Life is a journey from cradle to the grave. Even that period of time is a “vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14) This article is more personal than others but may be of interest to readers of my other articles. It also gives me an opportunity to establish my testimony of faith in Jesus Christ, and set forth the factors and experiences that molded me. My earthly journey is nearly over but there is more. I am awaiting that call from my creator, saviour and redeemer to come home.
The Early years
I was born on December 14, 1924 in the family homestead in a rural community known as Litchfield, Pa. I was one of ten children, all born and raised in that same house except one sister, who because of weather conditions, was born in a house at Waverly, N.Y. We were “dirt poor” but a happy family. My father was a student studying for the ministry at Practical Bible Training School (now Davis College) in Binghamton, N.Y. He graduated second in his class. At that time he had four children. It was 1928 and no church wanted to take on the support of a large family. It was a deep disappointment to him. Later he was employed by IBM in Endicott, N.Y., and our living conditions began to improve. During the Great Depression we lived on potatoes, cornbread and the meat and produce that we could preserve from the small farm.
The only church in the community was a Methodist Church where our family attended regularly. Our parents encouraged us in Bible reading and both offered their encouragement and counsel in spiritual things. As a teen-ager I labored under the impression that salvation was acquired by “doing the best you can” and keeping the ten commandments. My sister inquired of my mother whether this was true. She answered no, it was not true but that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) I saw that I was on the wrong track and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. From that experience onward I felt compelled to preach the Gospel. Before that time my only plans were to be a farmer. I had taken four years in Agriculture courses in high school and refused to take part in public speaking assignments in English class. I took a zero instead. In that same period a brother and three sisters came to know the Lord and we began attending the Calvary Baptist Church in Athens, Pa. Here we were baptized and I was later licensed to preach. Five of our family were baptized at one time in the Chemung River. I was conscious that the Baptismal Committee was going to require a testimony before we went down into the water. Being averse to public speaking I gave as my testimony words from a favorite hymn: “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name.”
Since I knew I was called to preach I realized that I needed some training. First, I enrolled in the school my father recommended which was only thirty miles away in Johnson City, N.Y. At that time it was a Bible School named Baptist Bible Seminary. Now it is Baptist Bible College and Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pa. I did not receive a degree. When I finished my course of study there, I realized how little I knew and enrolled in Wheaton College, Wheaton, Ill. Many of my credits were transferred there and some later to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. At Wheaton I earned the B.A. degree in Bible. While in Wheaton I met Martha Craven and we fell in love. I married my college sweetheart and she has been my only wife for over 61 years.
I still yearned for more theological training. While pastoring a small Baptist church in Des Plaines, Illinois, I was a bi-vocational pastor working in Chicago for Aladdin Industries first and then Pass and Seymour. While at the East Maine Baptist Church, Des Plaines, Ill. I was encouraged by some Southern Baptist pastors to attend Baylor University. Since it was an outstanding Baptist college, I took a leave of absence from the small church and we packed up and went to Texas. At Baylor I earned the M.A. degree in Religion. My brother-in-law, Lewis Maple, assumed the pastoral duties while we were away. While at Baylor we took advantage of acquainting ourselves with Southern Baptist Life. Since I shared doctrinal beliefs with them, and was impressed with their emphasis on starting churches (now called church planting) and home missions, I felt a strong desire to work within their fellowship. We became friends with Dr. C. D. Cole and he sponsored our ministry in Kentucky. Dr. Cole was the best theological instructor which I have ever had even though I did not study under him formally. I am honored that he considered me as one of his “Timothys.”
While pastoring the Willisburg Baptist Church, Willisburg, Ky. I commuted to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lousville, Ky., where I earned the B.D. degree. It was later changed to the Master of Divinity degree by the school since it was not a Bachelor degree but an advanced degree. While pastoring the First Baptist Church of Dunedin, Florida, I had the opportunity to earn the Doctor of Ministry degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary through a satellite program in Tampa.
I am not a product of any one of these schools. They have each made their contribution for which I am grateful. Studying in the Midwest, the Southwest, the deep South, as well as my home area has enriched our lives and experiences. I felt that the pastoral ministry required taking advantage of educational opportunities. But my spiritual and biblical convictions have come from a personal pursuit of truth.
My theological convictions have always been in the conservative mold. No teachings from different institutions have been able to change that. I am a Calvinist Baptist. That has not been a problem for me. Through a lifetime of study I have wrestled prayerfully with two other areas of Christian thought. They are the nature of the church, and the nature of the millennium. Fortunately my professors at Baylor University and New Orleans Baptist Seminary were helpful, somewhat skeptical, but gratefully permissive so that I could deal with issues that concerned me. In Baylor I dealt with the issue of the nature of the church in my Master’s thesis: “A Critique of the Universal Church Theory.” During my work in Pastoral Ministry for the Doctor of Ministry project, my approved project was: “The Development, Presentation, and Evaluation of a Series of Sermons on the book of Revelation.” This project was done in the pulpit of First Baptist Church, Dunedin, Florida. Since I do not share the popular dispensational views, it was a project that probably could not have been accomplished under any other circumstances than the umbrella of my Doctoral project.
