After a half-century of preaching and personal ministry, Richard Bowman delivers his final regular sermons Sunday at Berea Church of Christ.
“Brother Richard has been a faithful minister here since 1991,” said Berea spokesperson Jeff Tittsworth. “He’s not only a minister but a member of the family,” the church leader affirmed.
The community at large is invited to a come-and-go reception for Bowman and his wife, Brenda, in the church’s fellowship hall at 8143 Francis Ferry Road, just south of the landmark Shrock’s Store building, Sunday, 2-4 p.m. The widely known and respected minister preaches his farewell sermons at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.
The Berea congregation has been serving the faithful of northern Warren County since its founding in the early 1890s. On an average Sunday morning, some 55 worshippers are present for the service.
Bowman preached his first Sunday morning sermon in 1967 when he was invited to fill in for the ailing minister at Iconium Church of Christ in neighboring Cannon County. At that time the Bowman couple regularly attended nearby Leoni Church of Christ, where Jack Reed was the regular pulpit minister.
As an appointed preacher, Bowman served the Bluff Springs congregation for 21 years and later the Berea church for another 31. During those tenures he baptized an estimated 50 people at each of the congregations, he remembered. Along the way he was an interim preacher at Mt Leo Church of Christ for a short time.
In an interview with The Southern Standard he said among the greatest rewards in his career was seeing people surrender their lives to Jesus Christ and living as faithful Christians.
“I’ve been very surprised at some of those who did obey the gospel and those who didn’t,” he recalled. “Every now an then you would think someone would never become a member of the church and then they surprised you.”
The retiring preacher remembered one man he assumed was just sitting through the services from week to week and giving no serious attention to the preaching.
“Then one Sunday morning he came down the aisle. I’m happy to say he lived as strong, faithful member ever since.”
Like the vast majority of Christian houses of worship, Church of Christ congregations have seen declining attendance and aging worshippers. Among the most intense challenges for contemporary Christianity is winning the minds and souls of a distracted, disengaged population, and especially the youth.
“I really believe the philosophy of the world has permeated young minds in the church,” Bowman reflected, citing undisciplined children “running in and out of the [worship service] and up and down the aisles” as an example. But at least those children are inside the church building. A vastly larger number remains elsewhere, playing video games and immersing themselves in other forms of entertainment.
“It’s all about entertainment now….It’s really hard for ministers and youth ministers to get and hold their attention,” the veteran preacher lamented. “Kids are playing ball and doing other activities. The church can’t entertain the kids like the world can.
“The ball parks are full and the churches are half-empty.”
But in times of personal crisis and hardship, people are often more sensitive and responsive to the call of the gospel message, Bowman observed. “People who trust in the Lord are happy, while others are always looking for something from the world.”
As he prepares gently to enter retirement from fulltime ministry, Bowman is thankful for the kindness and support of the Berea church family. “They have been way better to me than I deserved,” he concluded.