One Sunday in 1982, I sat in church listening to the minister share the gospel of Jesus Christ. I was so enthralled as he spoke that I got up out of my seat, walked the aisle and stood in front of him as he preached.
He stopped and stooped down from his elevated platform to ask me what was in my heart. I told him I wanted to receive Jesus into my heart. He had me sit down on the front row and wait for the invitation.
That day, I began to follow Jesus. I also saw my pastor, Dr. L.F. Chaney, for the first time. From that day until now, I have not stopped following Jesus.
My pastor discipled me first. Then others like H.I. Grimble, J.L. Hardeman, Lourie Penny and Ether Marie Williams discipled me. They all were permanent fixtures on the national stage as Bible teachers.
My pastor checked on me, prayed for me, encouraged me. When I was in college, he paid my tuition on more than one occasion. We had a deeper relationship than I had with my own father.
Within four years, I announced my call into the ministry. My pastor laughed as he told me he had been waiting, because he sensed God would use me for kingdom work.
He was a poet of a preacher. Mixing word with performance, he captivated the congregation week after week. His interesting pairing of the benefit of academia and the rural, folksy mannerisms he brought from his Central Texas upbringing was enough to lure listeners in to hear what Dr. Chaney had to say about Jesus. He was gifted especially at preaching from the books of Hebrew poetry.
What I learned from my pastor
I have an affinity for learning because of his example. I desire to work at a Bible college at some point.
I was so impressed with his ability to communicate, that I gave myself to the study of words. I even did my doctoral research on rhetorical strategies and emotive language in Black preaching. He was the first to foster in me an appreciation of the orality of our cultural expression of the word of God. I could never repay him for that.
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His ability to love people who sometimes were unlovable made a bigger impact on my life than his preaching. I am confident, if not for his Christlike example, I would be far more militant in my approach to dealing with the challenges of our day.
He demonstrated to us love is far more powerful than hate. Whether it was discord within the fellowship or racial tensions in the community, Dr. Chaney always was found on the side of those ready to love and quick to reconcile.
He had an anointed patience about him that held long enough for things to work out for everyone’s good. He was the cooler head that always prevailed. I loved that man and looked to emulate him as a teenage preacher.
He made youth ministry a priority and took us with him all over the country. He stood up to church leadership, because they initially could not understand the urgency of exposing kids from modest homes to what is possible beyond the confines of their poverty.
He was a visionary who thought generationally and even globally when he thought about the capacity of young people. I was able to see parts of the United States I might not have seen had it not been for his able leadership. There are so many others who have him to thank for their early exposure to the larger world around them.
Dr. L.F. Chaney
Dr. L.F. Chaney died at age 97, with 74 years of pastoral experience. Before he died, he pastored 11 churches, was a principal in the Waco Independent School District, was an algebra instructor at two colleges in Houston, and had countless television and radio appearances to his credit.
He was a family man. He and his only wife, who preceded him in death, were married 56 years.
He had an eye for business and was an entrepreneur. For years, he was the only African American pastor in Houston with a Ph.D. In fact, he was the only one with a terminal degree in any field. He was a giant of his era.
Dr. Ronald Session is senior pastor of Shiloh Church in Garland. The views expressed are those solely of the author. The author provided the photo of Dr. L.F. Chaney.