Farewell to Dr. David L. Thompson, a friend, a father, a husband, and a disciple. Farewell to a scholar, a teacher, a pastor and a lover of God and God’s Word.
David made disciples who are making disciples who will make disciples. For four decades, he taught biblical languages and inductive Bible study (three years at Marion College and 38 years at Asbury Theological Seminary). He helped The Wesleyan Church navigate scriptural controversies and come out with a high view and devotion to the Bible. His text Bible Study That Works (1982) grew out of a series of articles written for The Wesleyan Advocate and continues to be used in university courses to train emerging interpreters, teachers and preachers.
Born in rural Minnesota on May 17, 1940, David received grace and determined to center his life on Jesus. At Marion College (in Marion, Indiana — now Indiana Wesleyan University) he discovered the Wesleyan Methodist Church and fell in love with one of its members, Edith (Ede) Winterholter. He later testified that her rich family history in the denomination “cinched it that I would be a Wesleyan.” David and Ede were blessed with 58 years of marriage, three children and four grandchildren. They shepherded several Wesleyan churches, including Aspen Hill in Rockville, Maryland, and Stonewall (now New Life Community) in Lexington, Kentucky.
He exuded joy in the classroom and pulpit. His wry smile, humor, humming and singing added to the charm of a deep-thinking man who intentionally evidenced the persona of the absent-minded professor. He could unintentionally leave his notes at the office and still keep students across a lecture hall spellbound with the scriptural story and insight.
I had the privilege of being a student of this saint and for the last ten years, his pastor. I had no more loyal or wise voice of council and encouragement than his. I loved his teaching and gladly knew that I was my wife Paula’s second favorite preacher, only behind David Thompson.
Over the past two decades, David’s story has included the reality of Parkinson’s disease. His spirit proved stronger than the illness, pressing on in his ministries despite the pain, and demonstrating the power of God’s presence and grace as we journey toward glory. Some of the last words to his dear family included the pronouncement that “God really is always with us.” He passed on July 4, 2020.
The six professors and pastors who spoke at his memorial in Asbury’s Estes Chapel were but a small sample of David’s protégés currently teaching Bible and ministry courses in our colleges and universities and preaching the transformative gospel in our churches. We will miss this great and humble servant of God, who loved us well. But we say only “farewell” because the day is coming when we will be together again.
Notes of encouragement and remembrance may be sent to Ede Thompson, 5912 Nobleman Court, Elm City, N.C. 27822.
Dr. David Durst is the lead pastor at New Life Community in Lexington, Kentucky, and campus director for the Wesleyan Seminary Foundation at Asbury Theological Seminary.