The language & love of God’s word

Pastor Jim Davis has led his congregation for 15 years at Grace Bible Church of San Marcos. Davis attended the church as an undergraduate student at Texas State University and took over the leadership of the church in 2002. DAILY RECORD PHOTO BY DENISE CATHEY

Editor’s note: This is the eleventh part in a series profiling San Marcos’ diverse religious leaders and what they bring to the community.

Jim Davis is not a John Wayne stand-in, nor is he a tight end for the Green Bay Packers. He just looks as if he might be. Davis is pastor of Grace Bible Church on Country Estates Drive. His soft voice and calm demeanor belie his six feet plus muscular frame.

He was born in Big Spring, Texas and has not lost that West Texas manner of expression — thoughtfully, deliberately and with conviction.

“I graduated from high school there and came to San Marcos to attend Southwest Texas State. And, this church (Grace Bible Church) was my church while in school.

“After graduation from college, I taught for a couple of years in public school.”

“So, what did you teach?”

“I taught music. At Brownwood Junior High, I was the band director. Then I returned to San Marcos for one year as principal of the ACE school in 1979-80.”

Davis’ father had a heart attack in 1980 and that resulted in Davis’ career pattern taking a rather sharp turn. His dad was a contract pumper and so Davis joined him in the oil fields. He was no stranger to the oil field, having worked as a roustabout and other service jobs during summers while in college.

“While working in the oil fields,” Davis said, “I made my rounds in the mornings and then in the afternoons I worked as youth director of Calvary Baptist Church in Colorado City. While here, in school, I taught Bible classes on campus. When my dad retired from the oil fields, I went to Dallas Theological Seminary, a four-year program. In Dallas, I worked primarily with young people. Did that for about 15 years.”

Reviewing Jim Davis’ life story up to this point, led me to comment that in view of his varied experiences, his choice of the ministry as a livelihood was not an immediate and obvious decision.

“Well, I had been ministering for a number of years,” he said, as he recounted his Bible classes, his youth ministry, his work with young people while in Dallas.

“God gave me a heart for young people,” he said. “And, the move from youth ministry to pastoral ministry is a long story. But God gave us the word, it guides my steps all the way and always.

“I remember, while working with the junior high band, seeing the families break down and young people in need. It was early that God gave me that burden.”

At this point, I interrupted Davis to interject that during many of the previous interviews I have conducted, I have heard the word, “Call” used by the interviewee to describe a reason or reasons for entering the ministry. In his case, I heard the word, “burden.”

“Is this the same phenomenon?” I queried.

“I think so,” Davis replied. “God puts this burden on your heart. I believe that the Holy Spirit gifts us in these ways and this burden guides us and gets us there.

“We have the Word as a guide to bring us there. It shows us joy and peace and life and health.”

Davis explained going back to seminary. As he accepted the “burden” that was put upon his heart, he realized that in order to understand God’s word, he needed training and understanding.

“I didn’t want to be espousing things that I think, or that I believe just from my interpretations of God’s Word.”

I suggested he must have been about 30 years old when he chose to go back to seminary. “Close,” was his response.

I then noted his focus on family and family well-being. Davis reiterated that, perhaps that emanates from his strong connection with and concern for young people.

“If we have a strong family, we are likely to have a strong next generation. Yes, God turned my life around on this (Grace) campus. In that day, it was University Bible Church. Tommy Jenkins, who lives in the house, just down the hill, behind the church, founded this church in 1969. Our 50th anniversary is coming up soon.”

Davis volunteered that he was, to some extent, a child of the ‘60s and heard the word, “pot” for the first time. The cultural revolution, the rebellion against authority in general, the general attitude of the country had a profound effect on Davis.

His life has been guided by the teachings of Christ and, it seems, he looks to that for his life’s map and adheres closely to those guidelines for his life’s journey.

Davis relies heavily upon scripture for his authority, for his purpose, for his preaching. “In seminary,” he said, “we learned the language of the Bible – Biblical languages – to better understand and explain the scriptures. We have been given these as the path to follow. It is all right there and it is our burden.

