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.
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.
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
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
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.”
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
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
“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