You may not have heard it. You may have been so busy with your day-to-day routine that you simply didn’t notice it. It was about supper time (at least that’s what he would call it), on February 12, 2018. That’s when a mighty tree, named Bro. Bobby Roberson, fell.
In the forest of fundamentalism, Bobby Roberson stood, like a mighty sequoia amongst a bunch of shrubs. Although not great in stature, he was head and shoulders above the rest of us. What made him stand out, you might ask? We could talk endlessly about his consistency, his longevity, his compassion, his steadfastness and his commonality. Although he was a giant, he never made the rest of us feel like he was our superior. He was just Bro. Bobby.
Bobby Roberson loved preachers; all kinds of preachers. Although he wasn’t one to compromise, he always treated those with whom he disagreed with courtesy and grace. He didn’t talk down to anyone and always seemed to have time for everyone. If you were a preacher, he didn’t care whether you were the pastor of a mega-church in the city, or a small handful of folks in the Appalachians. He loved you and was there for you. I can remember dropping in on him a time or two. He always seemed to find time.
One of my fondest memories of Bro. Bobby took place just a couple of years ago. Our school basketball team went to Walkertown to play Gospel Light Christian School on Homecoming Night. Our bus broke down as we were pulling into the parking lot, and after the game, we had to wait around for another bus to come from Durham. For some in our group, that might have been an inconvenience, but not for me. I went over to the cafeteria and there was Bro. Bobby. He and I, along with a few of his people, sat and ate Pinto beans and cornbread and just talked. I will cherish that night forever.
About twenty-four years ago, I invited Bro. Bobby to preach a two-night meeting for us. On Monday night, he and Mrs. Roberson drove over from Walkertown and met my family at a local restaurant. On that night, Mrs. Roberson drove and Bro. Bobby rode shotgun. When they got out of the car I asked Mrs. Roberson how she was doing and she promptly replied “Terrible! Daddy made me drive over here and he knows I don’t like to drive!” I learned real fast that Mrs. Roberson just said what she thought.
We went into the restaurant and had supper. During the conversation I mentioned to Bro. Bobby that I was praying about starting a school. When Mrs. Roberson heard that, she jumped into the conversation. “Don’t even think about it Bro. Rick! That Christian school ain’t nothing but a big headache. It’ll kill your church if you’re not careful.” I realized real quickly that I had touched a nerve, so I abandoned the subject of the conversation abruptly. (Looking back, I remember Bro. Bobby didn’t feel led to continue the dialogue either.) Mrs. Roberson had spoken her peace and had said enough for both of them! We finished our meal and made our way to the church for the service.
During the service, Bro. Bobby and I were sitting on the platform. During the special song, he leaned over and put his hand on my arm. I inclined my ear in his direction and he whispered to me, “Bro. Rick, you’ve got nice facilities here. The Lord’s been good to you. You’ve got a good church, some good people and a good crowd of young folks. You know, I think you ought to start a Christian school. I believe you’d do good with it.” He didn’t want to talk about it when his wife was around, but that one sentence helped give me the courage to move forward with what the Lord had placed upon my heart. Yes, the mighty tree crashed to the ground a couple of days ago, but his influence will continue on forever.
I just returned from having lunch in our school cafeteria. As I looked into the faces of our students, I was reminded of Bro. Bobby Roberson. Those kids don’t know it, but they owe him a debt. They were not even born when he and I had that fifteen-second conversation on our platform. Most preachers have a Bro. Bobby story, and that is mine. Just like me, many preachers could share how Bro. Bobby gave them good advice, encouraged them not to quit, or guided them into some new area of life or ministry. Everyone that has been influenced by the countless pastors Bobby Roberson helped owe him a debt, even if they didn’t hear that giant fall on Monday about suppertime.