A Tribute To God’s Grace In The Life Of Pastor Paul Richard Kirkman
Written on behalf of us all by Pastor Darrell Messer
Born October 7, 1921 Born Again April 14, 1940 Died July 26, 2018
Wit, wisdom, and the Word; these marked the life of Paul Kirkman. It has been my honor to know this man for some 47 years and be counted among his multitude of friends.
Before speaking of Pastor Kirkman’s impact on my personal life, I want to share a bit of history of the grace of God in Brother Paul’s life.
Paul speaks of his coming to saving faith in the Lord in the following way. “In 1932, just before the age of 11, the Spirit of God began to convict me of my sin and the thought of being accountable to God began to trouble me deeply. For about eight years the Lord worked on my heart and, late in 1939, I made a resolution to attend Sunday School every Sunday in 1940. By the grace of God, this was a resolution that I kept. In April of 1940, Pastor Slone asked me to stay for the morning preaching service. On April 14th I stayed for both the Sunday School and the preaching service. That afternoon I went to a picture show, but all I could think of was God. Upon leaving the picture show I saw a crowd headed for the river bank. The town drunk had been saved and was being baptized in the river as a testimony to all. I was not altogether sure what this man had, or how he got it; all I knew was I wanted it! That afternoon my mother asked me to go back to the evening service with her and I said, ‘No thank you, once a Sunday is enough!’ That evening I planned to stay at home and listen to Jack Benny; but as I tried to enjoy Jack, I felt irresistibly drawn back to that church house. On the way back to that church house, after much turmoil, I cried out to God and said, ‘Oh God, I want to be a Christian more than anything in this world, and tonight, if you show me how to be, I will be.’ That night, after the service, at the age of 18, for the first time in my life, I heard the Gospel message as good news for me personally.”
God’s plan for Paul’s life would move him to Dayton, Ohio and to the Haynes Street Baptist Church which would soon change its name to Emmanuel Baptist Church. There he met Louise Hancock who he lovingly called “Her Majesty.” On October 14, 1942 they would marry. World War II would call Paul to leave his bride of 3 weeks to enlist in the U.S. Navy and serve his country as a Marine medic until being honorably discharged from the Navy December 27, 1943.
In 1945 Paul submitted to God’s call on his life to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He enrolled in the Baptist Bible Seminary at Johnson City, New York with a desire to serve as a missionary in Africa. In 1948 his schooling was interrupted because of a needed brain surgery. God had just recently brought into the Kirkmans’ life a young son (David) by way of adoption. Paul had no idea how the hospital bills and the daily living expenses would be paid. However, he did know this had come to him through the hand of his Heavenly Father and that somehow God would supply. And supply God did! A seminary mate would replace Paul at his job but would give all the pay checks to the Kirkman family till Paul was able to work again. Additionally, the surgeon would not charge for his services and the hospital did not charge for his hospital stay. God supplied, in every way needed, as only God can. Paul would go on to graduate seminary on June 6, 1949. However, because of the brain surgery, going to Africa as a missionary was out of the question but the call of God to preach the Gospel was never questioned.
On June 6, 1950 the Emmanuel Baptist Church of Dayton, Ohio, under the leadership of Pastor James T. Jeremiah, ordained Paul to the Gospel ministry. In that same year he became pastor of the Evansville Baptist Church in Niles, Ohio. In 1951 Paul would undergo another brain surgery that was listed as “exploratory.” In October of that year God provided a daughter (Michal) for them to adopt. Paul would follow what he felt to be the leadership of God and resign as pastor of Evansville Baptist Church in 1955.
In August of 1956, under the authority of Emmanuel Baptist, Paul started a mission in Fairborn, Ohio that organized February 10, 1957 as the Grace Baptist Church. In 1970 the meeting house where the church still worships was built. In 1971 Paul would undergo a third brain surgery and be out of his pulpit for 7 months, during which time Brother Marvin Summers would serve as interim pastor. Paul’s ministry as Pastor would continue to April 5, 1987 when he retired and was given the title Pastor Emeritus.
Additionally, Paul served in the spread of the Gospel as a director of Baptist Faith Missions for many years. He continued to preach as long as his health permitted and opportunity was presented.
The Lord gave two faithful and godly companions to Paul during his life. The wife of his youth, Louise, better known as “Her Majesty” served alongside of Paul for all his active pastoral ministry. She was diagnosed with M.S. shortly before his retirement and went to be with the Lord on December 12, 1994. Not too long after the death of Louise, Paul began a reacquaintance with a lady named Emma, whom he had met the same night he met Louise many years before. She too had married a Baptist preacher (Loren Brown) who had died in 1988. After some time of correspondence Paul asked Emma to be his wife and they married May 18,1996 in California where Emma was living. They then returned to Fairborn where they lived and served the Lord together as members of Grace Baptist Church. Emma also preceded Paul in death on February 17, 2010.
I said at the beginning that Paul was a man of wit. His body grew more and more frail, but his mental sharpness and keen memory held to his last breath. That wit was very noticeable in his story telling and, my oh my, did he have stories to tell.
He was a man of wisdom. Sound in his judgments and keen in his insights, I sought his counsel on many occasions.
He was a man of the Word. This was evident in his wit and his wisdom. The Scripture was his delight and his exposition of the Scripture the delight of all who heard him.
On a personal note, Pastor Paul Kirkman came into my life in 1971 when he spoke some very gracious words into my life after I spoke at a Bible conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. Little did I know that this man, whom I came to affectionately call “Elder”, would become such an important part of my life and that of my family.
In the spring of 1976 Brother Kirkman would hold a revival meeting for me at Immanuel Baptist Church in Riverview, MI. Several were saved that week, and he ministered to a family whose 10-year-old son was undergoing surgery for a brain tumor. He did so in a way I never could have, because of his own three brain surgeries. During that week I shared with him that I felt God was bringing my ministry there to a conclusion. Fast forward a few months and the church where I have been honored to serve for almost 42 years asked him if he could help them find a pastor. He said he “might just know of someone.” Through these many years his friendship and fellowship became very precious as he mentored me and mirrored for me the heart of a pastor.
Paul Kirkman lived to serve His Lord by serving his fellow man. He wanted to live his life to help others. First, to help them know the Savior he knew, and then, to help them in their journey through life. To Paul Kirkman I humbly say “Thank You” for helping me. And to the Lord I say, “Thank you, Father, for Paul Kirkman.”
He is gone from our sight but not from our hearts.
In Him Who Loved Us First,