That first summer in Greenville was fun and non-eventful. I attended Tabernacle Baptist Church, met some new friends and began settling in.
Tabernacle was planted in the ‘50’s by a man named Harold B. Sightler. Dr. Sightler was a “legend” in these parts among a certain people group. Most of the people around here and the world at large had never heard of him. But to those who had he was one of the most famous preachers of our time.
He boasted that he had preached more than any preacher in his time. I doubt that, but in the little world of Independent Baptists it was not under dispute. He did preach a lot. For 30+ years, I suppose, he would preach at Tabernacle on Sunday morning and Sunday night and then leave either on Sunday night or Monday morning for a week long revival meeting that would go through either Friday night or Saturday.
He would have a driver to take him to these meetings, which was at times a singer who would sing prior to the preaching part of the meeting. They were a duo. A special singer was a person who would sing a “special” just after the congregational singing and offering and just before the preaching.
The story goes that Dr. Sightler was gone for a week of meetings one time and he was pulling out of the Tabernacle parking lot to go to more meetings when he met his son as he was pulling in. They chatted briefly and he went on to his meeting. He was a busy man.
I have seen him pull in to his parking space and pull himself out of his car, which was a chore in that he was a big man and quite old when I knew him. He ran hard for the “gospel’s sake”. I would hear him say, “You take care of God’s business and He would take care of yours.”
We would walk by his car or his office and speak in reverent terms. We would rarely approach him for this or that. He was an isolated man to me. He was not an approachable figure. He was one to be respected and feared at the same time. It was hard to tell if he was in a good mood or not. He rarely smiled unless it was before a church meeting and he was standing on the lower step that led up to the platform of the main auditorium, called a sanctuary. I’m not sure if I’ve seen him smile outside of that context, maybe in class.
He was sober, very serious and singularly focused. I loved and respected him. Dr. Sightler was one of my heroes. I received a photo copied version of his Bible with all his preaching notes scribbled over the text. I called it “Elijah’s Mantle.”