I found out this evening that the father of a friend died yesterday afternoon. It was not unexpected. He had been under hospice care.
The news of Dr. Ralph Lightsey’s passing brought two memories to my mind. The first was hearing him preach in the church I attended and would later serve as associate pastor. I have always been an “educated” listener of sermons and preachers. I love the process of preparing to preach. I enjoy the act of preaching. But, when I am not the one given this task, I am amazed and overjoyed to sit under good preaching. Now let me clarify what I mean by good preaching. Good preaching does not have to be loud, long, perfectly crafted sermons. Good preaching is when I as a listener am convinced that the preacher is so convinced, convicted and constrained by their love of Jesus that I can’t help but go where there are taking me. Dr. Ralph was a good preacher. I don’t remember the subject or text, but I remember that I wanted more of what he had as a servant of God. There was just a clarity to the way he preached. You had to work at misunderstanding him.
I have excerpted a couple of facts about Dr. Lightsey’s life from his obituary that are just mind blowing to me.
Dr. Ralph Lightsey, a minster of 72 years, age 93, died on Sunday, September 2, 2012 at the Ogeechee Area Hospice Inpatient Facility. Born in Appling County in 1918, he moved to Statesboro in 1965, where he lived until his death. … After serving as an active pastor for more than 52 years, he served as a supply speaker at more than 50 churches in Bulloch and surrounding counties. In addition, he was an educator. He served 16 years as Professor of Educational Research at Georgia Southern University and as an assistant to the Vice President. Upon his retirement, the Board of Regents conferred on him the title of Professor Emeritus of Educational Research. … Surviving are his wife of 67 years, [Mrs.] Wavine… [Source]
I share this with you because of the second memory that I have of Dr. Lightsey. It relates something that he did for me as I was leaving that church I was serving. He had on several occasions commended me on my preaching. I was a young man, new in ministry and to hear such kind words from a man I respected and admired was not easy. (I still have a hard time taking a compliment about my preaching!) As I was preparing to go, Dr. Lightsey gave me two gifts. One was a book on preaching and the second was a pen and pencil set that you have on your desk. I still have both. The pen and pencil set no longer works and the book is still in my ever growing library. I keep them because of who gave them to me. They are precious gifts reminders of his concern for me as I developed in ministry.
I never made the time to thank Dr. Lightsey for his words and prayers. I am sad that I will never get to say how much it meant to me for him to take time and offer words of wisdom and encouragement. I do find hope in the fact that we shared a mutual faith in our Savior Jesus and that I will see him again.
I am so thankful for the way that he stirred the gifts that were within me. I will never forget.