Elder F. L. Ray

I was born March 12, 1907. My birth place is Jackson County, Gainesboro, Tennessee. My parents were Jim (Bob) and Leona McCoin Ray. I am the third child in a family of twelve children, six boys and six girls.

My religious surrounding as I grew up was of the Methodist and Presbyterian faith. There were no Baptist in the community at all, and I knew nothing of the Baptist and what they believe until I was more than twenty years of age. The only time I can recall attending a Baptist service was at Gladdice Baptist Church in Jackson County. I was about thirteen years old. I attended a revival service. According to the record Elder C. B. Massey was the pastor of this church at the time I attended it, but I do not remember him from that time.

In the year of 1924, I left Jackson County and came to Sumner County near Goodlettsville, Tennessee. In the fall of the sane year I became an employee of DuPont Rayon Company. I worked for this company the most of the next eight years. During this time (in 1927) I net a fine young lady, Miss Estell Dickens. She had been reared by Baptist parents and in a community where there were nothing but Baptist people, but she had not been converted. On the twenty-second day of January, 1928 we were united in marriage. In the year of 1931 we moved to a community in Davidson County where we found an old time Missionary Baptist Church, New Bethel. We began to attend services at this church. At about this time a man who called himself a Baptist preacher held a meeting at New Bethel. No doubt he deceived a lot of people. Even so, he caused a great disturbance among the church membership and the church asked him to leave. Of course, this left the church without a pastor. This is when the Lord, without doubt, led the church to call Brother A. J. Sloan for her pastor. All of you who have heard Brother Sloan preach know what a great preacher he was.

Up until we moved to this community, I had not thought very much about my soul and my eternal welfare. I began to think along this line. In the fall of 1931 one, of my uncles passed away (Arthur Ray) who was a Baptist and a very good Christian man. This death effected my oldest brother (Estle Ray) to the extent that he became convicted of sin and was converted at his hone about ten o’clock in the morning. I was there, and the testimony that he gave while he was praising the Lord for what he had done for him touched my heart very much. In fact, it resulted in the conviction of my soul. At this time I knew very little about the plan of salvation. I did not go to anyone for instruction. Really, I did not know where to go. I did not know very much about what Baptist believed and taught. In fact, it seemed very strange to me, but when one is under conviction like I was, they will seek relief somewhere. So I was like Solomon, I sought the Lord upon my bed at night, and I sought him by day. I had been taught that a little child could be brought up in the right way and that would be all that was necessary. I had been honest and had not engaged in the ungodly things as other boys did, but my trust in these things did not bring any relief to my soul. My burden was heavy and getting heavier each day. I knew I was blinded by the god of this world, and self-righteousness is one of the strongest gods of this world. No one can be saved until they turn away from their own self-righteousness. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth,” (Roman 10-4).

Finally after a long and hard struggle with sin through the winter and into the next spring, one April morning about eight o’clock I was plowing in the field, and by the grace of God I was able to Lay down all that I had been holding to and trusting in; and with Godly sorrow, a broken heart, and deep conviction I repented of all my sins and put my trust in the Lord who died for me that I night live. It was there and then that my burden rolled away and peace, joy, and hope came into my soul. Yes, I know I’ve been redeemed; I’ve been washed in the blood of the lamb. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind and now I see.

I was still attending New Bethel Church and listening to her wonderful pastor, Brother Sloan. I would go and listen to him as he would expound the word of God. I know I was saved but I did not know anything about the church. When Brother Sloan came to New Bethel, every time he would quote a verse of scripture he would give the chapter and verse where it could be found, I would go home and read the Bible and search the scriptures to see if those things he was preaching were true. I would find what he preached in the Bible. I began to believe what the Bible said, and I continued to go and listen to his strong doctrinal sermons. It was the truth that I was looking for; and I know now that anywhere you find a church like the one that Jesus built you can find the truth, because the Lord deliver¬ed the truth to his church and gave her the commission to go into all the world and preach the truth. Paul said that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth. Jesus said, “For ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”

