Recently, a legend passed from among us. Landrum Leavell finished his earthly course with the same kind of faithfulness that characterized his 80-plus years. To the very end, Dr. Leavell was steadfast in his service to the Lord. The last occasion I had to visit with him was in San Antonio in 2007 at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. We were both in attendance at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) alumni meeting. I was privileged to be one of the alumni honorees for that year, and I took advantage of the opportunity to pay tribute to Dr. Leavell. I described him as one of my mentors.
Landrum Leavell was one of my few mentors in ministry. When he was president of NOBTS and I was a student, Dr. Leavell devoted some of his valuable time to encourage me and to offer support to me as a young man seeking to develop my gifts in ministry. That relationship persisted throughout my ministry, and for that I am most appreciative. Therefore, as a final tribute to him, I would like to cite some valuable lessons I learned from this legend and how he has affected me in a most positive way.
1. Dr. Leavell taught me to be pure in my walk with Christ. He had an impeccable reputation, and he sought to encourage those of us who were young and his students to be morally and ethically clean and pure. His example was a powerful testimony for all of us to emulate. For me, I have always remembered his wise words of counsel in this essential area of ministry.
2. Landrum Leavell encouraged me to be a preacher of the Word! Dr. Leavell epitomized Biblical preaching at its very best. He believed the Bible from cover to cover, and he challenged his students to do the same. At a time when Biblical preaching was not held in high esteem, Dr. Leavell demonstrated that Biblical preaching is effective in any period of history.
3. Landrum Leavell encouraged me to be a personal witness for Christ. Time and time again, I heard Dr. Leavell give testimonies of occasions when he shared his faith with others. In a city where Baptists and evangelicals were a distinct minority, Landrum Leavell was called upon to serve in very important positions of leadership, and in these arenas he was a stalwart witness for Christ. He never missed an opportunity to challenge us to do the same.
4. Dr. Leavell encouraged me to be productive in my work for Christ. He was an excellent example of a Christian work ethic, and he strongly exhorted every minister of the Gospel to be the very best worker in the world. Landrum Leavell could not tolerate ministers who were lazy and lacked commitment to the cause. On one occasion, Dr. Leavell called me early one morning at the church where I served and he said, “Well, I am just checking to make sure you are at work on time.” That was Landrum Leavell. He believed in being accountable and responsible.
I already miss my friend, my mentor and my encourager. He was one of a kind, and he made a huge difference in my life. I hope I can live up to his sterling standard of faithfulness. He is now one our “unseen witnesses” encouraging us from glory. Thanks, Dr. Leavell, for being my teacher and my leader. You have made a huge difference in my life!