Listen to advice and accept instruction, so you might grow wise in the future. Many plans are in a person’s mind, but the Lord’s purpose will succeed (Proverbs 19:20-21, Common English Bible).
I was privileged to sit in class when I was in seminary, with one of the wisest people I have ever known. There are also few I respect more than Bishop John Wesley Hardt. This man of God shared not only his wisdom but he and his wife Martha have shared many of the things God entrusted to them with others around them.
I first met Bishop Hardt in a seminary program the Methodist Church calls “Course of Study School.” I was assigned to his “Church Administration” class. A little over a year later I enrolled in the Master of Divinity program at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University where he worked as “Bishop in Residence” as a part of the school’s faculty. Just over a year after that I sat in Bishop Hardt’s United Methodist Polity course. Both classes were wonderful experiences and I am thankful I had the opportunity to learn from such a man.
Bishop Hardt had an interesting way of beginning each class. He would walk into the classroom and begin by telling a story or reciting a poem, all from memory, all done perfectly. Regardless of what the man said in those times, there were always pearls of wisdom in the telling. Though I was the only person in the polity class who had had him before, he never repeated a story or poem. He always had something to share.
I began the Master of Divinity program much because Bishop Hardt told me it was something he believed I should do. He had me sit in his office, and among other things, Bishop Hardt told me, I would limit myself and my career should I choose to stay in the “Course of Study” program and that I should seriously reconsider my previous decision.
Over the time I was in his classes, I listened and took in the instruction Bishop Hardt offered to his students. I am even happier I listened to his advise. This is a man who made a real difference in my life.
Some years before my arrival at SMU, Bishop Hardt retired from being an active Bishop. The year I graduated he retired from his position as Bishop in Residence at Perkins. That was seventeen years ago. It was a much deserved retirement. Today he and Martha still live in the Dallas area.
Still, I can’t help but feel a bit sorry for the students who came after me because they would not have the same opportunity to hear the pearls of wisdom that began each class, or the sound advise that came in private conversations. Is there someone else filling that role at Perkins. I sure hope so, for the sake of all those students since Bishop Hardt’s retirement. as it is the part of my seminary education I treasure most.
There is something else I learned from Bishop Hardt. A few years after I graduated Bishop Alfred Norris appointed me to Pleasant Retreat United Methodist Church in Tyler, Texas. It didn’t take long for me to realize the significance of that particular appointment as this was a congregation Bishop Hardt had served as a young pastor many years before. Older members at Pleasant Retreat still remembered him, still talked to him, still respected him. I came to learn that Bishop Hardt was handing out those pearls of wisdom early in his career too.
It is my prayer that somewhere along the way, I passed on a bit of that wisdom Bishop Hardt so generously shared with me. As the Scriptures say, “Listen to advice, accept instruction…” and seek wisdom.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Grace and Peace,
Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.