Mike Cope's blog

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

As I near the graduation of Son One from ACU, I'm thinking back to my own four years of college. Recently I wrote about how influential Jim Woodroof and Terry Smith were in my life. But there were others . . . . Jerry Jones. The man who taught me my earliest lessons about preaching. (I don't blame him for my excesses!) But beyond that, the man who filled me with a passion for preaching. And even beyond that, the man who drew me into his life. It wasn't always serious stuff. Often it was playing ping-pong. Or jogging 5 miles at night. But he wove a love of Christ into all of that fun. He never could figure out why I wore my hair on my shoulders, but he'd joke about it and move on. One of my most vivid memories of my years at Harding was the night the two of us stood in his front yard and prayed after jogging. He prayed for my life of ministry and for my upcoming wedding. It's a quarter of a century later, and I still remember that prayer. And there was Neale Pryor. One of the best teachers I've ever had in my life. He was funny, kind, and full of knowledge. Sitting in his Hebrew prophets class (and several others) was a joy. I remember waking up in the mornings excited to know that I'd be going. I still can't open up Amos or Micah without hearing his voice. (Several years later when I was preaching at the College Church, he and Treva drew Matt into their lives -- so he blessed me once again!) And there was Cliff Ganus. What a Christian college president should be. He never looked past people. He knew the name of everyone who worked for him at the university and cared about each one of them. While he couldn't name every student, it was still evident that he loved every last one. Powerful preacher. Insightful historian. Amazing athlete. (One of my favorite memories of Dr. Ganus -- sorry, still can't call him "Cliff" even after being his preacher for seven years! -- was in the summer of 2000. We went to live in Uganda for a month following Matt's graduation. Turned out Dr. Ganus, now Harding's Chancellor, was there for about the same length of time. One day when Diane and I were going out to a village without the boys, Dr. Ganus sat down at the Source cafe with Matt for a couple hours, telling stories, asking about his life, and encouraging him. Maybe that will one day prove to be the most significant part of that whole trip! Tom Eddins. He was the young guy on the Bible faculty when I was there. His dry wit and his cynicism -- to say nothing of his brilliance! -- drew me in. Little did I know at the time that he'd become one of my closest friends during the College Church years, 1984-91. (And speaking of dry wit, there was Bob Helstein, my wonderful German teacher.) Jack McKinney was my Greek teacher. I had seven years of Greek (counting graduate school), and Jack is the one who launched me on that journey. Whether it was sailing through Johannine material or plowing through Blass/Debrunner/Funk, he helped me fall in love with the study of scripture in the original language. And, of course, Jimmy Allen. He took me verse-by-verse through Romans and Corinthians. And his fervor for being God's man made an impression that went way beyond those semester classes. An amazing man, really. Someone said he's the Billy Graham of the Church of Christ. I don't know about that. But I know this: he could take the ball to the hoop (and you didn't want to wait on him to call a foul!) and he could convict of sin and he could encourage young preachers. There were other men and women, of course. But these are some of the men who helped shape my life from 1974-78. How about you? Who are the people who helped mold you?

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