“The authority does not come from me. It is contained in the scripture, so the problem is to always find the prophet or the apostle who wrote the scripture. We need to know what is he communicating, to whom is he communicating, when is he communicating, so we can understand God’s instructions for living. That is what is vital to us, what is critical to us and what our goal is. We need to know the scriptures so that we know what’s true. If we have the faith and the fundamentals, then we have fellowship together.”

“Here in Grace Bible Church, we believe we are family. And, we try to cultivate that feeling among all our members. In addition, we believe our mission is to train all our members to be ministers, according to the scriptures. God’s word tells us the path to take for fellowship and for sharing the faith.

“When I talk about this congregation being family, I see it each Sunday. One of our problems is getting people to leave the sanctuary.”

I raised the question of segregation found in San Marcos churches and asked whether we need to work on changing that situation.

Davis’ replied with a straightforward answer.

“I really don’t know. I certainly do not have a program for that. Our policy is that anyone who comes through the door that believes in the Lord Jesus Christ is welcome and that my love for our people and our people’s love for one another certainly profits from that fact. I do know that anyone who comes through the door will be received, welcomed and loved by this body.”

I pointed out that one answer to that question that I received is that religion is often rooted in culture and that is what accounts for the separation. “Well, there are differences,” Davis replied, “and sometimes the differences are such that there just isn’t a comfortable fit. And, of course, this is not just a racial factor. There are people who come to the Grace Bible Church and they just don’t fit. And, there are a lot of factors that account for that.”

Davis went on to explain that there are many issues and problems with the denominations. And, some simple differences account for a part of that. Some people prefer more formality with the rituals, some prefer certain rituals over others, there are individual personalities with which we have to deal.

“So, what do you want this article to say about you and Grace Bible Church?” I ventured.

“I can only brag on Grace Bible Church,” Davis responded. “Grace Bible Church is made up of a group of really wonderful people that love the Lord. I suppose if there is one thing we would want people to know is that we are a group of people that really love the Lord. This is demonstrated by our faithfulness, dedication, fellowship and love for one another.

“God has to do that. We are so blessed that the people here are given to service. We are so deeply blessed. God has to do that. It can’t be fabricated. You can’t make it up.

“We are going deeper as to what it really means to come to this building and worship God and to give Glory to Jesus Christ.”

I noted that most of our conversation centered around Jesus as Lord, so how does the Old Testament fit in with Davis’ beliefs, teachings, preachings and theology?

“While the New Testament was written well after the Old Testament and the New Testament brought us a new covenant, it is impossible to teach the New Testament without the Old Testament.”

“What is your ‘return’ from being the pastor of Grace Bible Church?”I asked Davis. “I know it isn’t the money.”

“I am so incredibly blessed,” his answer began, “that these people support me. I couldn’t do very many things that I would want to do more. And, the apostle Paul writes that we need to know God’s will and we should increase in the knowledge of God and listen to what he teaches and we should immerse ourselves into who he is.

“He also teaches that we need to feed it to others and so any given Sunday I’ll come in with more than I can package. There is just so much there and it is such a treasure. And, I want to feed it to people, but I have to hone it down.”

At this, I asked, “Do you ever hear complaints about how long your sermons are?”

“Of course,” Davis replied, “and if they only knew how much I’m leaving out, they would be surprised.”

“There is a lot of stress associated with ministry/pastoring. How do you manage it,” I inquired.

“Sometimes, I go in and pound away on my drum set. I still love to play and if I could, I would do it more often. However, I also am reminded that God does not want me taking things on myself that aren’t mine to take. My biggest stress reliever is: ‘God you called me to do this. So, what you would have me to do, you have to do it through me.’”

Jim Davis is an impressive presence and a humble presence. He is a conscientious student of the Bible with an encyclopedic knowledge of it. His quiet demeanor belies a burning desire to bring us all to know Jesus Christ. He is aware that his love of preaching is also one of his most profound faults, an hour with Jim Davis and you will leave pondering your faith, your spirituality and your future.

San Marcos Daily Record

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