Thursday, January 19, 2006

Jim Whitmire


Everyone needs a Jim Whitmire in his or her life. "Mr. Whitmire," as I knew him, was the minister of music at my church when I was a teenager. I have hundreds of memories from Merritt Island and most of them are affiliated in some way with Jim Whitmire and the music program. Because I am married now to a youth pastor, I’ve come to realize that while we didn’t have a youth pastor at Merritt Island in those years, we had Jim Whitmire and he functioned as a pastor in practically every area of our lives.

I remember a sign he had hanging in the choir room: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

I remember feeling my heart in my throat as I struggled to ring my handbell in the proper instant. A handbell choir with more than ten members was an insult to the music (fewer people is harder, but Mr. Whitmire assured us ten people should be able to handle anything), therefore we played a LOT of bells and a lot of notes . . . usually very quickly. He challenged us to do the near-impossible . . . and somehow, we rose to the occasion, though I was nail-biting nervous every time I slid on those white gloves.

I remember him asking us to consider what movies we went to see on Saturday night . . . because those were the thoughts that would follow us into worship on Sunday morning.
I remember him singing, “The love of God . . . is greater far, than tongue or pen can ever tell.” To this day, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone sing that song more eloquently.

I remember one Sunday in particular. I and a couple of friends had come in late, and we slipped into a pew down front while the youth choir was singing in the early Sunday morning service. During the benediction, Mr. Whitmire came down off the platform, leaned over the front pew, and caught our attention. “I want to see you in my office,” he said.

We—and I don’t remember exactly who was with me, though I have my suspicions—promptly went upstairs and took seats in Mr. Whitmire’s small office. He came in, opened his Bible to the last chapter of Hebrews, and read a single verse: “Obey your spiritual leaders and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they know they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this joyfully and now with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit” (Hebrews 13:17, NLT).

Mr. Whitmire proceeded to tell us that when we joined the choir, we made a commitment and effectively gave up our seats in the congregation. I don’t remember everything else he said, but I left feeling chastened and cared for, not brow-beaten. By reminding us that he watched over us in order to give a good account to God, Mr. Whitmire challenged us to do better, be stronger . . . and to get out of bed on time on Sunday mornings.

Those were the lessons of leadership, and I’m glad I learned them early, because they have followed me into adulthood, motherhood, and my “job” as a youth pastor’s wife. Thanks, Jim, for everything you taught me. I hope one day to stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and hear “Well done” from Him . . . and catch a smile from you.

--Angela Hunt

P.S. Jim has recently retired as minister of music from Bellvue Baptist in Memphis, TN. I know they'll miss him!

10 comments:

Southern Girl said...

I stumbled upon your blog when "googling" Jim Whitmire's name. He was MY minister of music at Bellevue until his retirement, and yes, we DO miss him enormously. I had the joy of hugging his neck just a couple of nights ago and telling him how much I missed him -- there will never be another Jim Whitmire. Thank you for your lovely tribute to him.

Bryan said...

Jim Whitmire along with Adrian Rogers were the heartbeat and the passion of that church. He and all of his family are my friends even though I haven't talked to them in years. He was my minister of music and inspiration to do what I do best in ife.......Lighting Design. I so wish I knew now what I knew back then. The more you see, however, the less you know or so it seems. Jim, if you see this, please contact me..........J. Bryan Holcombe

Jane Vineyard said...

I knew Jim Whitmire when he was the Minister of Music at Merritt Island. He, along with Dr. Adrian Rogers were the spiritual leaders in many lives. I thank God for those early years (1966-1971) when my husband and I were members at FBMI. God is good!

A very blessed FBC Jax choir member said...

Jim Whitmire is now the Executive Minister of Music at my church, First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Florida (Dr. Mac Brunson, Pastor). Although Jim has only been here for a short while, we already feel so blessed and excited to have him and his precious wife, Linda. We are so grateful to the Lord for Jim and his worshipful spirit, sincerity, genuineness, and great musicianship! We are surely a blessed choir, orchestra and congregation who the Lord has blessed with leading Jim and Linda Whitmire to FBC, Jacksonville! Praise the Lord!!!
www.fbcjax.com

carolepiano said...

Before Jim & Linda came to FBC, Jacksonville, we were DOUBLY BLESSED to have them at Germantown Baptist, in Germantown, TN. WHAT AN INSPIRATION! I am one of the pianists there and got to work closely with Dr. Whitmire and see him in action. But let me say this--he walks the talk in every aspect. When my daughter went into preterm labor & had her baby on Oct. 27th of 2006, and then he died 2 days later with a heart defect that we were unaware of, Dr. Whitmire was at the hospital that night after church to pray with us as a family. He is such a GIFT from God, and I feel honored to have had the chance to have any time working with him at GBC. GOD IS SO GOOD--and Dr. Whitmire, we miss you dearly at GBC! :o)

Frank said...

I was in the Senior High-College Choir at First Baptist Merritt Island when Jim was Minister of Music, what a blessing to see him and Linda back in Florida leading music at First Bptist Jacksonville. If anyone out there can help me, I am looking also for the 1970 "Way of Gladness" tour choir record.
hiphopmurphy@aol.com
Thank you, Frank

Anonymous said...

I have been in FBCJax for 12 years and love and appreciate Jim Whitmire so very much. He is very humble and sweet, very approachable and his concern about integrity, commitment to the Lord and the choir cannot be missed. I praise God for sending him to us.

Anonymous said...

hi. i am savannah jones. i am jim whitmires granddaughter. i am his daughters daughter. haha. he has said alot he misses everyone at bellevue. he is now in jacksonville and is the minister of music at first baptist jacksonville. he and my grandmother are coming home for thanksgiving, and christmas. yay! but thank you angela for the blog. i will be sure to tell him to look at it.

Chris Hall said...

Jim was my Minister of Music at Bellevue in the mid-80's. The experience of being in a choir led by Jim is something I have never forgotten. Thanks for your fine tribute to him!

Marcia said...

Jim Whitmire was high school church choir director for my husband George & I, pastor who performed our marriage ceremony, and adult friend who still blesses our life today. While not a member of the handbell choir like Angela, he challenged us all to love Christ and live for Him. In the early 1970's FBCMI did not have a Youth Pastor, but looking back I realize he effectively served as one as he led the youth choir every week. He counseled us in his office, led us spiritually and by example, and always loved us. Our choir sang every Sunday morning in worship at the early service and every evening at the Sunday night service. This too taught us discipline and ingrained the worship songs in our hearts to this day. It also made sure we were in worship twice a week to hear God's word effectively and boldly preached (Adrian Rogers was our pastor at First Baptist Merritt Island while we were there). God be praised for blessing all our lives with "Mr. Whitmire." Marcia Rose Korda (George Korda's wife of 36 years!)