Compassion invigorates church, moves Dover pastor
    October 19 2010 by Norman Jameson
, BR Editor

    Don Davis’ doctoral thesis could read like his diary.

    Davis, pastor for 12 years of Dover Baptist Church near Seagrove, is massaging his thesis into a book, to be published next spring, that will reflect his passion: “The Demise of Compassion: a casualty of the changing culture.”

    Compassion flows through Davis’ veins and seasons his ministry with a flavor of love that is growing a church in numbers and in fellowship in ways it has not experienced in a generation.

    Davis was nominated for recognition by his church because of his compassion as their pastor. Compassion is not a passive emotion says Davis, 61. It is proactive and costly.

    Self-centeredness is replacing compassion as culture invades the church, he says. Instead of demonstrating the selflessness Jesus encouraged by doing good unto “the least of these,” neighbors are more likely to say “I hope he had insurance,” when tragedy strikes, Davis argues in his thesis submitted for his doctor of ministry degree from Liberty University Seminary.  

    Demonstrating compassion
    Davis gives each newborn the child’s first toy bear. After church each Sunday he gives to a child the flower his wife, Frankie, puts on his lapel before church.

    Every Christmas he and Frankie purchase a gift for each child, with some extras to cover any visitors on distribution night. Church secretary Denise Greene roams the room to find visitors, and then writes their names on a gift so their name is called – much to their surprise and delight.

    Why does the pastor extend himself this way? He says it is to thank his church family for letting him into their lives to share such intimate moments. “I appreciate this church letting me love them,” he says. “They allow me to be a part of their lives, to infiltrate and experience their joys along with their hurts. That’s what ministry is, laughing in their joys, crying when they’re hurting. It’s compassion.”

    Davis encourages pastors to love people, minister to them, fill their needs, and “Christ will fill the pews.”

    BR photo by Norman Jameson

    Don Davis, pastor of Dover Baptist Church, enjoys two particular hobbies, including woodworking and painting. This golf cart and wagon holds candy that church children find. The portrait is of good friend Terry Rouse who died in 2007.


    Dover, a rural church with 400 resident members, gives 20 percent of its income to missions, including 10 percent through the Cooperative Program, and baptized 43 in the past two years. Yet no houses are visible from the church. Dover is growing in numbers and spirit because the church has “reclaimed compassion” in its body, Davis says. He said the church needs to reclaim the compassion that will respond to neighbors “who don’t have heat, don’t have electricity, don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”

    Like others who trace society’s ills to the breakdown of the home, Davis goes a step further and says “when the home began to break down, the church didn’t rally to the home by being compassionate.”

    Tucked into an office crowded with sagging bookshelves and ringed by chairs, Davis relates several incidents that contribute to his conviction that compassion marks a path for Christians.

    His father died when Davis was 15; his mother died a year later. He admits being angry with God, but feels that God used his pain to give him compassion. “All the clichés don’t mean a thing,” Davis said about ministering to those who are hurting. “They just need to know you care.”  

    Help them struggle
    He cautions parents and youth ministers not to “insulate our children” from pain because doing so “deprives them of the struggles we’ve gone through as adults. The butterfly gets its beauty and ability to fly because of its struggle to get out of the cocoon. It’s the struggle that makes us.”

    Davis is a Marine veteran and a licensed electrician. He took most of his theological training through seminary extension courses that enabled him to continue working while learning. Dealing with tremendous debt from Frankie’s three heart surgeries and three operations for his son, God placed Davis in a church in Winston-Salem at just the right time to learn about and to take advantage of ministries North Carolina Baptist Hospital offers to pastors.

    During his ministry he sometimes had Saturday nights of study after a 59-hour work week as an electrician when he would ask Frankie, his wife of 41 years, to wake him after a desperate 10-minute nap.

    “That’s where the basis of compassion is,” Davis says, without feeling sorry for himself or asking anyone to feel sorry for him. “I know God will see you through the tough times. Nothing is too hard for Him. He’ll strengthen you when you’re down. He’ll encourage you.  I’ve lived on $5 a week and that’s to buy gas to go visiting with and everything.”

    He recalls a lesson from a retired evangelist who visited prospects with him one day. When Davis declined the man’s offer of $20, “He pointed his finger in my face and said, ‘Don’t you ever refuse anything. You’re not going to cheat me out of the blessing of giving,’” Davis said.

    Davis has been pastor also of Antioch Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, Fairview in Albemarle, Laurel Hill in Troy, Taylor Memorial in Gastonia and the former Rosewood Lane in Gastonia that grew from 15 to 59 in his initial pastorate, but disbanded later. He is a native of Glen Alpine, five miles west of Morganton.

    He walked away from ministry in 1984, saying he “would not be abused like that again.” But God broke his heart and the day after Davis asked God to open another door to ministry, a pulpit committee called, “and the journey began all over again.”  

    Special hobbies
    Two special hobbies both help him to relax and expand his ministry. He uses his love of painting and of woodworking in demonstration classes open to the community.

    While many pastors keep a box of tissues handy on their desks to offer a crying counselee, Davis uses a handful himself when he shares about special people in his life to whom he showed compassion.

    They vary from a man with disabilities who made himself useful around the church when others pushed him aside, to a man who asked for and received Davis’ last dollar, to an 18-year-old girl who had been visiting faithfully who was killed in a car accident.

    Although she was not a member, Davis’ ministered to her family while a deacon filled in for Wednesday night services.

    “The people have let me pastor,” Davis says. “That has been the key. They let me do what I do best. I’ve reached into their homes, reached into their lives, and by doing that I really believe they believe I have their best interests and the best interests of the church at heart. “We’ve started an incredible journey together. It’s not my journey, it’s our journey. God is moving, don’t get in His way.”  

    EDITOR’S NOTE — To recognize pastor appreciation month in October, the Biblical Recorder solicited nominations for a pastor to be featured in a story in the Recorder. Staff sifted through nominations and chose Don Davis, pastor of Dover Baptist Church for the past 12 years on the strength of the submission by Rhonda Peters. After listing many ways Davis pours himself into his congregation, Peters nominated her pastor on the basis of “his heart of love and compassion that shines forth in every facet of his ministry.” 
    10/19/2010 4:13:00 AM by Norman Jameson
, BR Editor | with 1 comments




Comments
Gene Scarborough
This is one of the most uplifting stories I have read in years about a pastor. It is a classic case study in why Jesus sought working people over theologins to "follow me."

The stories we usually read are of some mega church pastor bringing in throngs and building some monster building and facilities as opposed to this simple caring pastor in a small church in the hinterlands of NC (Seagrove is about a "hinter" as it gets). Think about this kind of "servant spirit" as opposed to the latest selections for 2 SBC major positions. We used to have missionaries just like him as well.

We grew significantly when this kind of chuch and pastor were full participants in state and national conventions. Now that "all is mega"---no church wants to start a new Mission church with hands off and people NOT counted in mega statistics of the mother church.

[b]Thanks Norman for this worthy project and such an inspiring report!!!![/b]
10/20/2010 7:32:51 AM

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