In Life - Debriefed

For the past couple decades, I have been and on again/off again Bible study teacher. Please don’t ask why anybody ever trusted me with that responsibility. I certainly couldn’t tell you why. But for for some unknown reason, somewhere along the line I got recruited to teach an adult Sunday School class. Since I had never taught a Bible class before, and not knowing how to build a better wheel, I chose to model my teaching approach on that of my friend, Gene Wilkes.

Since then, anybody who ever sat in my class for more than four lessons almost certainly heard me refer to Gene Wilkes. Gene was my theological backstop. “Gene Wilkes has a PhD in New Testament from Southwestern Seminary.”  “Gene is the pastor of a Texas mega-church.” “Gene Wilkes is the author of ‘Jesus On Leadership.'” And the coup de grace: “Gene Wilkes is my personal friend.”

In brief, Gene was proof that I wasn’t just pulling stuff out of thin air. To my classes, he was Super Gene.

I used Gene’s Bible Study outlines. I wrote him when I had difficult questions. (He always had reasoned answers.) He helped me find curriculum that wasn’t dull as dishwater. (No small feat.)

This past weekend, I was handed more evidence that I chose my Bible mentor wisely, as Gene was inaugurated as President of the  B. H. Carroll Theological Institute. On Friday night, the sanctuary of First Baptist Church, Arlington, TX, probably contained the highest number per square foot of PhD-bearing Bible wonks in the world, as Gene was solemnly and joyfully charged to lead the seminary into its second decade.

I was there to do the honor of leading a 90-voice choir singing my arrangement of “Jesus Paid It All.” My dear friends, Chris & Diane Machen, sang one of Chris’ newest (and best) songs – “To Honor Christ.” Gene’s message reminded me once again why he is such an effective teaching pastor. It was all pretty great stuff.

Three Amigos

And importantly, for all you Christian songwriters out there, Gene has been my “lyric rabbi” for a long time. Any time I ever wondered if something I wrote was Biblically sound, I could always ask Gene and get a sound and gentle answer. Gene was even the source of a handful of songs for me years ago. Recently, when I tackled (perhaps foolishly) the task of setting the Lord’s Prayer to a new piece of music, and chose to do my own paraphrase of the text, Gene was the one who set my mind at ease that I had stayed faithful to the Truth of the scripture.

Songwriters, if you don’t have a Gene Wilkes in your writing world, find one. But not this Gene Wilkes. He is taken already.

In case you’re wondering, in the photo, I’m the fat guy on the left. Gene is the guy on the right with the goofy grin. (Just because a guy has a PhD doesn’t mean he always looks smart.) And Chris Machen is the guy in the back that reminds you of your crazy Uncle Chester.

Showing 2 comments
  • Karen Fetner

    Couldn’t have said anything better about Gene! And long before the illustrious Mr. sterling moved to Nashvegas to bless their socks off, long before he attempted the world of adults, he was our version of “Super Gene” once a week. You see, Rob was given the task of directing about 12 freshman in a mixed ensemble. We sat on pianos, laughed and cried about junior high love, lost a friend in a plane crash, and learned a lot about life and Jesus because this laid back guy let us play with his drum sticks and worship thru music. Those of us that survived that year went on to be his babysitter and ate peanut butter sandwiches at Sterling abode…. And do you know the most awesome better half?!?! Cindy probably never knew how much of a role model she was….. Then you were both folks to watch and learn from for this young married chick and then I saw what good parenting produced as I got to teach your kids my first year into the profession! Yep, Gene is my hero and I’m so glad you got to celebrate and usher him into his next adventure! But, thanks, Mr. Sterling, for being that guy in our lives too— and yep, I’ll be humming a little Riches to Rags tonight to honor you both!!!

    • rsterling

      Karen – I have very fond memories of that little youth ensemble. thanks for the kind words. And for the baby sitting!

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