Eventually he appointed me the permanent first grade Bible class teacher. It was a small class—never more than three, which was perfect for a teenage beginner, especially one flying solo. I was only 17 and I don’t recall speaking to him much one on one, but he had obviously been paying attention. In my experience since then, for a man to pay that kind of attention to any woman’s spiritual state, unless she is in abject sin, is unheard of. More often we are shrugged off or ignored, but not this elder.
Every so often brother Willis made an unannounced visit to my class. He walked in, sat in the back, and quietly observed. He never said a word during class and never made any extraneous noises—no grunts, no sighs, nothing that would distract me or the children. I suppose that was the first time I realized the whole responsibility of elders in feeding their flock. It wasn’t just appointing teachers and paying for classbooks. That “onsite inspection” made me much more careful about what I taught and how, and it kept me from ever “phoning it in.”
When I was 20 he asked me to create and teach a Bible class for the teenage girls in the church. He came into that one too. I think it bothered the young ladies far more than it did me—I was used to it by then, but the reminder of my responsibilities never hurt.
Before long, he told me I should publish my lessons. He was as worried as I that the material for women’s classes at that time was pitifully shallow. It took a few more years, but eventually Born of a Woman: Woman’s Place in the Scheme of Redemption appeared. He worked for a printing company and saw to it personally that we got an excellent deal and a good looking product. In case you are wondering, he gave up any personal commissions so I could have the lowest cost possible. That book is still in circulation and it always pays for itself now. I have women tell me all the time that they never learned so much in their lives as they did with that book. They owe that to Robin Willis and his foresight.
Studying for and writing that book and all that teaching experience at such an early age is what made me the teacher I am today. Because a shepherd was looking at his flock and saw one who had some potential, because he cultivated that potential with patience, encouragement, and opportunities, I have now taught hundreds of women and children. An elder doesn’t just feed his flock—he trains others to help with the task, be they men who become teachers, speakers, and maybe even elders, or women who learn to teach in the capacity God has allowed. Shepherds teach those people the importance of their duty as they check up on them, offering suggestions and giving direction.
Robin Willis holds a special place in my heart and always will. If you have ever sat in one of my classes, or learned from one of my books, or read one of my articles, you should thank him as well. If you are a shepherd of the Lord’s flock, take note of a man who knew what being a spiritual leader was all about.
Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you bishops, to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood, Acts 20:28.