Johnny Ramsey The Great Instiller

J.D. Conley

On July 15, 1991, in Fort Worth, Texas, I, along with five other young preacher students, walked out of an air-conditioned classroom onto the blazing asphalt that was the parking lot of the Brown Trail church of Christ. "Walked" out, is to put it mildly. The six of us were practically "running" out. We were so excited we hardly noticed the heat searing through our new Florsheims. In our minds we were about six inches off the ground. Why the elation? Simple. The classroom from which we had just emerged was that of Johnny Ramsey. Don't misunderstand. We weren't thrilled to be out. We were thrilled we'd been in!

Johnny (as he preferred to be called, instead of brother Ramsey) possessed an uncanny ability to instill in a preacher student not just a desire to preach but an outright craving! His love of preaching was contagious. If a preacher student had a reasonable degree of body heat, that was sufficient for Johnny to work with and get started. In a short time, Johnny could take one of his "lads," squeeze out mediocrity and instill excellence. It mattered not which book he taught you: Mark, Jeremiah, Hebrews, or Haggai; when he was finished, you knew it, and you knew you wanted to preach it. "The Walking Bible," a moniker he wore modestly, made sure that when you left his classroom you knew God's Word better than when you walked in. Not only did you know it and want to preach it, but you also wanted to live it. Johnny's classes were paradoxical in that you didn't want them to end, yet you couldn't wait to get out and implement the things he taught! Truly, this is a mark of a great teacher. Only the Godhead knows how many men Johnny influenced to live and preach Christ. When Johnny entered with his brisk clip and put chalk to blackboard, it was apparent that he was there for one reason, and that was to educate you in the Scriptures. After a ream of paper and a dozen "fountain pens" were drained dry, Johnny had done his job. With his "round table" discussions coupled with his legendary book reviews in which he peppered his students with rapid-fire questions, Johnny could unnerve even the most stoic, but that was never his intention. His intention was to teach you in fifty-five minutes as much of the Word of God as was humanly possible. In the entire process he was patient and gracious. Instead of marking your graded assignments with red "X's," it was Johnny's kind habit to fill the margins with words like "Tremendous!" "Amen!" and, his highest accolade of all, the treasured, "Rich as cream!"

Shortly before graduation, on that same parking lot, I recall making the remark to a colleague, "It will be a sad day for the brotherhood when Johnny passes on." That dreaded day finally arrived on October 6, 2006. How fitting that in his final hours, even in his delirium, he was quoting Scripture. Johnny was also overheard saying repeatedly, "Come on boys, you can do it." This was no doubt a reference to the scores of young men he inspired to preach, but Johnny accomplished much more than just teaching young men how to preach. He instilled in them a passion to preach. To me and countless others, he was The Great Instiller. I will be forever grateful to have been one of his "boys." 102 Laramie Rd., Marietta, OH 45750.


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