Sunday, November 16, 2014

Single Profile: Richard Oldham

Richard Oldham, pastor of Glendale Baptist Church for 57 years in Bowling Green, Kentucky, died at the age of 84 on September 8, 2014.  He was a dedicated, hardworking servant of the Lord whose far-reaching influence and impact were not fully realized until his passing.  Oldham's funeral was standing-room-only as hundreds of people packed the little sanctuary of Glendale Baptist, sharing their memories of him.  Several said he was the greatest man they ever knew. 

Throughout his ministry, Oldham baptized over 6,000 people, mentored over 250 men and women into full-time Christian ministry (he called them "Swordsmen"), founded "Teentime", a youth radio broadcast that has aired in Bowling Green for 50 years, and, as Al Mohler said in a tribute to Oldham, "had many sons and daughters in the faith."

This is all quite remarkable when you consider that Brother Richard, as he was fondly known by his flock, never married and never had children.

What I find so encouraging about Oldham is that he never set out to be single for life.  He didn't take a vow of celibacy, he had several girlfriends early in life, and he was even engaged once.  But after arriving at Glendale, two years after he graduated from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1955, Oldham found himself joyfully consumed with the ministry God had given him there and he willingly set aside marriage and family to focus on his pastoral call.

"The Lord seemed to say, 'It's okay.  I'll take care of you.'  And He has," Oldham once said.

Singleness, even lifelong singleness that is unexpected and undesired, need not be sad, solitary, or purposeless.  No one looking at Richard Oldham's life - seeing the many people he led to Christ and inspired to ministry - would think, "Oh that poor man.  He never married."  Oldham found the ministry of Jesus Christ to be so compelling that he ceased to pursue family life to focus on it exclusively.  He did not despise marriage nor did he think little of it, he simply thought much of Christ. 

Let us pray that God will give us singles that same all-consuming passion for His glory and fame!