Compassion invigorates church, moves Dover pastor
Norman Jameson_ь, BR Editor
October 19, 2010

Compassion invigorates church, moves Dover pastor

Compassion invigorates church, moves Dover pastor
Norman Jameson_ь, BR Editor
October 19, 2010

Don Davis’ doctoral thesis

could read like his diary.

Davis, pastor for 12 years

of Dover Baptist Church near Seagrove, is massaging his thesis into a book, to

be published next spring, that will reflect his passion: “The Demise of

Compassion: a casualty of the changing culture.”

Compassion flows through

Davis’ veins and seasons his ministry with a flavor of love that is growing a

church in numbers and in fellowship in ways it has not experienced in a


Davis was nominated for

recognition by his church because of his compassion as their pastor. Compassion

is not a passive emotion says Davis, 61. It is proactive and costly.

Self-centeredness is

replacing compassion as culture invades the church, he says. Instead of

demonstrating the selflessness Jesus encouraged by doing good unto “the least

of these,” neighbors are more likely to say “I hope he had insurance,” when

tragedy strikes, Davis argues in his thesis submitted for his doctor of

ministry degree from Liberty University Seminary.

Demonstrating compassion

Davis gives each newborn the

child’s first toy bear. After church each Sunday he gives to a child the flower

his wife, Frankie, puts on his lapel before church.

Every Christmas he and

Frankie purchase a gift for each child, with some extras to cover any visitors

on distribution night. Church secretary Denise Greene roams the room to find

visitors, and then writes their names on a gift so their name is called – much

to their surprise and delight.

Why does the pastor extend

himself this way? He says it is to thank his church family for letting him into

their lives to share such intimate moments. “I appreciate this church letting

me love them,” he says. “They allow me to be a part of their lives, to

infiltrate and experience their joys along with their hurts. That’s what

ministry is, laughing in their joys, crying when they’re hurting. It’s


Davis encourages pastors to

love people, minister to them, fill their needs, and “Christ will fill the


BR photo by Norman Jameson

Don Davis, pastor of Dover Baptist Church, enjoys two particular hobbies, including woodworking and painting. This golf cart and wagon holds candy that church children find. The portrait is of good friend Terry Rouse who died in 2007.

Dover, a rural church with

400 resident members, gives 20 percent of its income to missions, including 10

percent through the Cooperative Program, and baptized 43 in the past two years.

Yet no houses are visible from the church. Dover is growing in numbers and

spirit because the church has “reclaimed compassion” in its body, Davis says.

He said the church needs to reclaim the compassion that will respond to

neighbors “who don’t have heat, don’t have electricity, don’t know where their

next meal is coming from.”

Like others who trace

society’s ills to the breakdown of the home, Davis goes a step further and says

“when the home began to break down, the church didn’t rally to the home by

being compassionate.”

Tucked into an office

crowded with sagging bookshelves and ringed by chairs, Davis relates several

incidents that contribute to his conviction that compassion marks a path for


His father died when Davis

was 15; his mother died a year later. He admits being angry with God, but feels

that God used his pain to give him compassion. “All the clichés don’t mean a

thing,” Davis said about ministering to those who are hurting. “They just need

to know you care.”

Help them struggle

He cautions parents and

youth ministers not to “insulate our children” from pain because doing so “deprives

them of the struggles we’ve gone through as adults. The butterfly gets its

beauty and ability to fly because of its struggle to get out of the cocoon.

It’s the struggle that makes us.”

Davis is a Marine veteran

and a licensed electrician. He took most of his theological training through

seminary extension courses that enabled him to continue working while learning.

Dealing with tremendous debt from Frankie’s three heart surgeries and three

operations for his son, God placed Davis in a church in Winston-Salem at just

the right time to learn about and to take advantage of ministries North

Carolina Baptist Hospital offers to pastors.

During his ministry he

sometimes had Saturday nights of study after a 59-hour work week as an

electrician when he would ask Frankie, his wife of 41 years, to wake him after

a desperate 10-minute nap.

“That’s where the basis of

compassion is,” Davis says, without feeling sorry for himself or asking anyone

to feel sorry for him. “I know God will see you through the tough times.

Nothing is too hard for Him. He’ll strengthen you when you’re down. He’ll

encourage you. I’ve lived on $5 a week and that’s to buy gas to go

visiting with and everything.”

He recalls a lesson from a

retired evangelist who visited prospects with him one day. When Davis declined

the man’s offer of $20, “He pointed his finger in my face and said, ‘Don’t you

ever refuse anything. You’re not going to cheat me out of the blessing of

giving,’” Davis said.

Davis has been pastor also

of Antioch Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, Fairview in Albemarle, Laurel Hill

in Troy, Taylor Memorial in Gastonia and the former Rosewood Lane in Gastonia

that grew from 15 to 59 in his initial pastorate, but disbanded later. He is a

native of Glen Alpine, five miles west of Morganton.

He walked away from ministry

in 1984, saying he “would not be abused like that again.” But God broke his

heart and the day after Davis asked God to open another door to ministry, a

pulpit committee called, “and the journey began all over again.”

Special hobbies

Two special hobbies both

help him to relax and expand his ministry. He uses his love of painting and of

woodworking in demonstration classes open to the community.

While many pastors keep a

box of tissues handy on their desks to offer a crying counselee, Davis uses a

handful himself when he shares about special people in his life to whom he

showed compassion.

They vary from a man with

disabilities who made himself useful around the church when others pushed him

aside, to a man who asked for and received Davis’ last dollar, to an

18-year-old girl who had been visiting faithfully who was killed in a car


Although she was not a

member, Davis’ ministered to her family while a deacon filled in for Wednesday

night services.

“The people have let me

pastor,” Davis says. “That has been the key. They let me do what I do best.

I’ve reached into their homes, reached into their lives, and by doing that I

really believe they believe I have their best interests and the best interests

of the church at heart. “We’ve started an incredible journey together. It’s not

my journey, it’s our journey. God is moving, don’t get in His way.”

EDITOR’S NOTE — To recognize

pastor appreciation month in October, the Biblical Recorder solicited

nominations for a pastor to be featured in a story in the Recorder.

Staff sifted through

nominations and chose Don Davis, pastor of Dover Baptist Church for the past 12

years on the strength of the submission by Rhonda Peters.

After listing many ways

Davis pours himself into his congregation, Peters nominated her pastor on the

basis of “his heart of love and compassion that shines forth in every facet of

his ministry.”