stance was affirmed by the vast majority of members of this prestigious church, but not by all of them.
On the occasion of Dr. Smith’s five year anniversary as pastor he made the following announcement at the Sunday morning worship service, “Tonight in keeping with my five years as pastor of this church I will name the man who has given me the most trouble as pastor.” Ron said he was sitting in his seat in the choir loft and was able to observe the congregation’s response to this startling announcement. He said there was stunned silence with looks of anxiety and certainly no “Amens” spoken to encourage the pastor. Everyone in the congregation knew Dr. Smith well enough to know he would keep his word in revealing the troubling culprit.
Ron said by the time the 6 P.M. worship service began the church was packed with more people present than had ever attended a Sunday evening service. There were people lining the aisles in folding chairs, and some standing in the foyer in anticipation of his announcement. From his seat in the choir Ron had a perfect view of everything taking place in the auditorium that night. He said several of the deacon’s had brought their lawyers with them to hear what was to be said!
Dr. Smith said nothing concerning the matter during his spiritual message nor during the invitation hymn or the altar call. It seemed for the first time in his ministry he might have changed his mind and decided not to mention any name of the troubling man who had plagued him for five years. But just before closing the service he stepped back to the pulpit and made the following statement to an absolutely hushed and anxious congregation, “I told you this morning I was going to announce the name of the man who for the past five years of my ministry has consistently given me the most trouble here at First Baptist, and I am going to keep my word.” Ron said the auditorium was so quiet at that moment one could have heard folks breathing, but everyone was holding their breath! “The name of that man is —-J. Harold Smith!!” Ron said their was such an obvious release of anxiety in the auditorium and at least one of the deacons appeared he might faint. 🙂
What a great object lesson the folks at First Baptist Fort Smith learned from their pastor that entire day. Each of us must make certain we are not the source of any quarrelsome attitude or the driving force behind any dissension of the brothers within the body of Christ. God clearly states in His Word in Proverbs 6:16-19 there are seven things He hates and the seventh one on the list is, “he that soweth discord among brethren.” May this never be said of me.