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The Preacher

paulWe received word last night of the passing of Paul Carrier. Bro. Paul was president of Atlanta Christian College (now Point University) for 2 of the 4 years I was a student there – he was also my teacher, my boss and my mentor. But to me, he was and always will be “The Preacher.” I learned to preach listening to him, and stayed at school during summer breaks to take the preaching classes he taught in summer school. I recall him saying, on the first day of one class, “Be sure to read the assigned textbook.” Then he set it aside and continued, “But what I plan to do is just show you how I really put together a sermon…” Best homiletics class I ever had!

I had the privilege to work for him at Kenwood Christian Church – where he generously allowed me and Chuck Baggett to preach from time to time. It was a little intimidating to preach with Bro. Paul in the audience, but when he shook your hand and said, “Good job,” you felt like a rookie quarterback being told by Bear Bryant that you had played a good game.

That’s not to say that Bro. Paul was more sentimental than honest… I was scheduled to preach the evening service at Kenwood one Sunday, but had been battling a severe cold all week. I wasn’t going to let an opportunity pass me by, so I dragged myself out of bed, loaded up on various meds, and went to preach. I will never forget what Bro. Paul said as he shook my hand after the service that night, “Your content was good, but delivery was another story. The next time you’re sick, do us all a favor and stay home.” He was right – although integrity forces me to admit I have ignored that sound, perfectly good advice more than once in my ministry.

Whenever I needed to be corrected or disciplined – which was often as a student and a student minister, Bro. Paul was firm without being mean or hateful, stern and gracious at the same time. I was disciplined once by the Dean of Students for some infraction, and had to rake leaves on the college campus. One afternoon while I did my community service, Bro. Paul came out of the Admin building, scowled and shook his finger at me – then smiled his biggest smile and waved goodbye as he got in his car and drove away.

One of my best memories of Bro. Paul is when he came to Chapel at ACC when I preached my senior sermon. Afterward, he shook my hand, gave me a quick wink, and said, “Proud of you!” It meant as much to me as any honor or recognition I have ever received.

After graduation and moving on into my first ministry, I got to see Bro. Paul at college functions, minister’s meetings, that sort of thing. Even though he treated me like a colleague, I still saw him very much as a teacher, counselor, and advisor. We fell out of touch for awhile as my young, growing family and I moved around the country – but we reconnected thanks to good ol’ Facebook a few years ago.

Much of what I am as a pastor and specifically as a preacher, I owe to the influence of this great man. One Sunday a couple of weeks ago, I used a phrase and made a gesture and immediately thought, “Oh my gosh – that WAS Paul Carrier…” I will miss him and will always remember him fondly, forever grateful for his life and example.

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