Rev. Crawford W. Kimble was a living legend.
I suspect that while many know of this greater preacher and man; Rev. Kimble was not on the list of many preacher’s top 10 outside of Houston and Texas. However, this does not diminish to profound impact of a giant in the faith. A few days ago, in his mid-nineties, this sage of a preacher, pastor and man, went home to rest in the arms of our Savior. Admittedly, I never had a personal relationship with Rev. Kimble. I would see him occasionally in a minister’s fellowship we both attended, exchange pleasantries, take care of him when he’d come to preach at my home church in Houston, and we had a few mutual acquaintances that he mentored in Houston. However, his biography, and moreover his writing, would have a profound effect upon me in my adult years. He joined the historic 4th Ward’s Good Hope Baptist Church in 1951, at the age of 25; later preaching his first sermon there at the age of 33. Five years later, in 1964, Rev. Kimble was elected the fifth pastor of the historic congregation where he began preaching. I read in one of his books how he had a dream to build a new church in a central location to better serve the needs of the membership among the people of Good Hope. Through perseverance and inspired leadership the “dream” was fulfilled as the church moved to its current location on March 22, 1981, off of Macgregor Way in Houston. In 1994, Rev. Kimble ended his pastorate at Good Hope, retiring there. I did not discover until a few days ago that, prior to his call to ministry, Rev. Kimble worked as a newspaper editor and writer for the Houston Informer and the Kansas City Call. I am sure this made an indelible impression on his continued writing throughout his life. I LOVED to read his stuff. One of my favorite writings of his is a funeral sermon he wrote out entitled, ‘A Theology of Nakedness’, from Job chapter 1. As I’ve reflected throughout the years and particularly the past several days, I thought about a few lessons this preacher taught me personally through his life and my encounters with him.
1. Be a friend to preachers and plant seeds
After graduating college in 2001, moving to Houston, starting seminary and take my first ministry job as the Minister of Education in Houston’s 5th Ward, my pastor suggested I become a part of the Houston Metropolitan’s Minister’s group that was led by Dr. S. J. Gilbert, Sr. I’m glad I did; and often regret having not continued in recent years. One of the unique things about this group is they would meet every Monday morning and afternoon and would pour into one another through preaching, teaching, talks, lectures, wisdom and the like. The standing lecturer for this group was Rev. Crawford W. Kimble. It didn’t take long for me to discover, after one of Rev. Kimble’s lectures, that this preacher was unique and skillful with words and thoughts. When I’d meet him (at that time already in his mid-eighties) I had to reintroduce myself to him. Without hearing much of my family connections, pastor, positions, etcetera….Rev. Kimble would invite me to walk with him to his car and throw me one of his books. Those books have blessed me tremendously through the years.
2. Don’t think too highly of yourself
Rev. Kimble was one of the most humble and down-to-earth preachers I’d ever met. You would never know he once pastored what was once known as the ‘silk stocking’ black church in Houston; and the legendary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan’s pastor, personal friend and spiritual advisor.
3. Find a way to dance in the rain
I found it refreshing and uplifting how, when Rev. Kimble lectured to us ministers, he would always find a way to take his weakening vision, old age, lack of technological savvy and his lack of swift adjustment to the cultural times – and use them to bring laughter and joy to others. It is simply a reminder that we should all seek to make the best of a bad situation.
4. Know when it’s time to let go and keep going
Largely within the black community, it was an unwritten rule among pastors is they do not and will not retire. I think somewhere they connected this to Moses disappearing one day; and because the word ‘retire’ does not appear in scripture, this became the foundational basis for the anti-retirement argument. But Rev. Kimble, amid the mantra of his peers, decided to retire from pastoring after serving for many years in ministry to the Good Hope Baptist Church. This is commendable on many fronts, while IT IS NOT & SHOULD NOT BE every Pastor’s lot. I also know great servants who did not retire, or passed on prior to retirement being a reality for them. It often depends on the charisma and influence of the said leader. For it is also true, that the book of Proverbs says that it is much better to be asked to come up than to be asked to come down.
5. Sometimes less is more
Rev. Crawford W. Kimble was a very accomplished man, even by human standards. He was not a flashy dresser; and very plain in demeanor. I remember one day walking to Rev. Kimble’s car, and I said, ‘Dr. Kimble’, where is YOUR car? Is THIS it?’ The car was nothing more extravagant than the first car I drove in high school. However, he was not phased by fancy cars, sweet rides, shiny suits and looking the part.
6. Let the Holy Spirit guide you in ministry and in life
Rev. Kimble’s ministry was marked with the evidences of someone having followed the ordered, ordained and orchestrated steps of God. Even in his recent passing, he retired from preaching in mid-2013. He seemed to have an inner resolve to ‘walk in his own shoes.’
This man made an impact in his own way. He was a servant of God who made a difference.