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Once dubious of the difference, Dick Lincoln now celebrates it

COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP)–When he prayed to receive Christ at age 22, Dick Lincoln thought, “I don’t see how that prayer could possibly make any difference in my life.” After more than 25 years in ministry, he “gets choked up” at the difference.
Lincoln was christened as Lutheran, confirmed as Episcopalian, baptized as Baptist and, on Nov. 11, elected as South Carolina’s state convention president.
Born in Jamestown, N.Y., in 1948, Lincoln was christened by his uncle, Julius, who was pastor of a Lutheran church and president of the Augustana Synod. When his parents moved to Florida in 1953, there was no Lutheran church in Tallahassee. So, they joined an Episcopal congregation.
“I went through confirmation like a boy goes to dance class,” Lincoln chuckles. “I didn’t want to go, but my mama made me.”
Lincoln accepted Christ as his Savior the last week of classes at the University of South Florida. Through observing his roommate, who shared his avid interest in hunting and fishing, Lincoln arrived at “the idea there was a living God.”
“I saw a person pray regularly, go to church faithfully and read the Bible,” he recalls. “I saw the difference Jesus made in his life.”
Two young women on a visitation team from First Baptist Church, Temple Terrace, came to visit his roommate. They invited Lincoln to attend church. Not only is he now a Christian, but one of those ladies became his wife — Patty, he muses.
“When the invitation came, I didn’t know what to do,” Lincoln recalls. “So I went to see the pastor on Monday. He explained the plan of salvation, but it made no sense to me.”
Lincoln did not attend the next Sunday, but he felt “an overwhelming urge” by that Tuesday to accept Christ. “I walked right past the church secretary. She asked if she could help me,” he says. “‘No,’ I said abruptly as I opened the door to the pastor’s office and announced that I wanted to accept Christ, and I wanted to do it right now.”
The pastor asked Lincoln if he wanted to repeat a prayer after him. “No sir, I want to pray my own prayer,” he replied.
“I remember saying to myself, ‘I don’t see how that prayer could possibly make any difference in my life,'” Lincoln remarks. “But I realize now that Christ was already dealing with me.”
Lincoln went fishing with his roommate about a month later. While his buddy rested in the cabin, Lincoln read half of Acts, and all of Romans, and 1 and 2 Corinthians.
“I cried. I got emotional. I got fired up. I laughed. It was amazing,” he recollects. “I got so much out of reading the Bible.
“When my roommate awoke,” Lincoln continues, “I ran to him and asked, ‘Did you know … ? Did you know … ?’ He just smiled. He knew what was happening. That was the first evidence for me that God was real.”
Within four months, Lincoln was answering God’s call into the ministry. “At the time,” he said, “the pastor was preaching from the Book of Jude. I had to look at the table of contents to know whether it was in the Old or New Testament.”
The history major, who had been accepted to enter law school, soon headed for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, where he earned the doctor of ministry degree.
Although he had started out in college to follow in his father’s steps as a physician, Lincoln says he switched “because while I was doing a chemistry problem, I discovered the answer was in the back of the book. I asked myself, ‘Why do anything that has an answer in the back of the book?”
An intellectual who likes challenges, Lincoln fell in love with history because “nobody can really say what history means,” with law because “nobody knows what is just” and with theology because “nobody has seen God.”
Since 1978, he has served as pastor of Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia. During his tenure, the church has grown from around 1,000 to more than 2,875 resident members. Last year, the Columbia congregation recorded 180 baptisms and gave $250,165 to the Cooperative Program.
When he completes his term as president, Lincoln says he hopes South Carolina Baptists will be able to say, “He served us well, expressed love and appreciation for us all, helped us to know the things of God, and encouraged us to empower kingdom growth.”
What difference has Christ made? “He’s changed the way I think and feel, how I value myself and other people,” Lincoln replies. “He’s given me work to do and enjoy. He’s given me a church filled with the greatest, most interesting people I’ve ever met. He’s provided people in my life who have made major contributions to who I am. He’s given me a great family — my wife and two kids, Stephen and Elizabeth.
“I cannot think of any area of my life that he has not changed and blessed.”

    About the Author

  • Todd Deaton