By DR. MIKE SMITH
Jacksonville College President
James Schafer was born in Garland, Texas. He was raised by his grandmother and attended First Methodist Church of Garland. As a youth, he began to ask numerous questions about faith and the Bible. He went to his Methodist Sunday School teacher with his questions. The teacher said, “You need to go to the superintendent with questions,” and the superintendent said to go to the pastor with questions. He said, “James, some people read the Bible too much. Terrell State Hospital is full of people who read the Bible too much.” He then went to Lakewood Baptist Church where he met his wife, Billie. One Sunday, James was at Billie’s house for lunch. Billie said, “James, why don’t you ask all your questions to Pastor Offord?” The pastor could answer his questions, so James started attending Lakewood.
As a youth, James got involved in Young Life, and Dallas Seminary students would come speak to the school sports teams and have Bible studies. One day, while James and a Dallas Seminary student were riding in the back of a pickup, the student shared the Gospel with him. At the service that night, the student used a verse James had never heard, “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us of all our sin.” God’s Spirit brought conviction to James, and that night he was saved.
After high school, James attended Dallas Baptist Institute. He would spend weekends on street corners preaching the Gospel. Street evangelism wasn’t always easy or safe. One day, James even witnessed a boy stabbing another boy with an ice pick. However, James continued his ministry because of his passion for the Lord and for the lost.
James accepted his first pastorate at Blackjack in 1953. Later, his home pastor at Lakewood asked him to be associate pastor. James accepted, but after seven months, James was hungry to preach. Therefore, he returned to Blackjack to pastor. He later pastored Walnut Street Baptist Church until his retirement in 2009. His daughter wanted him and his wife to move to Beaumont to be closer to her. They moved and James served as a supply preacher for Southern Baptist churches in the Gulf Coast area. Beacon Baptist Church, a BMA church, asked James to come for a revival. The pastor had a heart attack and soon resigned, and the church asked James to be interim pastor. After several months, they asked him to be pastor, and he accepted.
One of the annual hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast, and high water damaged the church. The next storm destroyed the sister church, Bellaire. Beacon invited Bellaire to join them for services until they could build back. James and the pastor of Bellaire would alternate as preachers. The two churches had split fifty years before but decided to merge. They moved into the Bellaire property and sold the Beacon property. They changed the name of the church to First Berean Baptist Church.
In 2014, his wife of 62 years died, and James decided to move to East Texas. The people of the church told him that if he moved, they were not going to continue as a church. They decided to put the church on the market, and a Southern Baptist church bought the property. With the sale of various properties, the church had over $600,000. They decided on a formula to divide the money among 10 ministries.
Jacksonville College received $116,000. The day the check came in the mail, President Smith shouted praises unto the Lord. It came in late December between semesters, and money was scarce. The gift was an answer to prayers and a testimony to God’s gracious provision. The money is now in a donor restricted endowment with the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation.
James is an example of a single life that God can use in mighty ways to bless the lives of His people and His ministries and to advance His kingdom. The legacy and ministry of James Schafer, Beacon Baptist, Bellaire Baptist, and Berean Baptist will continue.
Lifeway Christian Resources reports that 4,000 churches a year are closing their doors. If a church would give the assets of that property to Jacksonville College, their legacy and ministry could continue for eternity. Thank you, First Berean Baptist Church and James Schafer, for your contributions in ministry and money.
Bro. James Schafer
FALL SEMESTER 2017