By Leigh Pritchett
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist
Jim Oakley, 83, of Centreville spent 60 years in journalism. The first 30 years, he was a reporter who ultimately rose to the position of publisher of the newspaper his family owned. For the second 30 years, he taught journalism at his alma mater, the University of Alabama. Oakley has served on the board of directors of The Alabama Baptist for eight years.
Ministry description: Encouraging others in life and along their faith journey
Church name: Centreville Baptist Church, Centreville, Bibb Baptist Association
Life verse: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
Q: Describe where you focus your greatest ministry efforts:
A: Using every encounter with others to encourage them to come to know Jesus as Savior and to become involved in church.
Q: Who was or is one of the most influential people in your faith life? Why?
A: My mother was the most important person. I was an only child. She insisted that I get up early and go to church. Sometimes, she would put me out and I would walk home (after church). But she made certain I was there. She would have the church bulletin and she would make certain I was there (for activities). Later in life, she was very devoted. She was a strong person, a strong Christian person. She was the most influential person in my faith, in my life.
Q: Tell about a “turning point” in your life and how God was involved.
A: One time in (Vacation) Bible School, I felt a strong call that I was being talked to by Somebody. I was so young I didn’t know who it was. I felt a call to go down to that altar (in the Methodist church) and to bow down and to ask God to forgive me. I was probably 12, 11, 10.
Q: What has God been teaching you lately?
A: He teaches me all the time that I need to be good to people, to be a good and faithful servant, to be willing to help people, (to be) a good witness and live a good testimony. I try to encourage (others) to come to church or to talk to a preacher and hear the steps to become a Christian. I have never failed to receive a blessing from someone who asked me to help them.
Q: If there were one thing you could tell your younger self about faith, what would it be?
A: To do what my mother did — to be faithful, to be good, to align yourself with good people; don’t steal; obey the Ten Commandments.
Q: Have you ever read a book or heard a song that changed the way you think about God and faith? What was it and what did you learn from it?
A: I was in an elite chorus at the University of Alabama. My involvement in that was a blessing. My senior year, we did Handel’s “Messiah.” That was the closest to God I’ve felt in my life. That was an inspiration and I’ll never forget it. There were times when we didn’t have a choir director in church and I would lead the singing in the morning and at night. I am still in the choir. “Victory in Jesus” is one of my favorites (of hymns). Also, “Sweet Beulah Land.” I feel a strong Christian pull when I hear that song. “O Holy Night” — if I don’t hear that song sung by a good baritone voice, I don’t feel like I’ve had a good Christmas season.
Q: Does your church have any special traditions that mean a lot to you? What are they?
A: I’m a big believer in (Vacation) Bible School. I learned a lot in Bible School.
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