There is an old saying that if you ever see a turtle sitting on a fence post, you can be sure of one thing: It didn’t get there by itself.
As I begin my eighth year with IBSA, I identify very much with that turtle. On one hand, seven years is a long time, long enough for me to write more than 170 columns for The Illinois Baptist. On the other hand, my father Tom Adams wrote at least 850 columns here, over the course of 34 years. Like many of you, I read his insights on church life, Baptist life, and life in general for decades. So I still feel indebted to my dad for whatever perspective and service I have to offer IBSA churches.
It’s hard for me to think about my early days at IBSA without thinking about my dad. My mom tells me he was so excited about my coming back to Illinois, and to IBSA in particular, that he would fall asleep in his recliner with the Illinois Baptist in his lap, open to the article about my selection to serve here. And yet a month to the day after I started at IBSA, Dad passed away.
During these years since then, I have often thought how nice it would have been to have my dad around. He loved IBSA, and the Illinois Baptist, and the pastors and members of IBSA churches. Though he was basically quiet and introverted, he knew many, many people through his writing and ministry roles. He understood a lot about people and churches, how they work together, and why they sometimes don’t. Many times I have wished I could pick up the phone and ask him a question.
But it’s not like I’ve been without his help. Though my dad’s been gone for seven years now, I still rarely go into a church for the first time without someone telling me how much he or she appreciated his wisdom and his writing. Often they have a favorite column or two clipped and in their Bible. One dear lady told me she still has one framed and hanging over her desk at work. As often as not, these folks say they never met dad personally. But frequently they will say they felt as if they knew him.
Of course, if my dad ever heard anyone praising his writing, he would quickly point to Dr. Robert Hastings, who edited the Illinois Baptist for many years, and who was a wonderful writer as well. Dad frequently said that if Dr. Hastings hadn’t “taken a chance” on him as a young writer, he would never have had the opportunities or influence that he did.
And dad wouldn’t want to stop there. He would want me to point out that every column he scribbled by hand on a yellow pad of paper was typed up for publication by my mom, who added her own skilled editing and insight to the final product.
Of course my mom would want to point to her parents, and how they sacrificed for her education, and how their support of her made it possible for her to support my dad with her skills. And if my grandparents were here, well, I trust you get the point.
We are all turtles on our own fence posts, aren’t we? Whether it’s our parents, or the pastor or leader that served before us, or the faithful families that founded or sustained our church or that brought the Gospel to our area, none of us arrived at our places of service and opportunity without the help of others. We would do well to thank them when we have a chance, and to pledge to them that we will do the same for others. From my fence post today, thanks Dad.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.