Pastor, 74, can’t imagine doing anything else
SEDALIA – When Ted Francis answered God’s call to preach, there was no PowerPoint, no debate over worship styles, and no discussion of the term “mega church.” Many of today’s pastors had not even been born yet. All Francis knew those 56 years ago in 1951 was that God was calling him, and that was it.
Now 74, he is still at it, refusing to retire. After ministering in four states and preaching more than 200 revival meetings, he accepted the call to pastor Calvary Baptist in Sedalia last July and returned home to Missouri.
“God called me to preach,” Francis said. “He called me to this and I can’t get out, I can’t quit and I can’t retire. I’ve tried to retire five times, but I’m not very good at it. I can’t stay out of preaching.”
He was born in western North Carolina and moved to Missouri to raise cattle at Knob Noster. But as an 18-year-old boy, God called him and three other boys to preach.
“Out of those, I’m the only one still in active ministry,” Francis said. One died, and the other two have retired.
After answering the call, he studied at Hannibal-LaGrange College, Georgetown College and then Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary before serving in churches in Utica, Lone Jack, New Hope Baptist in Sedalia, Warsaw, and Blue Springs (First Baptist and Calvary Baptist). Later, along with his wife, Judy, he moved out of Missouri, pastoring in Kentucky, North Carolina, and Florida. Before moving to Sedalia, he pastored for 22 years in Palmetto, Fla., south of Tampa.
“I wouldn’t be anything else because God called me to be a preacher,” he said.
Francis credits that obedience to God as to how he has managed to stay in the ministry for so long and not get burned out.
“My strength has been in the fact that I didn’t let people deter me off God’s call,” he said. “I just keep looking to, for and at Him, saying to myself, ‘God knew all these things would happen, keep your eyes on Him.’”
Of course, a strong, Christian wife is also one of Francis’ secrets to success.
“She is a preacher’s daughter and knows how to keep me punched up,” he said.
That’s not to say the road has been easy and without trials.
“If people are in the ministry for an easy road, they’re in the wrong area,” he said. “Pastors get burned out over people, but that is what the ministry is about. I’ve been shot at but not hit, cussed, discussed, and everything that can happen has happened. But I don’t permit myself to get frustrated over people. People didn’t call me to preach. I didn’t quit because this wasn’t something I chose. God called me. I can’t quit. There’s nothing else for me to do, so let’s move on.”
So he moves on and keeps proclaiming that Word of the Lord. That’s what the world needed in the early 1950s and Francis said it’s what the world needs now.
“The church still needs the Gospel preached, and the unsaved still need the Word of the Lord,” he said. “We have changed some, but the basic element of preaching and teaching of the Word doesn’t change. The presentation from my standpoint hasn’t changed either. I haven’t gone to PowerPoint, the Word doesn’t need that. For me, I’ll just stay with the basic element of preaching and teaching the Word.”
While the Word of God hasn’t changed, some things have. More than 15 of Francis’ close “preacher buddies” have died. Francis makes a conscious effort to remember their ministries, influences and commitments to the Lord as he steps up to the pulpit each Sunday.
“Truthfully, I’m preaching for the glory of God on behalf of 15 other preachers. That’s what keeps me going.”
“To say ‘God is good’ is to put it lightly,” he said. “As long as I am healthy and able mentally, physically, socially, emotionally, I’m going to keep preaching. People always ask me what I would have done with my life if I wasn’t a preacher. I wouldn’t be anything else. God called me and that’s it.”