Many receive my daily devotional blog who are not members of Hillsdale Baptist Church; in fact, recipients and readers of my meditations in Proverbs are around the world. I am privileged to have the opportunity of being a part of your lives; however, my priority and passion is obviously directed at the church family I am blessed to pastor these many years.
I am blessed to have had two pastors who were not only mentors, but also models of what it means to shepherd God’s people. Dr. Blaine Farley, founder and longtime pastor of First Baptist Church of Sterling Heights, MI was a wonderful and patient fatherly figure in my early days of ministry. I had the privilege of working with Pastor Farley after Bible college and watched a veteran pastor’s daily life. He was a model of grace when he was not extended grace by others. When Doris, his wife and a perfect model of a pastor’s wife suddenly died, he mourned and pressed on for the Lord [in looking back, I wished someone had said, “Preacher, take time to mourn!”]. Pastor Farley was a great “seminary pastor” for this kid in ministry!
June 21 marks the home going of my second pastor and mentor in the ministry. Dr. Alan Bradshaw, pastor of Hillsdale Baptist Church, Tampa, FL for nearly 30 years was small in stature, but a giant of a man in the pulpit. He was an energetic, “pedal to the metal”, passionate shepherd. Pastor Bradshaw and his wife LuAnn came to Tampa in the mid-60’s and poured their lives into this church membership until his sudden home going June 21, 1995. I was Pastor Bradshaw’s co-laborer for nearly ten years and had a “front row seat” observing a man who carried burdens that many would have found overwhelming. By the grace of God he continued to preach and pastor while bearing the sorrow of a daughter with terminal cancer and the loving concern for a wife who was also battling cancer at the time. Mrs. Bradshaw continues to play the piano at Hillsdale today, as she has for the past 50 years! What a testimony of God’s grace and her heart for serving the Lord!
I was blessed to have, not one, but two men who were my spiritual shepherds. They showed grace, when little grace was shown to them. They exercised patience, when the sheep complained. They loved, when treated unloving. They forgave the beam in another’s eye, while the sheep were busy pointing out a speck in theirs. I can only aspire to be such a shepherd.
With the heart of a shepherd,
Pastor Travis D. Smith