Seventy-one years after preaching his first sermon, Jack Ridlehoover is stepping down–but not from everything.

He’s just giving up his regular meetings with fellow pastors at the Abilene-Callahan Baptist Association office. For now, at least, he will continue his Minister’s Mentoring and Consulting Service.

At his final session on May 6, Ridlehoover, 88, offered some words of wisdom and thanked the men who were present.

“I want you to know how much I’ve appreciated you being faithful,” he said.

Ridlehoover preached his first sermon when he was 17 and began preaching at his own church when he was 19. He is best known in Abilene for the 29 years he spent as minister at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church, retiring in 1992.



Since then, Ridlehoover has filled 22 interim posts and has his mentoring and consulting service. Pastors come to his office for individual mentoring, getting practical advice on the details of being a pastor, as well as bits of wisdom.

At the final session with pastors at the Abilene-Callahan Baptist Association, Ridlehoover passed on some observations from his life of ministry titled, “And Now In Conclusion.” Among them:


We must never, ever forget we are in the people business.
The greater the dream, the greater the job, but the greater the sense of satisfaction.
There is no joy like seeing a person come to the Lord as his savior.
Praise, affirmation, and positive commendation are more important than reprimand.
When the gospel is preached, a miracle always takes place.
You prepare the soil and you wait and hopefully God gives the sun and rain and you pick the fruit.


When the session ended, Ridlehoover was treated to a cake with the words, “For 28 years of ministry to ministers. Thank you brother Jack! The old parson is loved!”

The church has been the center of Ridlehoover’s life for as far back as he can remember. Born on a farm in Grayson County Oct. 2, 1930, Ridlehoover started his preaching career at his home church while he was still a student at a Dallas high school. He met his future wife, Betty Jo Knight, at that church. They were married in January 1948.

He recalled that the pastor of the church told Ridlehoover that if he thought he could preach, then he would be allowed to on the upcoming Wednesday night. Apparently, the older minister was impressed.

“OK,” he said after hearing Ridlehoover’s first sermon, “you can preach the next Sunday night.”

Two years later, Ridlehoover got his first pastorate and his own experiences served as the basis for creating Minister’s Mentoring and Consulting Service.

After all these years, Ridlehoover is certain that the call he heard to ministry was the right one.

“If I could do it again,” he said, “I would still want to be called by the Lord.”



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