Few if any people in my first 20 years had the impact on me that Preach did.
Some time around my eighth or ninth grade of school Dick “Preach” Allison became the new pastor of our Southern Baptist church. One of my first of many memories of this godly man was a youth retreat that Preach and our associate Pastor facilitated soon after he became our pastor. Being the unhinged youth that many of us were by that time, there were some late night shenanigans, and while one or more of those in charge reacted a bit harshly, Preach remained calm and took our foolishness in stride.
Preach became a spiritual father and mentor to me by the grace of God. Our relationship through my high school years and early college years had a lasting impact on my life and ministry. He had an open door policy with me, which meant (once I was turned 16 and began to drive) that I could show up unannounced, and most every time he invited me right into his office.
At some point in my late high school years or perhaps early college years Preach invited me to go with him to the YMCA once a week, where he would swim and I would play basketball, and then we would go out to lunch somewhere.
I’ll never forget when he took me one evening on a pastoral visit to a family up on a mountain who had no electricity, and still heated their small home with a coal furnace. Preach took them food and shared the gospel with them.
I’ll never forget when he took me with him to the jail to visit the man who burned our church buildings down. Not sure I on my own would have visited such a man.
Preach loved children and young people. And at one point probably either before Steve Bolt joined the staff, or perhaps after he left, Preach led our high school youth through a study on “The Late Great Planet Earth” by Hal Lindsey. In the Jesus movement, that book seemingly held a status close to the Bible. Preach did not criticize it. But said at the end he just couldn’t honestly see the Pre Trib rapture position in the scriptures, but he respected those who did. Oh that all theological differences in the body of Christ were handled like that!
The Jesus movement swept through Knoxville in my late high school/early college days. We started having large meetings of mostly high school and college aged kids at “the Barn” in South Knoxville, and at our church on Sunday evenings. People from a variety of congregations and some not a part of a congregation attended these meetings. And Preach fully embraced and blessed them. If he ever had a territorial bone in his body, I never observed it. And I’m sure that is why Para church leaders in Knoxville felt comfortable and safe around him.
Preach led a men’s prayer meeting on Friday mornings at 7:00 if I remember correctly. Mostly men in their 50’s or older attended. But they allowed myself, and I Peter Stillman (both in high school) to attend as well. Those were precious times with precious men.
I happened to be in our high school office during my senior year when there was a discussion about a speaker for our high school commencement. I suggested my pastor – Dick Alison. To my shock, they invited him. Not to my shock, he did an amazing job in that public school environment.
Dick had a handful of staff and a truck load of deacons to relate to and try to minister with. Some had obvious warts! He wasn’t blind to their weaknesses, but he always knew and practiced the truth that “mercy triumphs over judgment”.
It may be that his mercy towards all of us is what impacted me more than all the rest of his wonderful qualities. For I was a young man who desperately needed God’s mercy. Preach never failed to extend it to me, even at some of my lowest points.
My call to the ministry began and was nurtured in the presence of this merciful man. I’ve often wondered how it would have ever gotten off the ground without him.
Preach went to be with Jesus on Monday July 29th. His love and affection for his wife (Jane) and son (Tim) was always obvious. Thanks to you both for sharing him with those of us who had the privilege of walking with him for a time.
May the Lord help all of us older members of the body of Christ have His heart for the children and youth around us – never doubting the eventual effect of the seeds we sow into their lives.