Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Father's Day Tribute to My Father and Friend Paul Burleson

Today is Father's Day, and this post is a tribute to my own father, Paul Burleson. My dad is living in his seventh decade of life, but he acts like he's in his 30's. His own father was an alcoholic until late in life, when my dad led him to Christ. Dad began pastoring at the age of seventeen and has spent over fifty years in ministry, not only pastoring several churches, both large and small, but mentoring pastors from all across the United States. From 1976 to 1982 he was the pastor of Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, not far from Southwestern Theological Seminary. I can remember as a high school student going to church on Sunday night and hundreds of seminary students would all sit in the center section to hear my dad teach. He not only related to the seminary students, he became friends with many SWBTS professors and administrators including T.W. Hunt, John Seelig, and others. His ministry continues to reach people across the nation through his revival meetings, blogs, and personal mentorship of those who frequently call him for counsel and advice. The people I pastor love to hear him teach more than anyone else.  Everything I know about ministry I learned from my father. Many times on Sunday's after the roast my mom prepared for the family, my dad would sit at the table with me and discuss theology, ministry and various other subjects. He prepared me to pastor when I was only in my early twenties.

But the greatest thing that I could say about my dad has nothing to do with ministry and everything to do with life. He lives and loves more than most. What I mean by that is he knows how to simply enjoy life and people. Whether its riding his motorcycle, or going to OU sporting events, or attending various social events, or ministering in churches, my dad meets people, hears their stories, and ministers to them. Ministry is not something my dad does, it defines who he is--simply because relationships are everything to my dad. Whether it is my mom, Mary, who is his best friend and love of his life, or his four kids, or a fellow pastor, or the stranger off the street, my dad is interested in people. I love to hear him laugh. It's a laugh that comes from inner joy and happiness. You can't fake  the kind of laugh my dad has. His heart is full joy, and he makes the atmosphere around him joyful.

I used to hear my dad say that when people get older "they either get bitter or they get better." That saying used to be just an illustration to me, but as I've seen my dad get older, I now see the euphemism as a more colorful reality. My dad is getting better. Not only has he not gotten stuck emotionally and spiritually, he far surpasses any human being I know in both categories. I hope that I am half the man my father is when I am his age.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.

You are the best dad a son could ever dream of having.


Jack Maddox said...

I had a chance to meet your dad in Greensboro. What a GREAT guy!!! He was the pastor of one of the greatest deacons I ever served with (Wichita Falls). His ministry in Ft. Worth made a difference in thousands of lives. He is a wonderful guy and God has used him through the years to shape and mold countless lives. Thanks for this post

My dad in now my brother in Christ and has been for the last 3 years (He is 67) God is good!

Strider said...

Nice tribute Wade. Your dad has been a great encouragement to me as a fellow blogger. He always has an encouraging word from me and I often need it!

Strider said...

... an encouraging word FOR me. Sorry about that!

Bob Cleveland said...

Thanks for putting this up, Wade. Not only is it a fitting tribute to a man I rejoice in having as a friend, but it prompted me to post on my blog, a Father's Day remembrance of my dad, too.

It was long overdue.

Gene S said...


Most of us who are Preacher's Kids are most blessed when daddy lives the other 6 days of the week the things he preached on Sunday.

Your dad and mine, now gone to Higher Ground, stood a step above many of their contemporaries. I suspect yours saw fraud and pretense and told you about it. Therefore, you are sensitive to it.

My dad grew up on a tenant farm outside Athens, GA. He got his call to preach plowing behind a mule during the Depression. Despite the church ladies at the Moon's Grove Baptist Church telling him an education would ruin him, he hitch hiked to Mercer arriving with .10 in his pocket.

He was told by the President that a boy with no funds other than .10 could not metriculate. He broke down and cried.

The President had mercy on him and gave him the name of a family who loaned money to worthy students. In addition, he got a job peeling potatoes in the Cafeteria plus cutting hair for students. He made it!

Then he went to Andover-Newton, which had a reputation for being one of the finest Seminaries in the country. Again, he made it through hard work paying his own way.

Now, comes the wrinkle: He felt called to return to the South where he met all kinds of subjective criticism. He had the education for a FBC, but he was still single and did not have the Southern Professors pulling for him.

