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N.C. pastor dies while cleaning gun

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to include funeral arrangements.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BP) — A prominent Southern Baptist pastor in North Carolina died Aug. 29 in an accidental shooting in his home, according to news reports.

Phillip M. Davis, founder and senior pastor of Nations Ford Community Church in Charlotte, reportedly was cleaning his pistol at the time of the incident in Weddington, N.C. The pistol fired, hitting his chest, the Charlotte Observer reported. In the story, the Union County sheriff’s office said there were no signs of foul play.

Milton A. Hollifield Jr., Baptist State Convention of North Carolina executive director-treasurer, described Davis as “a friend and a man blessed with great vision and strong determination.”

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“Not only was he a popular and respected pastor in North Carolina,” Hollifield noted, “but he and Cynthia [his wife] are loved and respected by many people across the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Nations Ford was in the midst of a founder’s celebration. Special services Aug. 26-28 were to be followed by two different speakers Sunday, Aug. 30. The church was celebrating 36 years of ministry under Davis’ leadership. Davis and his wife were celebrating 42 years together, and Davis would have turned 63 Sunday.

“Today is a very sad day for us here at Nations Ford Community Church,” church spokeswoman Jacinda Garabito told the Charlotte Observer. “It’s a shock to us. This morning was supposed to be a huge day of celebration for us.”

The church’s usual live Sunday broadcast was suspended. Members were invited to grieve and pray, and the messages that had been scheduled were cancelled.

A statement from the church said “Bishop Davis was a prolific, focused man of vision as well as an effective leader who served God selflessly and touched countless lives. His teachings were profound and transformative. His passion was to help people reach their fullest potential in Christ and to ‘Occupy Their Destiny.'”

Davis served the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina as first vice president in 1996-97. He planted several churches throughout the United States. He founded the Male Leadership Academy of Charlotte and Envision Life School of Leadership and Ministry.

He had a business degree from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, and received his master of ministry and doctor of divinity degrees from the Carolina School of Theology. Davis wrote “The Vision Casting Congregation” and “Father Force.” His book, “The Untapped Power of a Man,” was scheduled for release soon.

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He also was on the board for North Carolina Division of Social Services. Davis’s radio broadcast, “Envision Life,” has aired for many years on WordNet Radio.

“Through his wisdom from God and unique gift of leadership, he was most instrumental in leading … Nations Ford … to become a strong and influential church that greatly impacted numerous communities in Charlotte and beyond,” Hollifield said. “I always respected Brother Phil and admired how he led his parishioners to give God their best efforts and always in everything pursue excellence. We will miss his influence in the Christian movement and his magnetic personality, but the investment of his life in others, for God’s glory, will never be forgotten.”

Nations Ford was part of the Metrolina Baptist Association, where Bob Lowman serves as the executive director.

Lowman posted on the association’s Facebook page about Davis’ death and sent an email out to remind people how “temporary life can be, and how true it is for the Christ-follower that this world is not our home.”

In a statement to the Biblical Recorder, Lowman said, “He was an active part of Metrolina Baptist Association for many years, from serving on the staff of the association years ago, to being a leader in missions and church planting, to being a significant and respected voice in the African-American community in our region.”

Lowman said Davis’ leadership will be missed.

“Phillip was a partner and a friend to me and to many pastors,” Lowman said. “He and his leadership will most definitely be missed. Our prayers are focused on lifting his wife, Cynthia, their children and grandchildren, and the Nations Ford Church family to the Lord for grace and peace during this time of loss and grief.”

A 2012 Biblical Recorder story about the election of Fred Luter as Southern Baptist Convention president, quoted Davis, who took a contingent of messengers to that historic meeting.

“I hope … whether you are African-American, whether you’re Anglo, Hispanic, whatever the case may be, people will see that leadership is leadership, and Fred Luter is a good leader,” he said.

Davis described Luter as having “tremendous zeal for winning souls, starting churches and preaching the Gospel and reaching people,” he said. “The bedrock of evangelism runs through his blood, and that’s critical in this day and time.”

Lowman said Davis has made a difference in Charlotte.

“His work in recent months in the Reconciled Church Summit effort, bringing churches together across racial and denominational divides for times of discussion, networking and prayer, was a very important part of the healing needed in the Charlotte area in these times,” Lowman said.

In addition to his wife, Davis is survived by three children and three grandchildren.

The church held a vigil Aug. 31 and plans to host prayer services today (Sept. 1) from noon until 3 p.m. and Sept. 2 from 6 to 9 p.m. A public visitation is scheduled at the church Sept. 4 from 4 – 6:30 p.m., followed immediately by a memorial service ending at 8 p.m.

The funeral service will be held Sept. 5 at 11 a.m. at Calvary Church, 5801 Pineville – Matthews Rd. in Charlotte, preceded by visitation at 10 a.m.

Memorial gifts may be made to the Male Leadership Academy of Charlotte, 5901 Nations Ford Road, Charlotte, NC 28217.