Men Who Achieve A Degree Of Greatness Are Often Polarizing Figures

Personal reflections of Pastor Al Martin’s discipling a young pastor

Much has been written about the public ministry of Pastor Martin. There are sermons that resonate with me nearly thirty years after hearing them.  There are the dozens of Pastoral Theology classes that form the bedrock of my life and ministry.  But there are three anecdotes that I want to share that have left the most lasting impression upon me.

 

Men who achieve a degree of greatness are often polarizing figures.  This is not only true in the realms of politics and popular culture but in the church as well.  Bland men rarely stir great passions, but men of conviction and gift often do.  In recent days much has been written about one of the prominent preachers among Reformed Baptist.   That man is Albert N. Martin.  For four years he was my pastor and instructor in Pastoral Theology at the Trinity Ministerial Academy.

Much has been written about the public ministry of Pastor Martin. There are sermons that resonate with me nearly thirty years after hearing them.  There are the dozens of Pastoral Theology classes that form the bedrock of my life and ministry.  But there are three anecdotes that I want to share that have left the most lasting impression upon me.

When I first came to Trinity in 1986 I was largely ignorant of Pastor Martin’s ministry. I soon realized that Pastor Martin’s gifts and graces had set him apart from many other teachers and preachers.  I thought this is the sort of man that people will write books about in future years.  That being said one of my first impressions of Pastor Martin was given following a fellowship meal at the church building on Sunday night.  After most folks had left, I turned around and saw Pastor Martin cleaning the tables.  He was picked up the plates and cups that others had left behind.  There were no trumpets being blown, no clearing of the throat to make sure a 23-year-old ministerial aspirant saw him serving–just a man looking out for others.

A second incident occurred in those early days as well.  Early one Sunday morning I received a call from Pastor Martin telling me that he was going to be preaching in Pennsylvania that morning.  His wife was ill and he wondered if I might keep him company on the trip.  Of course!  In those hours, he took a young man (23) under his wing and close to his side.  He was not the powerhouse of the pulpit but an older friend and mentor speaking about life and struggles and keeping to the main things of life. A few days later he handed me the address of the family who had put us up for the day so that I could send them a thank you note.  He was subtly teaching me to be a Christian gentleman.

The third occurred on July 1, 1989, the day I got married.  I got married in Norfolk, VA and Pastor Martin did not attend.  But he did call my wife early that morning at her father’s house (I have no idea how he got the number) to let us know that he was thinking of us and praying for us on our big day.  The church had hundreds of members and yet he took the time on a Saturday morning to show that we were more than ‘numbers’ to him.

When the day comes that Pastor Martin goes home to glory, it will not be sermons that I remember—it will be acts of service and love seen by few. The Lord bless and keep him at he enters a new decade!

Jim Savastio, Pastor is pastor of Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville, Ky. This article appeared on the Reformed Baptist Fellowship blog.