Today the life of my friend Tommy Starrett will be remembered during his funeral service at our home church in Sulphur Springs, Texas. If you read Krista's post on Monday then you are aware of the circumstances surrounding his homegoing.
I first met Tommy when I was in the seventh grade. Because of the lack of pastoral leadership at the small country church that we attended, my parents decided that it was time to find a more stable place where we could grow spiritually as a family. They were especially interested in finding a church with a thriving children's and youth ministry. After visiting several churches in the area, they decided that we would move our church membership to Central Baptist Church. At that time, the Junior High Sunday School class was meeting in a small portable building located at the back the current elementary Sunday School Building. Tommy was the Junior High Sunday teacher. Though, I can't honestly say that I remember a single lesson that he taught, I did learn a lot from him. I never got the feeling that teaching us was a chore, but rather something he got to do. He was always upbeat and excited, especially while he lead the music. When we repeated a chorus he would always yell, "Sing It One More Time." We would all yell it out right along with him.
Even after I entered the High School Youth group, Tommy continued to have an impact on my life. He always set a good example to follow. Tommy was also a great singer of southern gospel songs and an integral part of the music ministry of Central. I loved to hear him sing specials in church services. If my memory serves me correctly, Tommy sang at both my grandmother's and my grandfather's funerals, not to mention at countless others. On Sunday, when we found out about Tommy's passing, I said to Krista, "Tommy has sang at so many funerals. Who is worthy to sing at his?" My aunt Sandy put it best when she said, "Beulah Land" (one of the songs that he sang speaking about heaven) never meant so much to him as it does now." I really couldn't agree more.
Half way through my internship on the staff of Central, Don Baier resigned and Tommy took over the responsibility of Music Director on a volunteer basis. Not to discredit Don but, because of Tommy's leadership, the music program never missed a beat. (By the way, I am convinced that God will raise up someone in Tommy's absence to do the same thing!) Tommy kept his full-time job as manager of a Farm and Ranch supply store while leading the music ministry at church for over a year before joining the church staff full-time. In his life-time, Tommy did more actual ministry as a laymen than as a "professional" minister and he was more qualified to minister to people than many who hold high Theological degrees. He was genuine and he was faithful. Every Saturday night at Central there is a prayer meeting for the Sunday services. Before Tommy ever began leading the music (even in a lay capacity), he was faithful to attend that meeting. To my shame he was more faithful than me as a staff member.
By this world's standard, Tommy was a good man. He was loved by those in the church and respected by those in the community. More important than being a good person, Tommy was made righteous by God (2 Corinthians 5:21). That was evident by the life he led. As Krista said, "Everyone always talks about how good a person is after they die, but Tommy really was a Godly man." He was loved and he will be greatly missed. I am not sad for Tommy, though. When he closed his eyes the last time here on earth, the first thing he saw when he opened them again was Heaven and His Savior (and mine). As all of us do, Tommy entered this world according to God's will and timetable and exited it in the same manner. I fully believe that God has a plan for those who were left behind (both for the Starrett and Tinsley families as well as for the Central Baptist Church family). God makes no mistakes. Everything that is done, is done according to his perfect will.
I realize, that this post is quite a bit longer than most, but honestly it could have been much longer. For those of you who knew Tommy, feel free to post your thoughts as a comment to this post. I would be interested in hearing the way others remember him. God bless.