Today, I spoke at the funeral of a dear friend and mentor, Jim Wells. Jim was my Director of Missions (a pastor to pastors) for 10 years. He was also an icon in the Southern Baptist Convention, serving as recording secretary for 15 years. Below is the text of my remarks. I post it in honor of Jim:
I’ve been asked to speak to Jim’s life/ministry as it pertains to him being a friend to pastors. I’m honored to do so because I know all across this room are men of God serving in local churches whose lives Jim touched deeply. I am but one of many. And so I speak for all of us pastors collectively, when I tell you that Jim was always there for us. He was never too busy for his pastors. He was always there to pray with us in our hour of need. To listen to us when we needed to talk. To encourage us when we were disheartened. To love us. As one pastor said, “He loved us and spent time with us. You knew he really cared about you.” Jim truly was a pastor to pastors. And I’m confident I speak for all of us pastors when I say there’s no way we could ever repay all he did for us.
The first time I met Jim I was 24 years old, seeking a church to pastor (hopefully in Tri-County). And Jim was so kind and so gracious. And I could tell he was a little hesitant because of my youth. No doubt rightfully so. And we joked about that later. But that first day I met him, he prayed with me and encouraged me. Little did I know at the time, that would be the start of a wonderful friendship. And more than a friendship. Jim was a father in the faith to me, as he was to so many. That was the first time I ever talked with Jim. The last time I ever talked with Jim was in his hospital room. And he was so weary and so tired from the battle he bravely fought. I prayed for him. I told him that I loved him. And before I could get out of the room, he grabbed my hand and he said “Now let me pray for you.” And lying there, laboring to breath, Jim prayed a very special blessing over me, over my family, over my ministry. I will always cherish that moment. But I share that with you, because it perfectly encapsulates who he was. Always thinking of others, always serving others, always loving his pastors, even to the very end.
There are many other things I could say about Jim. That he was a statesman, a peacemaker, a man who walked humbly with God, a man of prayer. That we need more men like him. All of these things are true. But even over and above all these things, at the end of the day, we pastors most highly regard him as “friend.” We will miss him. And yet with Paul we say:
“O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?... Thanks be to God who gives us the victory over death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Thanks be to God who has given Jim Wells the victory over death through his Lord, Jesus Christ.