After I attended services at New Bethel for about three years and listened to Brother Sloan preach, I learned the truth about many things. I had not yet told anyone that I had been saved. In August of 1935, during the revival at New Bethel, I was attending a day service and Brother O. L. Gregory also was attending the meeting and was interested in me. He called me to come out by the side of the church house before services began, and he talked to me and asked me if I had ever been saved. I told him about what the Lord had done for me. I thank Brother Gregory now for his interest in me. May the Lord ever bless him and his good wife, also his two sons that are in the ministry. After telling Brother Gregory about being saved, I went into the church, and Brother Sloan talked to me. That day I made a public confession of what the Lord had done for my soul.

It was during the above meeting that I united with New Bethel church, and on the __day of Sept, 1935 Brother Sloan led me out into the water and buried me with my Lord in Baptism. From that tine I began to take an active part in the work of the Lord. I know my efforts were weak, but nevertheless I kept trying and many blessings came my way day after day. I began to grow in the Lord and the knowledge of the truth.

I want to tell about my call to the ministry. It was the same day that I told about the Lord saving me. During that service I had taken a seat in the amen corner. The Lord was there in a great way. While meditating on the great things of God, a still small voice came to my heart and spoke to me leaving on my heart a burden to preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Friends, that burden is still there and I’ have a greater desire now to preach the true gospel than ever. One thing that I regret is not owning my calling the very day that I was called, but waiting until the spring of 1938. I was at New Bethel, and I got up to make a talk and such a force came on me that I could not resist any longer. I told the people that the Lord had called me to preach the gospel.

On the second Sunday night in June, 1938, I made my first attempt to preach. My lesson was the tenth chapter of Romans, and my text was the tenth verse. “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” The house was packed full with a large group of my relatives in attendance.

In the fall of 1939 New Bethel church called for my ordination and set the time for November 17, 1939. The church invited a number of sister churches to send their ordained help to set in the presbytery. I wish to insert here the names of the brethren and their churches.

There were fourteen churches represented by fourteen ministers and eleven Deacons as follows:
Pleasant Hill – Elder W. W. Bowman, and Deacons Bates Martin, Brode Kirkham, and Luther Kirkham;
Good Will – Elder J. A. Linville, and Deacon Gilbert Taylor;
Siloam – Elder F. W. Lambert, and Deacon T. C. Harrison;
New Harmony – Elders A. J. Sloan and Alvin Jones;
Old Hopewell – Elder Lewis Mince, and Deacon Dalton Stanley;
Union – Elder W. T. Russell;
Long Creek – Elder N. C. Fuqua;
Friendship – Elder D. A. Lauderdale;
Ebenezer – Deacon P. D. Smith;
Maysville -Elder Alfred Cook;
Macedonia – Elder W. T. Taylor;
Mount Tabor – Elder Calvin Gregory;
Baptist Home -Elder J. Robert Paschal;
New Bethel Elder M. H. Whitley and Deacons J. O. Brooks, T. J. Lowery, H. H. Leeman, and Herbert West. (Our good friend Elder P. H. Brooks was ordained at the same time.)

In this chapter I wish to give a brief record of my work as a pastor. I have served the following churches in the past twenty years:
Union at Union Camp, Macon County; Union Hill— Gallatin, Tennessee; Concord—White House, Tennessee; Willette—Willette, Tennessee; Oak Grove—Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee; Pleasant Valley—North Springs, Tennessee; Ebenezer—Pleasant Shade, Tennessee; Cornwell Chapel—Carthage, Tennessee; Siloam—Westmoreland, Tennessee; and my present work is full time with McFerrin Avenue—Nashville, Tennessee. I served as assistant pastor of Fifth Street, (Fairview Memorial) also. My first mission work was at Highland School House for about four years.

From “Why I Am A Baptist and Moderators and Church Members Handbook” by F. L. Ray, October, 1960

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