On Monday, September 7, 2020 my friend and mentor stepped into the presence of Jesus. It has been hard to grasp. What you will read below is only a small picture of what Fred meant to me personally. I cannot come up with enough words to paint the fullest picture nor do you have enough time to read what could be written. I am one of hundreds that Fred invested in over his years of ministry. His impact for the Kingdom of God will be felt for generations to come.
It was April 1999 and the church was a flurry of excitement. You could say that we were ready to party like it was 1999. There was a big youth event coming up called “Groovin’ in the Grove” with bands and a good speaker named Clayton King. On top of that, we had a new pastor candidate coming in view of a call that month. See, the last pastor did not leave on great terms and the church had been in an interim for two years. In all of that, the home church did well.
Then, the pastor’s family showed up in the forest green Ford Astro van with a tan accent stripe along the bottom runner. I didn’t know what to expect, but I had spoken with our youth pastor and the response seemed to be great. Yeah, it was a full Southern Baptist weekend. A dinner on Saturday night, the best and most exciting church service in a few years on Sunday morning (because, you don’t want to give a half hearted effort when you want the new pastor to accept the call), and then another service on Sunday night with the business meeting and vote after.
I don’t remember everything, but I do remember that for the first time I actually wanted to listen to the pastor preach. I had recently come to understand that God’s plan for me was to go into what we call “full time vocational ministry”. All of us as Christians are called to full time service to the Lord, but God often impresses on some of us that His plan is to take us out of the “normal” Christian world and bring us into the world of church work. Perhaps it was this recent revelation in my life that brought this on, but it might have been that this particular preacher carried himself a little different and spoke a little brighter about hope and Jesus. I was a member, so I was going to vote for him.
Then it happened. It was a little awkward at first, but I am glad I was there to watch it unfold. The Sunday night service was over and he was ushered out of the sanctuary with his family so we could get down to business. The chairman of deacons was presiding and had just turned the floor over to the chairman of the pastor search committee for a recommendation when the side doors behind the piano opened. Everyone watched with stunned silence as this pastor candidate climbed the steps onto the platform and approached the pulpit microphone. We had not voted, so this was a little odd.
It was his statement to our church that garnered my instant respect. His words are etched in my mind and were probably transcribed and respectfully submitted by Priscilla Dolney, Church Clerk in the minutes of the night’s meeting. “Before you vote, there is something that I have to tell all of you. My resume and the information you have been given says that I am the Pastor of Lake Charles Baptist Church. But, you need to know that I have not been the pastor of that church in over three months.”
That statement utterly floored me. See, I was only 16 but I understood some of the pomp and circumstance of Baptist life. To self-expose this in the moments leading up to a church vote could prove detrimental to the process and the prospects of a vote to call.
However, it was in this early moment that something set within me about the man that our church was about to call. He was legit and actually cared about the people who would call him shepherd. He was someone I wanted to get to know, even in the immaturity of my teenage years. He was voted in and within a few weeks assumed the position our church called him to. While I knew that this man was different, I was not fully prepared for the impact he would have on my life over the next 21 years.
I would love to write everything I could possibly say about Fred Evers, but I cannot. I have written elsewhere in effort to give a snowflake on the tip of the iceberg about Fred. I could not possibly cover the conversations in late high school about ministry calling, the dinners in Macon as he was en route to and from Georgia Baptist meetings while I was in college, the meaningful opportunities to preach in his stead (even the times he would offer clarifying commentary to the church after I finished my message!), the guidance and support through seminary, and the turn by turn offer of wisdom as I have grown in pastoral ministry. Fred’s stake in ministry has been to love pastors, both the struggling pastors in their position and those who, as Paul would say, “aspire to the office of” pastor.
Isaiah records one of the most magnificent views of the throne room of heaven in Isaiah 6. This passage remains to this day one of my favorite passages of Scripture. He starts off by addressing the occasion, “In the year of King Uzziah’s death”. This detail has been resonating within my heart this week. King Uzziah was a good king. He was one that 2 Chronicles 26 tells us did right in the sight of the Lord. He “continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding through the vision of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him” (2 Chron, 26.5). For Israel, the death of their leader was devastating.
My heart feels this devastation. My heart grieves with similar loss. No, Fred was not a king. Fred was, however, committed to seeking out the Lord God. In a way similar to how Uzziah sought to lead the people of Israel to honor Almighty God, Fred sought to lead the churches he pastored and guys like me who sought the office of pastor.
Many people who have come to know me well also know that I would not be a pastor if it were not for Fred. While my youth pastor, Robert Winter, guided me in a magnificent way as I was struggling with the internal call to ministry, later conversations with Fred brought clarity that God was calling me to be a pastor. He challenged me in college with some difficult reading about Southern Baptist life and pastoral ministry. And, on two different occasions, when Christi and I were ready to walk away from ministry, he and his wife, Cindy, were there to encourage us and love us. I do not make the statement lightly when I say that I am a pastor today because God used Fred in my life.
My heart breaks for Fred’s family, especially Cindy. I cannot begin to fathom the hole they feel, but I know the One who will fill that hole with His precious Spirit. My heart breaks for my home church, who have loved this pastor well these 21 years. My heart breaks for the other young and aspiring pastors who have looked to Fred for guidance and wisdom, for I am one of more than a hundred.
Personally, my heart aches. Fred was my call when I needed wisdom and guidance. Fred was not just a mentor, but one of the best friends I have ever had. It was never a serious conversation alone. Perhaps that is why Fred and I enjoyed one another’s company, even on the phone. We always joked and laughed, even about “serious” things.
This is why I look at Isaiah 6. It is in the hole of loss and in the pain of grief that something happens…God shows Isaiah His glory. God gives Isaiah something to carry to the people of Israel. God shows up!
While I could recount 10,000 lessons I have learned from Fred over the years, one that always stands out is found right here in Isaiah 6. God is able! The resounding theme of Fred’s life and ministry has been the way God shows up, even when it doesn’t seem possible. This is why God tells Isaiah in verse 9, “Go and tell.” As a follower of Christ, we go and tell.
God is glorious, even when we hurt.
God is glorious, even when we can’t see the end.
God is glorious, even when it doesn’t make sense to us.
God is glorious, always.
Fred, thank you for showing me how glorious our God truly is. I miss you.