By Jim Burton
PENSACOLA, Fla. (BP) — The Easter service drew a packed crowd, so when 12-year-old Steve Davis entered the auditorium, the only seat he found was at the side of the platform.
The crowd didn’t intimidate Davis; he was the first to respond to the invitation that morning to profess faith in Christ.
A few minutes later, he was not alone on the front pew where he sat to fill out paperwork at First Baptist Church in Richmond, Ind. A favorite aunt and uncle also responded to the invitation as did a grandfather whom Davis had only known about a month. The following Sunday, each was baptized. Six weeks later, his grandfather died.
Davis has told his Easter testimony for years. Particularly when he was a pastor in Texas, he would announce that it was his birthday. Most assumed he meant his physical birth.
“I mean my spiritual birthday,” Davis would say. “This is the day I gave my life to Jesus on an Easter Sunday morning.” Then he would tell his story.
Davis’ story includes living in a troubled home where his police officer father never attended church and his mother attended only sporadically. Beginning in the first grade when he could walk to church alone, young Davis was there most Sundays.
He simply liked going and enjoyed the male Sunday School teachers, whom he recalls sharing the plan of salvation each week.
“To me, church was one of the places where you escape the turmoil in your life,” Davis said.
By his junior year in high school, even when his parents had divorced and each remarried, Davis felt God calling him to the ministry. For his senior year, Davis moved with his mother and stepfather to Southern California and began attending Euclid Street Baptist Church in Anaheim.
Both the pastor, Brian Crow, and youth and music minister, Mark Tullos, encouraged Davis to be faithful to his calling. Davis hadn’t come from a family with strong Christian roots and, to some, he was a doubtful candidate for ministry.
“If it’s God’s will,” Tullos told Davis, “He will make a way.”
God’s way led Davis to East Texas Baptist University, Dallas Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Eventually, he served churches for 32 years as a pastor before returning to Indiana to lead Southern Baptists as their executive director. An “unforeseen blessing” in returning to his native state was that his father had found a church home at Central Baptist in Richmond “and attended faithfully,” Davis said, “until he passed away four years ago at 85.”
Today Davis is the North American Mission Board vice president for convention relations based in Pensacola, Fla.