They would simply say, "Can you trust a man who is from Andover-Newton rather than Southern?"

He had to take a job teaching school and a part time church in Pendleton, SC. Finally he married a Carver School of Missions graduate and that opened some doors. He went to the Liberty, SC, FBC where I was born. From there he went to Tryon, NC, FBC, but got pressure to leave because he ministered to everyone--even a woman dying from a botched abortion at a "Road House" outside town.

After a short time as Associate Pastor in Spartanburg, SC, he was called to the Clarkston, GA, FBC at a time of potential growth. They had built a new sanctuary and the population was exploding. He worked hard and stimulated a doubling of the congregation, ,BUT he was in conflict with the Town Mayor / Deacon Chairman / Church Treasurer who was playing games with the Building Fund by not paying the steel bill because he had a lawsuit against the company.

Gene S said...


Daddy told this man, "You must pay the bill by Friday or I will resign Sunday and explain in clear terms why I am doing it." It took 4 years, but they finally got him in one of the most ugly and lying scenes ever imaginable.

That was OK. He refused to hate. He started a new mission church in an unchurched area--and also became the first HMB Chaplain to the Fulton County Juvenile Court. In addition, he was the Associate DOM for the Atlanta Baptist Association.

When he should have become the DOM a powerful Editor of the Christian Index opposed him because he was not a "yes man" to him. Still he ministered as best he could and had the undying respect of many of the Atlanta Pastors. Again, he refused to hate and did not give up when the new DOM put terrible pressure to get rid of him.

Here is what I learned:

(1) Those who have integrity sometimes are doomed to public failure.
(2) Those who maintain their integrity are provided by God with a place of service where it counts.
(3) Refusing to hate and leaving vengence to God, saves one from bitterness or ultimate defeat.
(4) Most of the early Saints as well as Jesus paid an ultimate price for telling the truth.
(5) Few preachers are willing to stand with integrity when their political future and retirement plans are part of the sacrifice.
(6) Robert Frost was right when he advocated "The Road Less Taken."

I rejoice in the man of integrity who was my father. He stood in front of a hostile crowd many times at the GBC and in his church to advocate for honesty and a Christlike approach to those the majority wanted to crucify.

He is the most like Christ of any man I have ever known. Even in failure, he maintained his integrity. He refused to participate in ugly politics just to be "successful."

It's too bad men like him are few and far between, but I shall meet him one day in the Land Above for I know he walks with God!!!

Aussie John said...


What a joy to be able to write of such a great gift of God.

Reading accounts such as yours brings back memories of many times when, through mental and physical pain, I wondered whether I could possibly be the son of the man I knew as my father.

Never-the-less, those days taught me the necessity of helping some dear brethren, who had similar upbringing, to come to understand the concept of fatherhood, as applied to our heavenly Father.

I have certainly appreciated your Dad through the little time I have known him in his blog.

Dr. James Willingham said...

Must be nice to have a father, but for those who don't there are special promises from God the Father that more than compensate for the loss.In Ps.27:10, we read: "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up."(true even if the child does not realize it). God is, Ps.68:5, "A father of the fatherless." He is, Ps.10:14, "the helper of the fatherless." Indeed, He. Ps.103:13, "Like a father pities his children, so the Lord pities them that fear him." Around the age of 3-4 years I was deprived of both father and mother and raised by a man who had actually been orphaned due to the death of his parents. My loss was due to divorce. I would become a teenager and an atheist before my conversion and call to the ministry. Today, my daughter was present to take my wife and I to church and to celebrate Father's Day by eating a barbecue dinner with us prepared by my wife. After the dinner, our son called to wish me a Happy Father's Day. He had taken us out to Lunch on Friday for an early celebration as he was occupied with his church and also his wife and daughter would be celebrating his fatherhood today. I can say God certainly provided me with a remarkably happy father's day, for which I am extremely thankful. As to my grandfather who raised me (for 11 years) and my father (with whom I spent only a few brief weeks after age 3 across 65 years), I preached their funerals, Grandpa's in 1968 and Dad's in 2003. I read a statement at my mother's funeral (along wih two half sisters and my step-father) in 1972.

