I spent eight years of my professional life on staff at the Oklahoma Christian Schools (OCS) High School and administrative offices. A good part of my energy went into building a drama department from scratch, but part of that time was also spent as the lead Freshman sponsor and the Freshman Bible Teacher.
The Bible Department, from an outside view, represented quite a diversity of theological perspectives: I was raised in an independent Christian church context, our Sophomore Bible teacher (David Thomas) was more of the charismatic persuasion having attended ORU for his education, our Junior Bible Teacher (Dan Anthony) was a Church of Christ cowboy, and our Senior Bible Teacher and Department Head (Ted Hough) had his master’s degrees both in Literature and in Divinity. Sometimes it seemed to me that Ted’s perspective was to teach the Word of God with the finesse of only that which a liberal arts major could do. His devotions were pure art.
But today I want to talk about David Thomas, our Sophomore Bible teacher. David went to meet his Maker on the evening of December 4th, 2010 after a decade-long battle with a brain tumor. I loved his spirit and his heart and am dedicating this post to he and his family. I’m going to write only briefly about his personality, his preaching and his prayer. However, I promise you – volumes could be written…along the lines of how John honored Jesus when he said,
25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
David had the personality of someone who was always leaning forward when they walked, leaning toward you when they talked, and thinking forward when he thought about how to expand the Gospel. This forward profile sometimes made people who weren’t ready to “do” uncomfortable. But for those who were ready, his personality made this encounter exciting. Energized. Hopeful. Engaged. And that’s the feeling, I believe, that he provided his students in the classroom, those who attended the churches he pastored over the years, and those who he was teaching to lead Bibically in Third World countries during the latter part of his professional life. David was at the same time child-like, honery, loving and completely accepting of who people were and where they were at in life. He would smile when being chastised for taking a cookie off a tray “too early,” while asking the person who chastised him how they were doing with a genuine desire to know.
I just typed “his preaching” and began to cry. [take five minutes] Okay, I think I can write now. David loved to preach and when watching him do this work, I sometimes imagined it was a little like a really spectacular coach inspiring his team to “the win.” David knew the Bible very well, and he preached about topics he “was led” to bring to his audience. I remember a specific time I was listening to one of his messages in a high school Baccalaureate service. He was talking about Courage, being Bold, and about Daniel. He was working hard on the message, and was building toward a climax of some sort of inspiration. The spotlight was on him, he white shirt shone, he was in a squat position pointing at the seniors and clenching his fist. “Be bold, be strong, be Daniel…be YOU and all you were MADE TO BE!” I was thinking at that moment that David was both the Daniel he was speaking about and David of the Bible – a man after God’s own heart. David’s preaching was Inspiration put into action.
Here in the Midwest, we are a pious people who have to weigh the circumstances of decisions before we act. That’s just the way it is. This holds true for prayer as well. I’ve seen hundreds of people in my life be asked to pray, and hundreds of them “weigh all about what that praying might entail, what they might say, and how they should begin” before they open their mouth. This happens in a split second for some, and a few seconds for others. But not for David. Every time I saw someone ask him to pray, his head immediately bowed and his speech began straight away. I was sometimes amazed at this because he never paused to even get thoughts together, or to “wait for a few seconds upon the Lord.” I guess he knew that the Lord was already there, and he was just starting “out loud” a continuing conversation that had been going on anyway. David’s prayer was immediate, frequent and liberal. And I loved that about him.
David Thomas’ dear family is suffering a loss right now, and it’s really hard to know how to capture any other image in writing on their behalf. However, a former student of OCS shared (and I believe put together) a six minute video highlighting some of what David did in his life. If you have time to watch this work, I think it will bless your life today.
David, however, blessed my life for the rest of mine…and for that I am grateful. Peace out, Pastor David Thomas – I will miss you greatly.