Monday morning I will have yet another opportunity to teach an annual grad course at Pensacola Theological Seminary. As the annual time approaches, I am reminded again of the numerous courtesies that the Campus Church, Pensacola Christian College, Pensacola Theological Seminary, and Pensacola Christian Academy have showered upon this preacher. I am grateful.
That gratefulness always brings to my mind the first time I was invited to speak on the campus. My alma mater was changing direction, and I felt like a man without a country. In that moment of discouragement, Dr. Arlin Horton invited this young, unknown preacher to speak. I was certain when I pulled on to Brent Lane in Pensacola and saw the Crowne Center that he had called the wrong preacher. But the Hortons embraced this unknown kid, and my life has been forever enriched because of it. I would like to share with you several key lessons that Dr. Horton has taught me by lip and by life.
First, there are innovative ways to evangelize. For obvious reasons, the ministries of Pensacola Christian College have a secluded environment. And with several daughters who have attended the college, I am thankful for that seclusion. But this does not mean that the ministries of PCC do not reach their community and the world. PCA, with its open enrollment policy, has been instrumental in reaching hundreds of kids with the Gospel. It was Mrs. Horton who personally taught me the value of open enrollment. Camp O’ the Pines has seen dozens of kids trust the Lord each year, and tens of thousands of dollars have been given each year through the Campus Church to see missionaries supported and missions projects launched. Only eternity will reveal the thousands of kids that will be heaven through the evangelistic heart of the Hortons.
Second, Dr. Horton taught me the value of humility. Mrs. Horton once told me that Dr. Horton’s limited public speaking ability was so that God exclusively could get the credit for what was done at PCC. Indeed, Dr. Horton was (and is) very careful to give all the glory to God. If any other preacher had established even one of the multiple ministries God has used Dr. Horton to launch, you could not get his inflated head through the door. We often say, “Glory to God,” but Dr. Horton meant it.
Dr. Horton taught me not to get hung up about money. When one considers the vast sum of money that comes through the ministries of PCC every year, it is obvious that the Hortons could have lived a lavish lifestyle – but they chose to live rather modestly. Indeed, they were extravagant givers. In my own life, they have helped with the launching of a servicemen’s center in Columbus, Georgia. They have helped one of our young church planters whose wife had huge medical bills. Even within their own ministry, money was always spent in such a way to maximize benefit for the students enrolled. And every student that goes to PCC really gets tuition assistance through the astronomically low tuition rate of the college.
Dr. Horton also inspired me with courage. He never shied away from making the hard decision and helped me to see that indecisiveness is a decision – a bad decision. I have watched as he has taken stands on controversial issues within fundamentalism, and sometimes paid a price for doing so. But generals have to make decisions. Leaders by definition lead. And Dr. Horton was not afraid to do it.
And finally, especially in these days of retirement and declining health, Dr. Horton has taught me the value of loving my wife. Indeed, to think of Dr. Horton is to think of Beka. They were a team. I have watched from a distance with great admiration as he as devoted his last years to her care and comfort. What a model for us all that he chose to wear the “husband hat” over the “ministry hat.”
If I have one regret with regard to my affiliation with Dr. Horton, it is only that I didn’t get to know him even better. There is a wealth of knowledge in that man that I still desire to tap. Indeed, I have up to this point been somewhat apprehensive about putting my feelings in public print because it might be assumed that I am after something.
But now that Dr. Horton is not in a position to give me anything other than friendship, but before he dies and these words are considered an over-stated eulogy, I think it imperative to tell this great man of God (and others) how thankful I am that God has allowed our paths to cross. Like Aquila and Priscilla, Arlin and Beka have pulled this Apollos aside and explained the way of God to me more perfectly. And I am thankful that they have.
Many have had their issues with the Hortons. And obviously, none of us agree with every decision that any ministry leader makes. Nevertheless, when the name Jeff Amsbaugh is mentioned and people ask, “Who?” I want it to be known Arlin Horton helped this “Who?” Thanks Dr. H for all you have given to me and so many others.