They called him Kissing Johnny and some called him Brother Beloved. The pastor loved to refer to people as ‘beloved’ and he also loved to take literally the Biblical admonition to greet each other with a holy kiss. He had pastored in Tyler, Texas for over 238 years. Okay, that estimate may be a stretch. But, I haven’t met many Southern Baptists in Texas that didn’t know about Reverend Johnny Beard.
Johnny gained great delight from greeting people with a holy smooch. When Johnny was around, men learned to shake with one hand and hold him back with another. It’s been nearly 20 years and I don’t honestly remember if he nailed me with one or not. But, he may have come close.
Rev. Johnny Beard was the pastor of our church in Ensiedlerhof, Germany for a few months. The church had been without a pastor for about a year. When Johnny came, we had been going through the pastoral search committee process. A couple of professors on sabbatical from seminary had come to be interim pastors. They did a wonderful job. But, then Johnny Beard showed up in the pulpit having recently retired from his pastorate in Tyler, TX.
I loved to hear that man pray. Once, I was at a men’s early morning Bible study and was sitting by Pastor Johnny. He began to pray and I felt as if I was eavesdropping on two friends talking. There was an intimacy in his prayers that I had never really heard before in Christians I had known. Dr. DL Mitchell, pastor or Crossroads Chapel in Colorado Springs, Co, remembers Johnny Beard fondly. Pastor Mitchell recalled, “He was extremely disconnected from the busy and very connected to the intimate.”
I have to believe that’s how prayer is supposed to be. I don’t believe Jesus meant for prayer to be anything more than intimacy with our Creator. As I read the Bible and see Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray, I don’t get any glimpses of prayer being pronounced formally in ornate cathedrals. There is an absence of liturgical robes and priests with a backward collar. Prayer is a fellowship much like two friends going for a neighborhood walk and praying together. It is communication with the God that loved you so much that He sent Jesus Christ to save you.
Pastor Johnny Beard taught me much about prayer in just the few short months I was around him. I loved to hear him preach for sure. But, there was something about the way that many prayed that has stuck with me for nearly 20 years. I don’t know if Johnny Beard is still alive. But, I do know the lessons I learned under his ministry are deep within my soul. As the years between my knowing Johnny Beard advance, I may not have quite as clear a memory of him. But, I sure hope I never lose the memory of what he taught me. I don’t think Kissing Johnny ever planted a smooch on my cheek, but if he did I guess that’s okay because…well, you just had to know Brother Beloved to understand.