By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Unless you are a member of Tulip Grove Baptist Church in Old Hickory or a lifelong resident of the Donelson-Hermitage-Old Hickory-Mount Juliet area, you’ve probably never heard of him.
He would likely have referred to himself as “just a layman.” Butch was much more than “just a layman.” He was a Christian who modeled what it meant to be a disciple of Christ.
When my wife Joyce and I moved to Tennessee 35 years ago we began attending Tulip Grove, then a small, struggling church located near Andrew Jackson’s home, The Hermitage. If you drive by there now, it’s hard to imagine that church was ever isolated, bordered by a cemetery and woods. The cemetery is still there but the community has grown at an amazing rate. It is no longer “country.”
Some of the first people we met were Butch and Corrie Duty. Butch was our Sunday School teacher. Joyce and I had been married about a year when we began attending Tulip Grove and we were just learning how “to do church” as a married couple. Butch and Corrie took us under their wing and we learned from their example.
At about the same time we arrived on the scene, Tulip Grove called Ken Clayton as pastor. Now retired from the church (but still pastoring at Pine Eden Baptist Church in Crossville), Bro. Ken introduced the church to discipleship and evangelism. He began teaching his flock how to share their testimony and to witness. He multiplied himself by teaching a few people who in turn taught others (discipleship in a nutshell).
Among his first “disciples” were Butch and Corrie. Later, Butch took on the difficult task of discipling me. He probably looked at me later on in life and wondered where he “failed,” but Butch taught me more than he could ever have imagined. He modeled what it meant to be a Christian layman active in the local church.
I remember going with Butch to visit on Monday nights. Butch had the kind of easy-going personality that enabled him to talk to anyone regardless of who they were, social class, etc. I didn’t have to worry when giving my testimony or asking questions. I knew that if I stumbled Butch would step in and take up right where I left off.
Butch engaged in “gospel conversations” before that was what they were called. As far as he was concerned he was just talking with people, but he knew exactly when to just listen and when to bring Christ into the conversation.
Over the years Butch held just about every position you could have in a church. He never sought any position. The position always sought him. Butch loved the Lord and just wanted to be a servant.
One of his favorite duties for many years was heading up the men’s breakfast at Tulip Grove. He pulled together three or four men and enlisted them to help. I was blessed to be part of that group. Everyone he brought in to help is still cooking today and he groomed someone to lead after he had to step down due to health reasons. That’s the essence of discipleship in a unique sense.
Some of my best memories of Butch come out of those monthly men’s breakfasts. We loved to kid and “aggravate” one another. Butch could do both equally well, but he “took” the kidding as well as he dished it out.
Butch Duty is just one of countless laypersons across Tennessee who love the Lord and serve Him on a daily basis without fame or recognition.
My prayer is that their tribe will increase. Tennessee Baptists have a goal of seeing 50,000 people annually saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship by 2024. A goal of that magnitude cannot be accomplished by pastors alone (see column from TBC President David Leavell on page 4). It will take laypeople all across this state willing to engage in conversations with people.
Hopefully, everyone has at least one “Butch Duty” in his or her life. May we never forget to thank God for those people He has placed in our paths who took the time to disciple us when, perhaps, we didn’t even know that was what they were doing.
And, what’s more, maybe they didn’t know that was what they were doing either.
But, when all is said and done, that’s what discipleship is about — teaching others how to live for Christ either through words or example. In Butch’s case, he did both. For that I am eternally grateful.