By Gerard Flanagan, news writer and photographer, Office of University Communications
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – As the eighth child in a poor, sharecropping family that was “lost and unchurched,” Wayne Dickard can recall many instances in his childhood where all hope seemed lost.
Then one day, a pastor visited the family to talk about Jesus Christ and invite them to church.
He also prayed over them.
“That pastor shared with us the hope of the Gospel,” he said during Campbellsville University’s chapel service recently.
In the chapel service, Wayne and his son, Dr. Daniel Dickard, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Pastors’ Conference, participated in a discussion on “A Legacy of Hope” along with Dr. Joseph Hopkins, 12th president of Campbellsville University, whose recent inauguration as the university’s president revolved around that theme.
Seven children were living in the Dickard household. The oldest brother was serving in the military.
Wayne said, in his prayers, the pastor would pray for everyone in the Dickard household to be saved.
“Over the years, God honored that prayer,” Wayne said. “God saved every one of those boys and girls, and he called the two youngest to preach the Gospel. I look back at those times, and I think God is good, and that preacher shared with us the hope of the Gospel.”
Wayne said the pastor’s initial visit didn’t directly lead them to Christ, but the pastor led them to a church that would, in turn, lead them to Christ.
“You may be here today and not know Christ,” Wayne said. “There’s no better day to be saved than today. I hope you’ll open your heart to Jesus.”
For seven years, Dickard was a schoolteacher before receiving a calling from God to become a preacher.
“I couldn’t get away from that calling,” Wayne said. “It’s been a rich, rich journey. I’m grateful for the hope of salvation.”
Hopkins asked Daniel if it was difficult to follow in his father’s footstep as a pastor. Daniel replied with a story from his 10th grade year, when he switched schools. At that time, he was a starting point guard and was receiving scholarships to play at the collegiate level.
A church camp happened to fall on the same dates as a basketball camp.
“My dad told me, ‘You have a decision to make. You can’t be in two places at once,’” Daniel said. “I ended up choosing to go to church camp.”
The first night Daniel was at camp, he picked up a pamphlet that had this question in it: “Will you obey God today?”
“One act of obedience can open up a lifetime of blessings,” Daniel said, “day by day, moment by moment, hour by hour.”
Eventually, Daniel told his father he had been called to serve God.
“He said, ‘Are you sure?’ Daniel said. “That question, in a way, casted doubt, so I came back to him a week later and said, ‘Dad, I’ve been called into ministry.’ He looked at me again and said, ‘Are you sure?’”
At this point, Daniel said he began to become frustrated from his father’s continued questioning. He once again told his father he had been called to give his life to God and His service.
Daniel said, “He told me, ‘If you can do anything else in life and be happy, go and do it. But if you couldn’t, that’s likely a sign God has called you. I don’t want this to be my calling. I want this to be your calling.”
Daniel said following in his father’s footsteps was neither intimidating nor difficult.
“If the call was from my dad, that would be intimidating, because maybe I would let him down,” Daniel said. “But the call came from Christ, and He is the one uplifting us. He never lets us down. There’s nothing intimidating when Christ is holding us.”
Daniel said hope and future are connected.
“Our future is as bright as the promises of God,” he said.
Daniel said God never promised we would live life free of trouble or be spared of a terminal disease. However, quoting Philippians 4:19, God has promised He will “supply all of your needs according to my riches and kindness in Christ Jesus,” Daniel said.
“God said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you,’” he said. “God has given us many great promises.”
Hopkins asked the Dickards the key to preserving a legacy of future for future generations.
“One of the things I saw in my life was character from my dad,” Daniel said. “My mom and dad were the same on Sunday and the same on Monday. I saw character, and that character comes from Christ. Character matters in life.”
Wayne said God is building character in our lives, and that character will develop into faithfulness.
“As we grow in Him, the faithfulness of God is reproduced through us,” Wayne said. “It may not be in the pulpit, it may be in a classroom or the business world, but wherever God takes us, He has saved us to build character, and as God’s faithfulness is reproduced, it will touch the world.”
Daniel said the key to serving God is having the willingness to do what God tells us to do before He tells us.
“It’s putting our yes on the table,” he said. “You have been called unto God and His service. Right now, you have to make the decision, not to serve him ‘if.’ Scratch the ‘if.’ Say, ‘God, I will serve you, because you have been a God of character and faithfulness, and because you’ve proven yourself time and time again because I love You and want to serve You.”
Many times in his childhood, Daniel can recall seeing his mother on her knees praying in the morning.
“I saw a mom who was trying to raise children to love God, and she knew she couldn’t do it on her own. She needed God’s intervention. God is not looking for our ability. God is looking for our availability.”
Hopkins closed by asking the audience if there was a legacy of hope in your life.
“If not, it can begin with you,” he said. “Then you can hand it down to another generation. You can change the cycle. You can build upon the legacy given to you, and you can continue to look forward to Godly hope.”
Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with an enrollment of nearly 12,000 students. The university offers over 100 programs of study including doctoral, masters, bachelors, associate and certification programs. The website for complete information is www.campbellsville.edu.