A Tribute To A True Trailblazer

On this past Thursday, I received a phone call from a young man who gave some sad news.
He called to tell me that Bishop R. F. Davis had passed.
Few people who will read this column today, especially in the African American community, will not know the name of Bishop R. F. Davis.
Barring none, he was, in the estimation of many, the most iconic and prominent preachers in the entire Pee Dee Region and beyond.
His impact and influence was far-reaching across much of this nation and abroad.
If truth be told, many who have become renowned as founders of churches and entire religious organizations can trace their foundation either directly or indirectly back to this astute teacher and father in the faith.
As the founder of many churches and the Greater Highway Churches of Christ, Inc., Bishop R. F. Davis was both an innovator and pioneer in the Apostolic and Pentecostal segment of the Christian faith.
At a time when many other Protestant groups were leery, critical, and reluctant to accept adherents of the Apostolic and Pentecostal branch as true believers and followers of Christ, Bishop Davis’ dynamic teaching and uncompromising stand on the authority and inerrancy of the Scriptures, as well as the exclusivity of Christ, caused many to reconsider their biased and unbiblical disdain and opposition to we who were of the Apostolic and Pentecostal faith.
My tribute to Bishop R. F. Davis is also a personal attempt to give honor to a man who was such an important and integral part of my religious foundation and upbringing.
Had there not been a Bishop R. F. Davis, it is doubtful that people like myself, Bishop Michael Blue, Pastor Earl Goings, and numerous others, who are presently making an impact as Christian leaders in our locale, nation, and abroad, would have received the training, exposure, and interaction with other accomplished preachers, would not be where we are today.
Perhaps one of the most important things that Bishop Davis, who baptized me when I was in the third grade, taught me was to be a stickler for the Word of God. He taught me that the Word of God was the supreme authority that every belief, doctrine, practice, and issue of life must be tried.
This was so instilled in me, when he served as my Bishop and pastor for many years that I endeavor to do likewise for those who look to me as a pastor and Bishop.
Like him, I am emphatic and non-apologetic about the absolute authority and supremacy of the Bible being the means and source whereby every issue of life must be tried.
In other words, if what one believes and practices does not agree with what the Bible has to say about the subject, then it is wrong.
One of the things I admired and sought to glean from Bishop Davis was his leadership ability and skill. He was a man who was born to lead and had a charismatic and persuasive personality. His demeanor and persona captured and conveyed to many a living portrait of how a Bishop should look and conduct himself, especially in the public and at church.
His was the style that many tried to imitate, but few were able to duplicate his ability to cultivate loyalty and a sense of pride in those who belonged to one of his four churches, as well as to the Greater Highway Churches of Christ, Inc. of which he was the general chairman and prelate.
Another great quality that Bishop Davis possessed was his organizational and entrepreneurial wit and foresight. He was a man with a keen mind and was not afraid to take a chance in order to achieve or accomplish a business endeavor. To the best of my knowledge, he was the first African-American in the Pee Dee region to own and operate a radio station – WJAY.
I am going to conclude this tribute to Bishop R. F. Davis by citing two of the most important things he taught me besides the things we have already considered.
First, I learned a lesson about dealing with church folk from him many years ago that has proven to be very prudent and even prophetic. I heard him say more than a few times that if you get people to commit their financial support to their local churches, they will eventually be good and faithful members. I have observed this to be the case with most people that I have pastored for thirty-five years.
Finally, one of his prudent and proverbial sayings was this: “The best investment on Earth is Earth itself.” I literally interpreted that to mean that there is no better way to invest your money for increase with little risk than to invest in real estate and land.
I have endeavored to follow his counsel over the years and have reaped the returns and reward for heeding this wise sage.
It is highly unlikely that we will see the likes of Bishop R. F. Davis again. A man of his caliber only shows up once in a lifetime. He was a true trailblazer, who left a rich legacy for his family, his churches, and all of us who knew him and were influenced and impacted by the grace of God that used him profoundly with longevity.
I thank God for giving us the grace gift of Bishop R. F. Davis, who served his generation with distinction and excellence for many decades. And who has now entered into eternal bliss and rest. May we, who were the recipients of his labor of love, prove worthy of what the Lord gave and left us through him.