ASHEVILLE, N.C. (BP)–One by one, they came to speak about Lewis A. (Louie) Drummond in the chapel at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. And each person said the same thing about the scholar, evangelist and fourth president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary: He was an encourager whose support for his students, laymen and theologians reached the highest level.
Fifteen people who either studied under Drummond or were family members or acquaintances of the family spoke at the Jan. 10 memorial service in the chapel nestled in the mountains of western North Carolina near Asheville. Drummond, 77, who died from complications of cancer on Jan. 4, spent the last few months as the evangelism professor in residence at the training center.
“None of us can fill Dr. Drummond’s shoes,” said Tom Phillips, vice president of crusades and training at the center. “But, perhaps, together all of us that God has called … can carry the banner. [Drummond] lived for the cross, and he still lives in the cross. He passed the torch, and it’s up to us to run the race.”
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Phil Roberts said many of his “seminary boys” wear wedding rings because of Louis and Betty Drummond. Roberts said Drummond was not only an encourager but also an equipper of men.
“He taught us the truths of the Gospel, the message of the Lord Jesus Christ, His virgin birth, His perfect life, His resurrection were not fiction or a fable or a fantasy. They were a fact,” said Roberts, who drew from 1 John 2:17 in the service’s opening prayer. “And the character of those truths would change lives.”
Betty Drummond’s brother, Max Morris of Orlando, Fla., said he first met Drummond in the fall of 1947 at Howard College, now Samford University, in Birmingham, Ala. He told stories of meeting Drummond, who lived across the hallway of their dorm.
“Now, Louie was a Yankee,” Morris said. “I was from the deep, deep South and every Yankee was suspect. How could anything good come from the North? Louie, while he was in the Army, was saved [under the ministry of] a Southern Baptist chaplain. … Over the next few months, Louie and I became the best of friends. We prayed together and sometimes prayed through the night. We studied the Bible together and went out witnessing together.
“He wasn’t used to southern ways. He never heard of turnips or collard greens, much less eating them. Corn on the cob was for cattle, not for human consumption. … I gave him instructions on how to court Betty. One night I caught Louie and Betty smooching [holding hands, a quick peck on the cheek according to Morris] on the living room couch. Obviously my instructions were taking hold. Several months later, it was my privilege to perform their marriage ceremony in the First Baptist Church in Dothan, Ala.
“Last Sunday night, Louie graduated. He did not pass away. He passed over into the presence of Jesus, his Lord.”
Scott Dawson, who leads a Birmingham-based evangelistic association, said Drummond was a friend, teacher and mentor. “Dr. D,” as students called him, took the words of Christ and presented them in simple truths, Dawson said.
“He could communicate in simplest forms. To me, Dr. Drummond was a genius,” said Dawson, who cited 1 John 4:11 in his remarks. “He was a man of grace. He was a nice guy. He was the epitome of a true Christian gentleman. People were drawn to him. He loved his wife, his students, and he passionately loved his Lord. He wanted us to share with the world of the hope that is Christ Jesus.”
James T. Draper Jr., the president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, said Drummond was God’s gift to Southern Baptists. The thing that stuck in his mind about Drummond, Draper said, was his “buoyancy of spirit.”
“We spoke when his last diagnosis wasn’t very good several months ago and it was almost like hallelujah time as he talked about God [being] in control,” Draper said. “That buoyancy and optimism transmitted to all of us. He changed the tenor of Southern Baptist life because of that.”
Timothy George, the dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, said the passion of Drummond’s life “was just one thing: Telling forth the Good News of the almighty sovereign God.” George said the Apostle Paul called this the “Gospel of God, and Louie Drummond preached it, loved it and lived it with passion.”
“He was a great teacher. I remember a student was running out of breath and said, ‘I don’t want to miss Dr. Drummond’s class because you never know when a revival will break out.’ He had that kind of impact on his students.”
Henry Holley of Marietta, Ga., a senior consultant with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said Drummond was a righteous man who walked with God and was “after God’s own heart.” Holley said Drummond demonstrated in his life “a walk in faith, a walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, a walk with the Word of God; [he] walked in prayer, walked in the love of God toward his fellow man, walked in humility, walked with integrity, walked with singleness of heart, walked with assertive heart, walked with obedience to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in proclaiming witness and to build up people in the Kingdom.
“He served as a model to us. He inspired and challenged us. He was a great communicator and a great discipler of man. He was a true friend.”
James Merritt, a former Southern Baptist Convention president and currently a pastor of Cross Pointe, the Church at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga., described Drummond as a “life preserver for me” during Merritt’s time in seminary.
“I would’ve changed his name from Louie to Barnabas,” Merritt said. “Scripture says Barnabas was a good man full of the Holy Spirit. He was full of faith. A great number of people were added to the Lord. I think of Dr. Drummond. He was the epitome of goodness. He bore the fruit of goodness in his life.
“But, more than being a good man, he was an incredibly gifted man. He was full of the Holy Spirit. He was one of those rare professors that had the ability to talk across the spectrum, whether it was evangelism or church practice or preaching or church history or theology or doctrine. He was equally at home in any of those areas.
Recounting Drummond’s move from the faculty at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., to the presidency of Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., Merritt said, “It took incredible faith, incredible courage for Dr. Drummond to leave a place of security, to leave a place where he loved and was loved … and walk into a cauldron that was boiling over with bitterness and hate and anger and know that his chance for success was slim. He knew he would get blamed for everything that went wrong and … that he would never get any credit for whatever he did which was right. But if he had to do it again, he would because he was a man of great faith.”
James Walker, pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church in Asheville, spoke about Drummond’s sense of humor. He talked about the times when Drummond was at Howard and how he tried to help his friend, Bob Norman, win the student body presidency by painting in large white letters, “Vote for Bob Norman” on the side of the dorm and renting an airplane to drop pamphlets soliciting votes for his friend.
“He had an infectious laugh and a great sense of humor,” Walker said. “He would call me and thank me for what I said on Sunday. He stood for the things God cherished in this wicked world. God just took him home early and there will be a glorious reunion at the Eastern Gate.”
Steven Olford of Olford Ministries International in Memphis, Tenn., said Drummond was the dearest friend he knew. Olford spoke about Drummond’s relationship with his wife and said he was a “consecrated servant.”
“There was a glow about him, freshness about him,” Olford said. “He broke the mold of the stereotype of the academic world. He was a committed soldier, a great evangelist, a creative scholar. His heart burned for two mighty events: a church-wide revival which we need badly and worldwide evangelism.”
The previous Wednesday in a graveside service at Southeastern Seminary’s cemetery in Wake Forest, Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy Graham and a longtime friend of the Drummonds, credited Drummond in helping her become the Christian she is today.
She spoke from Matthew 5, saying that it was a perfect description of Drummond and his life.
“With all his degrees and his brilliance, Dr. Drummond was torn because he knew he was a sinner,” Lotz said. “He was always hungry and thirsty. I loved his mind because he never felt like he knew it all. He was always learning and humble enough to discuss things with me. His hunger was satisfied in that he had Christ but never satisfied in that he was always hungry and thirsty for more.
“I don’t know a more merciful person than Dr. Drummond,” Lotz continued. “He was gracious and merciful in his character and demeanor. There was not one mean bone in that man’s body. There was nothing critical, nothing vengeful, nothing judgmental. He was just pure in heart. If we were in heaven, this is the way our Lord would describe Dr. Drummond. It’s the way our Lord described His followers. I see him at heaven’s gate and he’s been rewarded.”