Summary: Frank was a 71 year long member of my church who’s ife story was inspiring and evangelistic.
In First Timothy 1:5, after instructing his young apprentice Timothy to remain faithful to the Gospel, the Apostle Paul writes these words:
“The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
Those of us who gather today to celebrate the life of Frank Wise Bell can readily testify that when he went to be with the Lord this past Saturday morning he went with a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
When Paul references a “pure heart,” he is speaking about the aim or focus of one’s life. So many people in our world seem like they are adrift without either an anchor to hold fast through life’s storms, or a ruder to guide them toward a worthwhile destination. Frank Bell was different. His life had a focus. His heart was pure.
Born on February 16, 1923 in the home in which he resided at the time of his death, Frank was the product of a Christian family. From his earliest days he was involved in Red Bank Baptist Church along with several members of his immediate family. In was no surprise, then, that at the age of twelve, Frank responded to the invitation to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and in 1934 presented himself for Baptism and membership at the Red Bank Baptist Church.
Frank was not prone to high degrees of emotionalism, which is a good thing. Too often those who come to Christ in moments of emotional fervor will depart when the passion seems to wane. Frank’s decision to become a Christian was not one of emotion, but of rock-solid commitment and devotion. Seventy-one years later, Frank’s commitment to Christ and His church had never wavered. In fact, it steadily grew stronger.
Frank was not just a member of Red Bank Baptist Church – he was an active member. I imagine he held every office and title with the exception of two. He never served as pastor (though he probably could have). He also never directed the choir (and I don’t would have wanted to try).
At the time of his death Frank was a faithful deacon, a gifted Sunday School teacher, the chair of the Finance Committee, a member of the Audit Committee, and a member of the Worship Committee. Shortly after Frank’s passing somebody asked me where the Bell family burial plot was located. My first thought was to call Frank, since he was also the chairperson of the Cemetery Committee.
In addition to these official responsibilities, Frank also fulfilled many unofficial duties. He unlocked the doors and made sure that the heat or air conditioning was turned on for all church functions. He set up the tables and chairs for fellowship meals. He filled the Baptismal pool when we had a baptism planned and cleaned up after Holy Communion was served. Each Sunday after worship he gathered, counted, and deposited the morning offering. He was always that last person to leave after any church event, making sure the lights were turned off and the doors were all locked.
After his heart-attack early in the week, Frank seemed headed toward recovery. On Friday afternoon I found him watching television and eating chicken-noodle-soup. He was in good spirits and wanted to talk about the Mother’s Day breakfast. He wanted to make sure that we had enough Orange Juice and that somebody would set up the tables. He said that didn’t think he be able to get to it. In that moment he was the old Frank we all knew and loved. He wanted to make sure that all the "little details" were not forgotten.
Frank never called attention to himself. He never asked for recognition, respect, honor or accolades. In fact, if you tried offered such things he would downplay his efforts and divert attention to something else. That’s one sign of a pure heart. His life was focused on honoring God, not calling attention to himself.
Frank Bell had a pure heart. He also had a good conscious.
In biblical terms the word conscious has to do with the willfulness or the intention of the individual. Frank’s intention was always to seek and do the good. That could be seen best not by the things Frank said, but rather the things that he DIDN’T say.
I had lots of opportunities to hear what Frank didn’t say. I sat next to him at nearly every meeting of the Red Bank Men’s Club. I spoke to him almost every week by phone or when he would visit the church office. At no time during the nearly five years that I was Frank’s pastor did I ever hear him say anything negative about anyone.
Shortly after I arrived at Red Bank Baptist, Frank made arrangements to take me out visiting in the community. We visited several homes and talked to many people. Before entering a new home Frank would tell me that person’s story. He would tell me where they were born, who they were related to, and what pain or sorrow they might be feeling. The one thing that was missing from any of Frank’s comments was unnecessary commentary. Frank never gossiped. He never said anything that would cause me to think poorly of anyone.