Influences in the Life of Ron Dunn
Dr. J. P. McBeth
We first heard Dr. J. P. McBeth preach at our home church in Ft. Smith, AR, while we were teenagers. What a delight to get to know this man personally and how thrilling it was that Dr. McBeth recommended Ron as pastor to MacArthur Boulevard in Irving in 1966. Ron was only 29 years old at the time, but Dr. McBeth assured our committee that Ron “would grow out of it.” Dr. McBeth was a preacher, writer and Greek scholar who like to doodle by parsing Greek verbs. He was definitely one of Ron’s earliest mentors and loved to teach young pastors things he had learned.
He and Mrs. McBeth would invite us to their home where he grew all his own organic vegetables, fruit trees and marvelous varieties of grapes. We never went away empty-handed nor did they come to our home without bearing some cantaloupe, watermelon or grapes fro, their vineyard. After dinner, we would gather in our living room, drinking some fresh grape juice while Dr. McBeth would always pull out papers and began teaching us something helpful about the ministry or preaching. He taught Ron how to think in images, drawing from his own life, rather than using books of others’ illustrations. He taught him to indent his paragraphs in the pulpit by moving from one side of the pulpit to the other. He was writing a book on preaching and Mrs. McBeth passed his notes on to Ron after Dr. McBeth went to Heaven. He was a wonderful mentor to a young pastor eager to learn.
Dr. Vance Havner
As teenagers at First Baptist in Ft. Smith, AR, we heard the great Dr. Vance Havner preach several times, never guessing that we would have the privilege of being counted among his friends in later years and considering him one of Ron’s mentors.
He preached for us at MacArthur Boulevard while Ron was pastor, and he and Ron preached in several Bible Conferences together. Dr. Havner was at least 40 years old when he married a lovely lady named Sarah and how he loved her. She became such an integral part of his life, and he never got over the pain of losing her to Cushing’s disease. Of course, he said, “You haven’t really lost someone when you know where they are.” But he was very honest with Ron about the void in his life when she went to heaven. Our oldest son died soon after Sarah, and Ron and I listened to Dr. Havner’s tape about Sarah’s death at least 20 times immediately following Ronnie’s death to gain strength and comfort. That made for an immediate bond in our lives.
Ron saw in Dr. Havner a simplicity that he loved and tried to implement in his own life and ministry. He admired the fact that he always stuck to the main thing, which was preaching the gospel.
When we began LifeStyle Ministries there were always people with big plans wanting to expand the ministry through various means. It may have been fine for someone else, but Ron always felt he was supposed to tend to his preaching and let God handle his ministry. Dr. Havner exemplified what Ron wanted to be, a simple preacher of the gospel always making the main thing the main thing. It was a thrill for Ron that Dr. Havner wrote an introduction to one of his books.
Odds and Ends Concerning Ron
Ron loved to collect guns since his first pastorates were out in the country and he was taught to target shoot. One year, The Milldale Bible Conference presented him with an Uzi, and he was thrilled by that. We took his collection to our farm each summer and both spent time on target practice. He loved cleaning and oiling his guns and particularly making his own ammunition.
In 1985, Ron was robbed and shot at in a Holiday Inn parking lot in Little Rock, AR, by two men while we were visiting my parents. His main doctor was in Little Rock, and every three months he came up for an exam and got three months of medication as this dear friend had finally discovered what was wrong with Ron. Ron happened to have his gun collection in the trunk of the car, and when these two men grabbed the bags out of his hands to steal them, they got a bag with some of his guns and a bag with his three months of medication. The local newspaper headlined an article, “preacher robbed of guns and drugs.” The prosecuting attorney did a wonderful job of explaining the gun collection and the medication during the trial, and the man who shot at him got a 60 year sentence for armed robbery. This was his fifth felony conviction.
He also loved horses. He became interested in riding during the days of his rural pastorates. Kim was given a thoroughbred quarter horse when she was 14 years old by a friend. She lost interest in the horse quickly, but we took him to our farm in Arkansas several summers and enjoyed riding while there.
Ron loved spending summers and holidays at our family farm in Greenwood, AR. He and the children loved to set up a trot line in the evening and go out in the middle of the night to check it. He loved riding the tractor and mowing the pasture while wearing his gun and shooting snakes when he came upon them. He was even known to shoot a fish or two! He and I loved to sit at the lake in the evenings; I would spot turtles for him, and he would shoot them. Most of his time at home was spent behind a desk, studying and writing, so this was a welcomed retreat. Ron’s parents and brother and his family lived on the farm, and we loved our time together with them as we would gather as a family each night for dinner and then play charades or card games afterward.
Ron always claimed that one of his main hobbies was thinking, and I know the time away at the farm allowed him creative, reflective time in which sermons and books were conceived. His first book, Any Christian Can, was completed while we were there one summer, and I had the privilege of typing and editing it for him—a joint effort which was exciting.
Ron was a man with simple tastes. He loved very plain food—just give him a good hamburger steak or spaghetti and meatballs, and he was a happy camper. He loved junk food, and at night we would crawl up in the bed with our stack of books and a big bowl of popcorn, chips or sweets and read. This was something he began doing while he traveled, and I fell into the habit quite happily as I traveled with him.
Of course, being from Dallas, Ron was a Cowboys fan. That interest waned some in later years after Tom Landry left the team, but he enjoyed all the professional football games. We were always on the road on Saturdays, so he didn’t watch much college football. We used to love to play tennis and enjoyed watching tennis on TV, especially Wimbledon. During all the months he was sick in bed, we watched any sport that was on to pass the time when he was too sick to study or read.
Ron had several favorite cars, but one of his favorites was his little black Nissan 280 Z and later a black 300 Z, which were great traveling cars since he spent so much time on the road. He would pack them to capacity and then head off for a meeting. One time a porter at a Chattanooga Hotel just sat down on the curb and watched as Ron packed the car, declaring that he didn’t think it could be done.
Years ago some friends at our church gave our children a tiny, snow-white toy poodle puppy against my better judgment and desires. The children liked the puppy, but Ron fell in love with it, and it became his. Ron suggested we name him Belshazzar since he was “weighed in the balance and found wanting.” Shaz and Ron became inseparable for sixteen years.
While preaching at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, TN, Ron shared about being part Cherokee. He explained that his last name meant “a yellow horse” in Cherokee. So, Adrian Rogers began calling him “Chief Yellow Horse” when he would introduce him at the Bible Conferences. This became a running joke between the two friends.
(taken from www.rondunn.com)
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