NEW ORLEANS (BP)–New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary paused Oct. 7 to celebrate and remember the life, ministry and legacy of President Emeritus Landrum P. Leavell II.
Leavell, who led the seminary from 1975-95, died Sept. 26 in Wichita Falls, Texas. He was remembered as a family man, a pastor, a preacher, a visionary leader and a Christ-follower who genuinely cared about people.
The worship and memorial service included a eulogy from Nelson Price, former NOBTS trustee and longtime friend of Leavell, and a testimony from Leavell’s son, Roland Q. Leavell II. Composer and musician Squire Parsons sang Leavell’s favorite song, “Sweet Beulah Land.”
The service was held in the Roland Q. Leavell Chapel, named for Leavell’s uncle who served as NOBTS president from 1946-56. The Leavell family legacy also is evident at the campus in the naming of Leavell College, the seminary’s undergraduate college; the Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health; and an endowed faculty chair in New Testament and Greek.
During the service, NOBTS President Chuck Kelley read John 1:1-16. Leavell was one who, like John the Baptist, pointed to the Savior, Kelley said, noting, “As was John the Baptist, so was Dr. Landrum P. Leavell II -– a herald of light, a herald of the truth.”
Kelley then sought to “paint a portrait” of the former seminary leader for the many students, professors and staff members who did not have a chance to personally know Leavell. Kelley did so by borrowing from one of Leavell’s sermons.
According to Kelley, Leavell once preached a sermon about the three books every student at NOBTS should know and understand. First and foremost, Leavell wanted his students to study, know and understand the Bible.
“Truly he was a man of The Book,” Kelley said. “He knew that the Bible was the Word of God. He knew it was inspired -– that it was absolutely true. He knew this Gospel had the power to transform any human life.” Kelley described how Leavell spent time in God’s Word each day and expected others to do the same and to hold the Bible above every other book.
Then Kelley held up an English grammar text and a checkbook.
In speaking and writing, Leavell always exhibited a command of language and had a firm desire for his students to have the same proficiency, Kelley said.
With regard to the checkbook, Leavell wanted his students to be responsible with their finances -– that ministers, and institutions for that matter, should live within their means.
“Grammar stands out when you don’t use it properly. A checkbook stands out when you don’t use it properly and lose control of your finances,” Kelley said. “They become invisible and the message and the ministry you are performing take center stage when you master the basic fundamentals and let the mission be the priority of your life.”
Kelley added a few more items to help paint a more detailed portrait of Leavell. The first item was another book, “Don’t Miss a Blessing” by Leavell’s wife JoAnn.
Simply put, Leavell cherished time with his wife and children in spite of his busy schedule.
“There ought to be in the life of a godly man a passionate commitment to both your ministry and to your family,” Kelley said. “I have never known a day in the life of Landrum P. Leavell II that his family was not at the top of his agenda. He loved them. He cared for them. And he incorporated them into his life in ministry.”
The last item Kelley used to illustrate Leavell’s life and ministry was an ice cream maker. For Kelley it was a representation of Landrum Leavell’s love and concern for people.
“You can’t really know the Leavell family if you haven’t had their Butterfinger ice cream,” Kelley said. “They learned how to [make ice cream] well, not for themselves, but for us.
“And this is the one thing Dr. Leavell would want you to take away from his life in ministry is to understand that it’s all about people,” Kelley said. “People matter to God. Ministry is all about people. So many of us are here in this room because this man invested in our lives. I know he invested in mine.”
Kelley closed his message with the image of a relay race. In a relay race, many runners participate on a team, each passing a baton to the next runner when his or her portion of the race is done.
“Dr. Leavell would want every one of us to know that we are not here to commemorate the finish of a race,” Kelley said. “He would want you to know that we are celebrating the end of a leg of a relay, for he is passing the baton to you and me. The race isn’t over until Jesus comes.”