My first pastor, the one through whom I was introduced to doctrine, and under whom I studied for something like 23 years, and one of the two men I credited in the acknowledgements of Arena and the Guardian King series went home to be with the Lord last Sunday. Here is the press release:
Robert B. Thieme, Jr., pastor of Berachah Church from 1950-2003 and president of R. B. Thieme, Jr., Bible Ministries, passed through death into eternity Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 8:45 PM and is now “absent from the body and face to face with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8b). He was the beloved husband of Betty Beal Thieme and devoted father of Robert B. Thieme III. He is also survived by his sister, Ann T. Wallis, and his cousins, Fredericka Botts and Nancy N. Harder.
Bob was born on 1 April 1918. His father, Robert B. Thieme, and mother, Anna Cloakey Thieme, of Ft. Wayne, Indiana moved to Beverly Hills, California in 1926. Bob graduated from Beverly Hills High School in the summer of 1936, having lettered in football, track, and gymnastics. He was a member of the Beverly High Alumni Association.
Bob enrolled at the University of Arizona in Tucson in the fall of 1936 where he majored in classical Greek and joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. After a distinguished college career, he graduated on 29 May 1940 magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He was also commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve.
With the goal of becoming a pastor, Bob was licensed to preach by the First Baptist Church of Tucson, Arizona on 5 June 1940. To further his ministerial preparation, he enrolled in Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas in 1940. After one semester, his seminary studies were interrupted by the impending entry of the United States into World War II.
On 3 April 1941 Lieutenant Thieme began active duty service in the Army Air Corps. Because of the nature of his assigned duties he received rapid promotion and by the end of the war had attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. LTC Thieme was the Director of Military Training for Flying Training Command. In this position he was charged with initiating, prescribing, and standardizing military training for all categories of personnel in the Aviation Cadet programs. His duties included coordinating training at 120 Army Air Corps installations throughout the United States and authoring publications that standardized this training. By 1943, he had written The Military Triad, Strategy and Tactics for The Aviation Cadet, and Get Smart, Mister. His final assignment was to supervise and direct the gunnery training at Harlingen Field, Texas. Bob returned to Dallas Seminary in 1946 to resume preparation for the ministry. The academic training he received in Greek, Hebrew, theology, history, and textual criticism became the foundation for a rigorous professional life of studying and teaching the Word of God. As a student, he became the interim pastor of Reinhardt Bible Church in Dallas, Texas. Upon graduating summa cum laude with a Master of Theology in May 1949, he continued to pastor at Reinhardt until April 1950.
For fifty-three years Robert B. Thieme, Jr., was the pastor of Berachah Church in Houston, Texas. As pastor he developed an innovative system of vocabulary, illustrations, and biblical categories designed to communicate the truths of God’s Word. His scholarly, expository approach to teaching the Word of God and the worldwide distribution of his publications and biblical teachings without charge or obligation have made Pastor Robert B. Thieme, Jr., a major voice in Christianity today.
A memorial service will be held at Berachah Church at 10:00 AM Sunday, 23 August 2009.
As I read this I realized for the first time that Col Thieme had already started preparing for the ministry when he was called into military service. But despite the press release’s implication that this service was an “interruption” I suddenly saw that it was anything but. It was not only God’s preparation for what was to be his life’s work but a wonderful metaphor for what Col Thieme would do as a pastor: train the army of God. I knew he had been involved in the Army’s training program, but it didn’t register until now just how extensive that work had been. First he developed a program for training the country’s soldiers. Then he developed a program for training the soldiers of our Lord’s heavenly kingdom. And that is just… awesome.
I also had completely forgotten that he had started out as interim pastor at Reinhardt Bible Church. Yes, I know I heard him mention it on occasion, but I did not recall it until now — certainly not when I came up with Cam Reinhardt’s name. Too funny.
I don’t think I can even get my mind around how greatly this man influenced my life. I am so grateful for his diligence in studying and teaching and protecting his sheep, in the face often of tremendous opposition and persecution. What he gave to me is a something I shall literally cherish forever.
But I’ll save that musing for another day.
The R. B. Thieme, Jr, Bible Ministries website has a wealth of his materials available for ordering free of charge. As with Grace Bible Church, the financial policy is one of grace, whereby anyone interested in receiving doctrinal information is free to do so and contributions are made solely on a voluntary basis. There are audio tapes, MP3 CD’s, DVDs and numerous booklets. I own and have read nearly all the latter, and still go back to refer to them from time to time.