D.L. Lowrie, retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Lubbock, mentored many ministry students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary when he was the pastor of North Fort Worth Baptist Church. From deep in the heart of one Texan, he shares his background and thoughts on church and ministry. To suggest a Baptist General Convention of Texas-affiliated minister to be featured in this column, or to apply to be featured yourself, click here.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Sullivan County, Tenn., in a rural mountain community called Chinquapin Grove. It is near Bluff City, Tenn., where I went to high school.
How did you come to faith in Christ?
My parents were devoted Christians. My mother was saved in a movement of God in the church out of a non-Christian home when she was 16. She married my dad when she was 17 and became my mother when she was 18.
The influence of the movement of God impacted that community through my teen years. My mother led me to Christ when I was 9. The church and our home forever made a difference.
Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
I attended Carson-Newman College for one year and made my commitment to preaching as a freshman.
I graduated from East Tennessee State College—now University—with a Bachelor of Science degree.
I graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with a degree in divinity.
I received two honorary doctorates: a Doctor of Divinity from Dallas Baptist University and a Doctor of Humanities from Belmont University.
What is your current place of ministry?
Because of some heart issues, I retired at age 66 from First Baptist Church in Lubbock. We have chosen to continue to live in Lubbock.
In retirement, I have taught briefly in two seminaries—part-time at Fruitland Baptist Bible College in North Carolina and the Hungarian Baptist Seminary in Oradea, Romania.
I continue to lead revivals, Bible conferences, retreats, senior adult events and anything else I am asked to do that will honor the Lord.
Where else have you served in ministry, and what were your positions there?
In my 65 years of ministry, I have served seven congregations as pastor.
During college, I served Biltmore Baptist Church in Elizabethton, Tenn.
During seminary, I served Oakridge Baptist Church in Weatherford.
Then I served First Baptist Church in Lorenzo, Calvary Baptist Church in Lubbock, North Fort Worth Baptist Church, First Baptist Church in Texarkana and twice at First Baptist Church in Lubbock.
I worked for the Baptist General Convention of Texas as the director of the State Missions Commission and then as the executive director and treasurer of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
About ministry life
Why do you feel called into ministry?
As a high school senior, I was seeking God’s direction in my life. There developed a desire in my heart to become a pastor. By the time I arrived at college, this desire had become a conviction that this was God’s will for my life. After 66 years, that conviction has never left me. This is why I was born.
What is your favorite aspect of ministry? Why?
Preaching and teaching of God’s word. As a college student, I was taught by a great Southern Baptist leader—Dr. J.B. Lawrence—about the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church and the believer. When the Spirit began to open the Scriptures to my understanding, sharing God’s word has been my greatest joy. And still is.
What one aspect of ministry gives you the greatest joy?
The greatest joy always has been personally to lead someone to a faith-commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior. That has given me the motivation to do the administrative and routine works of the ministry.
How has your ministry or your perspective on ministry changed?
Since I began as a pastor at age 18 with very little knowledge, I have been learning ever since. None of the basics have changed for me, but I do them today with a lot more understanding and joy.
I learned so much just by observing those who were doing the work well. They taught me more by example than by precept.
How do you expect ministry to change in the next 10 to 20 years?
Hopefully, we will move back to the basics set forth in Scripture. For most of a generation, we have been too enamored with business models, and not enough by biblical models.
The secret for success in ministry has not changed and will not change. The Scriptures and the Spirit are our primary resource. They will never lose their power. The favor of God upon the pastor and church spells success.
Name the three most significant challenges and/or influences facing your ministry.
At this point, I face only one challenge. It is the challenge to finish well. From what we know about the apostles, like our Lord, they finished well. I am not far from the finish line at 84, but I have known friends who stumbled on the last lap. I am keenly aware of my weaknesses and vulnerability.
What do you wish more laypeople knew about ministry or, specifically, your ministry?
I wish they knew more about who they are in Christ. I wish they knew more about how much difference they can make in the church. They are servants, members of the body of Christ, gifted by the Spirit and priests before God just like me. They share accountability with me to the Lord above.
Why are you Baptist?
The easy answer to this question is the Baptist church was the only church in our community. It was miles to another church of any kind. Since, in my younger years, our family did not have a car, we could walk to the church. But my mature years have brought to me convictions that match those of the Baptist Faith and Message. I am proud to be a Baptist but do not believe we have a corner on the gospel.
What are the key issues facing Baptists—denominationally and/or congregationally?
How to maintain the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Living with the freedom and autonomy our denomination gives us requires more spiritual maturity and love than we tend to have.
We are having more difficulty living the gospel than we are preaching it. We have some ground to regain that has been lost in our struggles. Our brand has been hurt, especially among the younger generation, but not so much that it could not be regained by a sweeping revival in the churches.
What would you change about the Baptist denomination—state, nation or local?
I pray we will develop more appreciation for our diversity. I am not referring to diversity in doctrine, but diversity in how we do church.
It is my experience with Baptist that if they will sit down together, talk and pray together, they have a lot in common, especially if they start with unities Paul developed in Ephesians 4.
In spite of our shortcomings, we are still about the best God has.
Who were your mentors, and how did they influence you?
The pastors of my childhood and youth were not trained men, but good men. My wife’s childhood pastor helped me, and in later years, men like T.A. Patterson, James Landes, C. Wade Freeman, Bill Pinson, Carlos McLeod, Bailey Stone and Curtis Vaughn encouraged me. Some of them believed in me when I did not believe in myself.
What did you learn on the job you wish you learned in seminary?
My studies in pastoral ministry were not practical enough. They laid a good theological foundation for the work, but I was not prepared for the nitty-gritty of the administration of the church.
I had never been to a church staff meeting until I conducted my first one. I had no idea what a church secretary was supposed to do. How does a pastor relate to staff members? How does he lead? Thankfully, they knew more than the pastor, and we made it.
What is the impact of ministry on your family?
Alice and I have enjoyed 61 good years together. Being a pastor’s wife has been her calling and joy. Three of our sons serve as pastors of Texas Baptist churches. Our layman son has served as a deacon. We have several grandchildren involved in ministry. We are better for having served the Lord together.
What contribution has your wife made to your work?
First, her praying mother prayed us through many hard places.
Second, she covered for me in so many ways, especially when our children were younger.
Third, she always has been content on a pastor’s salary and made our home an inviting place.
Other than the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors, and explain why.
As a young man, the writing of Dr. G. Campbell Morgan of London opened the Scriptures to me, as did his successor Dr. Martyn-Lloyd Jones. I have been blessed by the writings of Spurgeon, the Puritans and many good scholarly men who have written commentaries.
The exegetical study of the Bible has been the constant discipline in my life, up to this very day.
What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?
Philippians 1:21 has been my life verse. Christ is everything!
Who is your favorite Bible character, other than Jesus? Why?
The Apostle Paul has been my favorite. He was a giant for our faith when the movement needed a giant. I desire to be like him, always pressing toward the mark of the high calling.
Name something about you that would surprise people who know you.
They would be surprised to learn of my humble, poor beginnings. When I decided to go to Carson-Newman College, my dad helped me borrow the money from an uncle, who was a farmer, to make the first payment to get into the school—$150. My dad had two white dress shirts, and he gave me one of them so I could dress up when I needed to.
God has been good to the Lowrie boy. By the way, I finished that first year with the bills paid and money in the bank.
If you could get one “do over” in ministry, what would it be, and why?
I would study harder and pray more.