I am thankful to God for His great goodness, and I glorify Christ for His salvation of my soul from my sinful and depraved state and His call to the ministry of the word. It is a great comfort to my soul to think that God has a great purpose in all that comes to pass, and the proof of it is in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. If the Father can make that, the worst of all evils ever committed in this world, turn out for good, then it is logical and divine and human to believe that He can make our sordid miseries turn out for good. God the Father was the role model for the fathers rightly memorialized by their sons, Wade Burleson and Gene Scarborough. As He produced such worthy fathers, so he can make up for the lack of the same in the lives of those who suffer the want of such advantage. Our God is, indeed, great, greater than words can convey. He commends His covenant, His word to a thousand generations (I Chronicles 16:15). Surely we shall see a time, when the Goo News shall triumph in lowly persuasion, winning the whole earth for 1001 generations in order to literally fulfill the promises to Abraham of a seed as numerous as the stars of heaven, the sand of the seashore, and the dust of the earth, producing generations of children with both parents and prosperity, spiritually and other wise, consonant with such a visitation and such Good News. That is my prayer for Christ' glory.

Anonymous said...

Very nice.

Have never met your dad.

But the things he says on this blog give evidence of all that you have said.


Rex Ray said...

I’ve always enjoyed you father’s comments on your blog. Recently, we’ve communicated on his and hopefully we’re the better for it – I know I am.

Fathers like yours are not common. I relate to mine. He took the challenge at a circus to win $5 if he could not be thrown out of the ring.

The big strong pro wrestler had tricks – grease on his body. Unable to throw my dad out, he butted him in the eye and claimed with blood every where my dad had to leave.

My dad wouldn’t and eventually the circus paid him. Next morning with one eye shut he preached in view of a call– they voted him in.

Bryan Riley said...

He is a lovely man and a man who loves his Father.

Gene S said...

I think in the previous blogs about the altar call, that most real call to Christ is by seeing one act like Christ and know he makes a difference in their life.

I encourage all of us to be authentic! Children grow up to be just like us most of the time.

My Coast Guard aviation son was kind enought to call yesterday despite moving from Traverse City, MI, to Oregon. They were in South Dakota and later sent a picture of Mt. Rushmore's carving.

They same man who did Stone Mountain's outstanding leaders of the Confederacy did both: Gutzum Borgland. One worthy of venerating usually earned it by being courageous and honest--even in trying times.

Anyone can be a hero in easy times, but they fade fast when trials and tribulations come. It separates the pretenders from the real.

Please note: women and John were the only ones at the foot of the cross when Jesus died. Peter had pretended no to know him and fled. But---later he came to his senses and became the leader Jesus had seen him to be.

Even a chicken can be used of God, if they learn a lesson from it!

Paul said...

I love your dad. I know few people in life who are as kind, gracious and genuine as Paul Burleson.

Mary Burleson said...

Wade, Since I'm your Mom, aren't you glad I chose to marry Dad? I made a good choice, didn't I? I agree with everything you said and I know because I live with him. We've had our rough years, but after 51 of them together we are reaping the benefits of having worked through all our stuff and now enjoying the comfort and fun of being together.

Neither of us could write such things about our Dads as you did about Paul. Hopefully the generational chain has been somewhat broken and we're all the better for it.

Great tribute to Paul. Thanks for writing it. He was really moved by it and alerted me to be sure and read it. Great Father's Day gift to him.

Gene S said...


Behind every good man is an equally good woman--and lovely for a mother of a middle-aged son!!!

Like my wife--you may be 60, but you don't look a day over 40!

What I appreciate most is your allusion to the way you both have become a couple despite not having the best example from you own parents.

It proves we can all make a choice of what kind of relationship we work to produce.

mitchc said...

This is a wonderful tribute to your dad. I am sure that I would enjoy knowing him. My own pastor, Rev. Marshall Blalock, was a member of his church while he was at Southwestern.

Tiffany Thigpen Croft said...

I love to see your Dad's comments when he posts. I have always thought highly of him simply through his comments. You have obviously learned much from him and what a blessing to be able to give such high praise to your father.
And Pastor Wade, from everything I have read, heard and witnessed, you are more than "half the man" that you wish to be. I am sure your children will say the same for you.
Thank you Paul Burleson for your legacy, your example, your wise words and additions to these posts, for teaching Wade well. I know you are equally proud of him. God bless you.