Yesterday afternoon I received the news of Dr. Roy Blackwood's passing into glory. I can only imagine the joy he had in joining his beloved Margie around Christ's throne. Last night after the evening service, I read out loud to my wife and daughter Russ' article that captures so well Roy's life, ministry, and vision. So many memories were stirred as I read it. Here are a few of mine as I reflect on a man that was a wonderful mentor and friend to me.
On an early summer day in 1989 my pregnant wife and I, along with our toddler son, moved into the top story of the church house building of Second Reformed Presbyterian Church for an internship. That evening, Roy and Margie stopped by to greet their new protegees. As we sat down at the kitchen table, Roy started talking about the importance of the kingdom of God. Before I knew what was happening, he grabbed a napkin, spread it out, took out a pen, then sketched out with circles, ovals, and lines what would become a very familiar diagram to me.
Based on his doctoral research of William Symington's Messiah the Prince, Roy had an understanding of the outworking of the kingdom of God in and through the life of the church that he practiced with a holy zeal. He gave me the assignment that summer to read through Symington's work, taking scrupulous notes, as well as his own thesis on the subject. The combination of this study, done often for days at a time in the second floor library of the church, along with watching Roy model what he was teaching, left a lasting impression on me. I use this same diagram in my teaching now at RPTS.
That summer internship expanded my vision for Christ's kingdom like nothing else. What memories and lessons I received!
I sat under Roy's preaching that was kingdom-centered yet balanced with a cross-before-the-crown,-suffering-before-glory emphasis; doctrine-filled yet not doctrinaire; punctuated with church history yet not hagiography; filled with big, heavenly visions of faith in what Jesus can do while acknowledging the earthly struggles we face; using wonderful, fitting illustrations that enlivened God's Word for adults and children alike.
He emphasized those ABC Bible studies that became a hallmark of his ministry, wanting everyone in the congregation to be a student of the Word. Even today I will be meeting with a young man to go over his ABC study.
Roy took me with him to appointments with government officials in Indianapolis that he personally ministered or gave counsel to. On one occasion, as we met in his office, the phone rang and after answering it he said, "Barry, do you mind stepping out for a minute? The vice-president is on the phone." I gladly gave Dan Quayle the time he needed with Roy.
Yet he had a regard for the lowly and lonely. We visited the mother of an elder in a nursing home, who was curled up in a fetal position in her bed unable to respond. Roy bent over and started reciting Psalm 23 to her. Her lips moved with the words barely audible as she followed along. He then had me visit her the remainder of the summer, and a young buck of a pastor received more than he was given as he learned the need for and blessing of visitation.
Roy loved seeing Christ build families. Through elders he had trained there, they ran a two-week Father & Son Training Camp in the church building, where dads and their boys lived together, worked on Scripture knowledge and life lessons, and worked and played together in the evenings. At the end of the summer, the church sponsored a lovely Father & Daughter banquet where the dads confirmed their love for their girls. Lifelong lessons of family were impressed on me.
That summer I heard Roy use pointed phrases that captured the work of Christ - "tweets" before there were tweets! Ever the teacher, he drilled these words again and again into me throughout the ensuing years of my ministry in the "granddaughter" congregation of Second RPC. I now use them quite often myself.
Do Jesus' work Jesus' way.
Don't only preach the words of Christ, but also the tones of Christ.
He often quoted Christ saying, "I will build My church," emphasizing one of those five words that was the need at the moment. He preached on this text on a number of occasions, with the outline being simply the emphasis on each word.
Do not let Christ catch you putting your (human) hands on His (spiritual) bride.
Roy was always seeing in others gifts they did not know they had. Many a man was challenged to be a pastor or elder through Roy commenting and encouraging them in their gifts. He certainly saw things in me that I did not see in myself. Early on in my ministry in Kokomo, he began urging me to further theological study (I resisted formal study for quite some time, but he eventually won). When the Session at Second RPC had Dr. Renwick Wright come and teach a year of Greek in the summer to prospective ministry students, he asked me to assist him by being present each day. After I did this, he urged me to keep reading and studying Greek with these students, and teach them to develop sermons out of what they were learning. They then preached their messages in our congregation's evening service, and I coached and evaluated them. How did he know I would become a homiletics professor one day when that was not even in my thinking? Many have had this type of experience with Roy.
Roy was also a visionary whom the Lord used to stir people in discipleship, church planting, and mission work. With the congregation at Second growing under the Roy-developed phrase of "Reaching, Training, Building, Sending", the church began sending out missionaries and even a church planting team to India a few years ago. We currently have two families at RPTS from Second RPC preparing earnestly to go on the mission field. The proof of Roy's ministry is in the pudding.
Roy's "visions" sometimes had a humorous side to them. When video recording tapes became more popular in the late 80's and early 90's, he got the idea that we could record professors' lectures at RPTS then have students who were not there yet watch them back in Indianapolis. So I have memories of sitting in Dr. Clark Copeland's Old Testament classes holding this huge video recorder on my shoulder trying to tape his lectures. Roy was thinking of distance learning before it was even a thing! The tapes must have not proven all that useful, however. At Dr. Copeland's funeral and visitation a few years ago, a daughter said she had come across all these boxes of VCR tapes of him teaching and wondered where they came from.
During a dark time in my ministry, I received an inviting inquiry to leave and become involved in another church plant. When I sought out Roy for advise on the matter, he told me that it was through suffering with and for God's people that the Lord does His greatest work. Leaving now, he told me, would bypass the pruning and growth the Lord wanted to produce not only in the church but in me. His counsel weighed heavily on me, and I stayed. His words proved so true, as some of the Lord's most effective sanctifying work and deepest ministry lessons came from that time in my life.
As serious minded as he was, always dressed it seemed in his customary suit and tie, Roy had a great sense of humor. He often made self-deprecating, funny remarks. And he was not above having his leg pulled. Roy was not fond of beards at one point, being from an older generation that viewed them as perhaps a sign of rebellion. So when I showed up at a pastor's lunch sporting a new goatee, in the food line he looked at my chin with raised eyebrows and asked if I had just come off of vacation. I think he assumed it would be gone the next time he saw me. Instead, at the next lunch I brought a copy of a Calvin biography along that had his picture on the cover. When I held it up and asked the men if I bore any resemblance, stroking my goatee, he got the joke and laughed with us and at himself.
I could multiply anecdotes, but I will conclude with this last one. During that summer internship in 1989, Roy and I were driving in his car to an appointment. If you have heard his testimony, you know that his mother died when he was an infant. Roy never knew her. But he told me on that occasion others said that his mother was "small, quick, and loving." What was true of his mother was so true of Roy. He was small in stature but a giant of a man in theology, vision, and ministry. He was quick in his thinking and living to show grace, to witness to a stranger, or to meet a need of a brother or sister in Christ. And he was so loving, sacrificially finding ways to build up and encourage many, many people.
Speaking of his short stature, quick wit, and loving manner, Roy would sometimes introduce me before a group by pausing dramatically, moving his gaze slowly up my body until his eyes met mine, and then say with a twinkle in those eyes, "Here is a man I really look up to." I eventually learned to say what I still believe now. "Roy, you have to look up to someone when he is standing on your shoulders."
As one of "Roy's boys", I thank the Lord for giving me and many others this loving father in the faith.
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