I have alluded to some of my pastorates. I thank God for the calling as Pastor and for letting me be a pastor for over forty years even though some have been more stressful and even contentious than others. I used to have a lapel button that declared “Happiness is being a Pastor.” The Kentucky churches especially had a love of doctrine and were unashamedly Baptist. Besides short interims at Charleston and Morton’s Gap, Ky., I pastored at West End Baptist Church in Paducah, Ky., where our two children were born, and at Willisburg, Ky. I believe one of my spiritual gifts is administration. It seems that God placed me in difficult situations where there was a need and hunger for expansion. I was glad to be a part of building programs at Desplaines, Ill., West End Baptist Church in Paducah and Willisburg Baptist Church.
In Florida, we were called to the Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church in Daytona Beach which was poorly located for outreach. Most of the members wanted to move to a growing location. A minority wanted to stay put, so it was agreed to leave the church building and to sell an annex to purchase a new site and sponsor the majority as a mission at the new location. It was an unusual and bewildering arrangement to some in the local association. Shortly after a first unit was built we were constituted as a church. It is not the way it is usually done but the resulting Westside Baptist Church has had a fruitful ministry for over 50 years. A master plan was adopted for the church and we completed five different building programs with a growing ministry.
After eleven years we were called to the first Baptist Church of Dunedin, Fl. There also was a yearning for expansion. A master plan was adopted and four different building programs were completed.
Early in 1983 we were called to a church in Mint Hill, N.C.(near Charlotte). It was a deeply divided church and our ministry was stressful. We returned to Florida to take a short term staff position with First Baptist Church, Orlando. It was a joyous time working with senior adults and their Evangelism Explosion program. After over 30 years in ministry, Jim Henry became our first pastor.
Shortly, we were called to the Ravenna Park Baptist Church in Sanford, Fl. It was also poorly located and handicapped with an inherited serious staff problem. We were able to purchase a new site and begin anew with a first unit in a highly desirable location. With the relocation, we changed the name to Westview Baptist Church. We were able to complete three building programs in six years. I took retirement from there at the age of 65.
At first, due to my interest in helping new churches secure financing for their building programs, I worked for several years with a church bond company. We also did volunteer work with the Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center, and locally with the Seafarer’s Ministry in Port Canaveral. When it appeared I would not be needing my library and resource files, and not having room to store them, I gave them to a Southern Baptist Seminary student as a way to extend my ministry. I still miss the relationship with people in a pastoral ministry.
When heart and other health problems prevented further pulpit ministry a new door of ministry opened. Through the encouragement of family and technical computer help from our daughter, I was able to develop a website on Christian Faith and Practice. Now I am retired and no church can fire me because of my spiritual convictions. I’ve tried to write in a charitable manner about difficult subjects that could be a problem to some inquiring believers. I was introduced to E-Sword and other websites that have now become my online library. I registered my site as www.rogerwilliamsmaslin.com This was not to utilize the name of a famous historical person or popular musician. That is my legal name. My father was impressed with the famous champion of religious liberty from Rhode Island and I was named after him.
Looking Back and Looking Ahead
In spite of all the struggles, I thank God for putting me in the ministry. I thank Him for giving me a loving and supportive help-mate for the last 61 years. I thank Him for our two children, Mark and Cindy whom we love dearly. When they were born we dedicated them to the Lord, not in a formal church ceremony but in our hearts and mind we purposed to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Mark is a Minister of Music and Cindy a Christian counselor and educator. I thank Him for letting me live 84 years in His beautiful world. By His grace we have been able to visit 49 states and 20 foreign countries including Israel and Russia. I thank Him for America, “the land of the free and the brave.” I thank Him for the relationships with many Southern Baptist saints to whom I have ministered and look forward to seeing them again in glory. I have and do maintain a charitable attitude toward independent Baptists even though “independent” is a misnomer. It is the very nature of a Baptist church to be independent regardless of their affiliation. “Independent” and “Missionary” are unnecessary adjectives. Very few Independent Baptist churches are unaffiliated. It is the nature of a body of believers to seek fellowship with other bodies of like faith and order. I am also appreciative of some of the conservative para-church groups for their contribution to the growth of Christianity. I do not have the same feeling for liberal, ecumenical church organizations such as the National Council of churches. I also appreciate my brethren and leaders in our convention. After years of struggle against liberalism, neo-orthodoxy and higher criticism, I welcome the conservative resurgence in my own adopted denomination and I have to say that the agencies and seminaries have never been better in my lifetime.
I would like to reaffirm, with some modifications, the testimony we were required to write in Evangelism Explosion training: I was raised in a Christian home, yet was trusting in good works for salvation until the Holy Spirit showed me I was a sinner and needed a personal Savoiur. That was the time of my regeneration, or new birth, and the beginning of a spiritual journey. Now I could claim the promise of knowing that I have eternal life. I John5:13: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” Now I know that if I should die tonight, I would go to heaven, not because of my good works but because I am trusting in what Jesus Christ did on the cross to pay for my sins.
I am in the last stage of my earthly journey which has also become a spiritual journey. I am almost home. I can say with Albert Brumley “This world is not my home; I’m just passing through. My Treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.” Now there are three Scripture verses that have become my favorites: (1) “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” Psalm 37:25 (2) “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” I Cor. 2:9 (3) “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” II Tim. 4:6,7 To use the imagery of Bunyan in his Pilgrim’s Progress, I have “climbed the hill of difficulty,” been on “the delectable mountain” and am well on my way to “the celestial city.”
Roger Williams Maslin
August 10, 2009