Written by T. Chad Winder (Pastor of Worship First Baptist Church Heath, OH)
I met Walter Robert Strickland II as a freshman in college. We immediately hit it off after discovering our mutual love for all things percussion. We came from two very different places. He was a cool, sporty, fit guy from southern California and I was a skinny, band nerd from central Pennsylvania, but I’m not sure that mattered to either of us because we both loved Jesus and we both loved drums.
Because of our classes and circles we weren’t inseparable, often going two different directions much of the time but we enjoyed a brotherhood because of our interests. And I always knew that if I was really in a bind, I could find Walter and he would at least hear me out if not help me out right. One of my fondest memories with Walter was working out a drum battle for a symphonic band concert where pretty much all we did was beat on trash cans. Yeah you read that right, trash cans.
After our days at Cedarville University we again went two very different ways, he continued on with school at Southeastern Theological Seminary and my wife of exactly one year and I went on tour with World Help’s Children of the World choir. I thought of Walter often and was happy to have a connection through social media just to keep up on how he was doing.
I remember rejoicing with Walter from a distance when he got married to Stephanie and mourning with him from a distance when he and his wife lost their first daughter Hope in June of 2012. In fact, our own daughter was battling dehydration and a severe case of gastroenteritis on June 21 of this year when I got a personal message from Walter saying that he was praying for our sweet Marlee. I realized later that week that June 21 was the anniversary of Hope’s passing. It brought me to tears to know that he had spent part of his day that he remembers the loss of his first child praying for my daughter to be well. But, I can also say I’m not at all surprised by this, because that is exactly who Walter is; a man who cares deeply for his family, his friends, and loves his Savior with all of his being. God has blessed he and Stephanie with two more little girls since Hope’s passing: Kendra and Kaiya.
I couldn’t have been more excited for my brother when I heard the news of his nomination to this position in the SBC and was even more elated when I heard the news from the convention that he had officially been elected to serve as 1st VP. I’m sure it is humbling to be one of the youngest leaders ever elected to this leadership board. But I know he will manage this with grace and poise, because again, that’s who he is.
Walter came to be with us Sunday July 9 to fill in for our interim pastor Steve Hopkins and I couldn’t have been more excited. My excitement was two-fold: I got to see a dear friend who I have not seen for nearly 11 years and First Baptist Church got to have a first time experience; having a sitting 1st VP of the SBC come to speak to us. Walter delivered the word exquisitely and without apology.
It was great to catch up with Walter Saturday night and Sunday morning and I’m excited to report to you all that he has a great vision for how he would like to make his mark on the SBC as a whole. I believe Walter will be one of the greatest champions of unity in this current generation of Southern Baptists. He has a heart for the people of God to focus on what brings us together and keep priorities straight as the body of Christ when it comes to our disagreements. He seemed very grateful to the current leadership for embracing him so quickly and mentioned how supportive all the leadership of the SBC has been even in these few short weeks. He was especially grateful for Dr. James Merritt and his desire to see and support Walter serving as VP.
There probably isn’t enough space on these pages (or website respectively) to describe all that Walter has accomplished in these 11 years since our undergraduate studies in the fields of rural Ohio. But, he does have a website (walterstrickland.com) where you can find out more about the books he has authored/co-authored or edited and find out about the church and university consulting he does along with his full time gig as a professor at SEBTS. Walter will also be speaking in chapel at Cedarville University during alumni week on October 2. That might be a good opportunity for some of you to get to know the man that I do. He may be the 1st VP but he’s a man just like you and me.