By Grace White
JACKSON — Pastor Frank Lewis of First Baptist Church, Nashville, has donated approximately 2,000 books from his personal library to Union University to be used by students and faculty.
Lewis’ collection is expansive, including various Bible commentaries and devotionals as well as books that he inherited from the two pastors who served before him at FBC Nashville.
As part of Union’s library, Lewis’ collection will be used to help train the next generation of pastors. His collection includes books that had belonged to his mother and books bought with money that his uncle had given him while he was a seminary student.
“What’s the possibility that some student from Union is going to write a sermon and preach it in a youth camp, and a kid is going to give their heart to Christ?” Lewis asked. “And it may be from an illustration that was provided by a book that my uncle gave me. That’s amazing!”
Lewis, who has been pastor of FBC Nashville since 1997, is not the only FBC Nashville pastor to donate his personal library to Union. Franklin Paschall, who served as the pastor there from 1956-1983, gave his library to Union. Also included in this donation was the library of Paschall’s predecessor, William Francis Powell, who served from 1921-1956.
Lewis attended the dedication of Paschall’s library in 2002. David S. Dockery, Union’s president at the time, told Lewis then that he wanted his library to come to Union someday to join the Paschall-Powell collection. Lewis kept that idea in mind and eventually determined that he would like to give his books to Union in the future.
In 2019, FBC Nashville decided to build a new building, requiring that Lewis move offices. Since he was going to have to box up all of his books anyway, Lewis thought it would be a good time to make the donation.
He is excited to have the chance to provide such a gift to the university.
“I’ve had a great relationship with Union,” Lewis said. “I’ve had the privilege of being an R.G. Lee fellow there. I’ve also had the joy to be able to preach in chapel a couple of times over the years.
“Both of my children attended Union,” Lewis said. “Neither of them graduated from Union, but both attended. So it’s been, in that sense, just a personal honor to be able to say I’m making a contribution to something that I certainly believe in.”
Lewis’ gift will join the Paschall-Powell collection, giving Union 100 years’ worth of material from FBC Nashville pastors. The intent is for all of this material to be housed together in archives and special collections on the third floor of the Logos.
Ray Van Neste, dean for Union’s School of Theology and Missions, said Lewis’ donation is significant because the university’s connection to local churches is central to its identity.
“It is very significant for the pastor of the First Baptist Church in the capital of our state to choose to donate his books to Union University,” Van Neste said.
“We’re grateful for Dr. Lewis’ years of faithful ministry, and we’re extremely thankful for this generous donation.” B&R