Wednesday, November 14, 2001

Hats off to Brother Jack

Religion Columnist

The Reverend Jack Overton has been shepherding in Fayette County for 40 years. Imagine that! This past weekend Fayetteville First Baptist Church honored Brother Jack (as most know him) for his faithful tenure first as pastor the First Baptist Church and then as pastor emeritus. Just think, Brother Jack began serving in Fayette before John Kennedy was assassinated.

Brother Jack has served as a good shepherd. No member of his flock ever had to doubt if Brother Jack would be there in times of need, including death, sickness, or personal crisis. Often times, Brother Jack would be at his member's home before emergency services could arrive. It was not because he has any sort of obsession to be needed, but he possesses a genuine shepherding heart. He cares for people, rich or poor.

Today, the church's pastor has taken on a corporate CEO air. It seems that budgets, personnel issues, buildings, and long range planning consume the time and energy of many pastors. But not Brother Jack. He has never pretended to be a corporate executive (although he led First Baptist Church to become one of Fayette County's largest organizations). He has demonstrated, however, the consistent compassion so many people long for today. Just somebody to care for them.

Ministry has its share of burning bridges. Members leave churches and burn their bridges behind them. Ministers do the same. Brother Jack, however, has always sought to fortify bridges rather than blow them apart. If I have heard it once, I have heard it a hundred times, "Everybody loves Brother Jack." The reason for that is this: Brother Jack exemplifies the unconditional love of his master, the Lord Jesus Christ. Brother Jack probably has never done anything knowingly to harm another person. Wow!

When we ministers look out and scope out our peers, we have the tendency to pigeonhole ministers. He's a good shepherd of his flock. Or, he's a good preacher. Or, he's a good administrator. Or, he's a good entertainer.

Brother Jack embraced both the heart of a good shepherd and the head of an able expositor of God's Word. I have sat and listened to Brother Jack on several occasions, always coming away refreshed with his insights into scripture. For the years in the pulpit, the members of the First Baptist Church received some of the best theology and preaching available in these parts. Many big name preachers today pale in comparison with Brother Jack's grasp of profound truths in God's Word. And that's a fact, Jack!

So, on behalf of my fellow ministers, we congratulate Jack Overton on four decades of faithful ministry. Any of us would be so blessed to achieve the same. Bridges intact and all!

The Rev. Dr. John Hatcher is pastor of River's Edge

Community Church in Fayetteville.

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