Saturday, February 19, 2011

My Papa is Also My Hero

On February 27, 2011, my grandfather will preach his last regular Sunday morning lesson as an every Sunday gospel preacher. This post is dedicated to his 63 years of preaching and evangelism...I could write novels, but this will have to do today.

Those of us who are currently preaching or who plan to preach in our family can easily say that it is because of Papa Bill. I first remember going to Ramona, CA as a kid to see Grandma Barbara and Papa Bill. I remember their Christmas tree. I remember “storm the fort” in their yard. I remember playing football or basketball at their house. I remember 100 more other things (at least) about Ramona. I remember VBS there and helping my Papa lead the singing. That was the first time I ever remember doing anything in front of other people as far as church service goes.

I was so blessed to have my Papa as my preacher in Turlock. From age 12-20 he was the one I was able to learn from. I remember helping him with Bible drill. I remember how much I looked forward to his Bible class when he was teaching. I remember learning more in his Bible class than any other. I remember sound, loving lessons. I remember singing at weddings and funerals and learning how to conduct them by watching Papa. I remember his warm, comforting presence when people needed him.

I also remember church picnics, three-legged and sack races, softball games and tug-a-rope. Papa knows how to have fun with God’s people. I know his chuckle. I can see him putting his hand to his forehead because he missed a shot just barely. I can see him slapping his knee and laughing whenever he won. I think that everybody who had Papa as their preacher knew they were lucky. They knew what kind of man he was and still is. Preachers come and go, but Bible men who walk like Jesus are rare, even in the church.

If there is one thing above all in preaching I have learned from Papa, it is a love for souls. He has a passion for saving people – a love for the gospel that could seldom be matched by anyone. I have always understood what has driven him to work so hard for the kingdom – the Bible is too great a message not to share. I have always had the idea that what makes him wake up in the morning is the possibility of a new Bible study, or a new contact with someone who needed God and the church.

Some of my favorite moments include fishing trips, eating licorice in the car on long drives, singing with Papa and Grandma while cleaning the kitchen at the restaurant or while in the car, playing cards or dominos, ping-pong, watching sports with him on TV, going to games, golfing, and so much more. I remember once when he was in his 60’s he was conducting a Bible study at one home where there were two teenage boys. They were outside playing basketball as he was walking in. He took the ball at the 3-point line and made his first 18 shots in a row. Then he went inside and conducted the study. Papa is a good athlete!

How do you say in a few short words thank you for the man who is your hero? I could talk for hours about very vivid memories and the things I appreciate about him. There is nobody I know who I want to be like more than Bill Watts.

Today, my Papa still helps me even though we live across the U.S. from each other. As a preacher, there are a few things I want to make sure I do the way he has always done them. 1) I want to be humble. My Papa is the humblest preacher I have ever known. 2) I want to be loving and also sound. Papa has always told the truth in God’s word in a way people can know he loved them. 3) I want to be a soul-winner. I have always understood that the main thing Papa was trying to do was get people into heaven. All of the other things that come with preaching are just there so you can do the main work. 4) I want to be kind when mistreated. I have watched my Papa be so good to people who were determined to be his enemies. All I saw in his response was quiet compassion. 5) I want to live every day, like Jesus. Beyond everything else I see in my Papa Bill – I see Jesus. He is the most Christ-like man I have ever known.

There are going to be so many people in heaven because of Bill Watts. If you ask me, that is what defines a successful life. Every time I ever reach anybody, his hand is in it. He would only say that it was the work of God, and of course, as always he would be correct. So this man, who is not a “big name in the brotherhood” – is in my opinion, the greatest preacher I have ever known. He has lived the great commission. He has done so without ever neglecting his family. He has given us a living reflection of Jesus Christ. He has given me a walking, talking hero to emulate.

Papa, I hope you know just how much you have done, and how much you continue to do – for the world, for the church, for the family, and for me. Thank you for loving me the way every child dreams their grandfather would. Thank you for being my hero, just by being Papa Bill.

I love you more than words or deeds will ever tell.


"He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked." ~ 1 John 2:6


  1. You are a lot like your papa Bill. You are the most Christ like man I have ever known. And you will never know what you mean to so many people
    for your Christ like ways.
    Thank you for severing Christ.
    God bless you always.

  2. May God bless your Papa Bill, and you for such a heart-warming article. I've bookmarked your blog! ---JLP

  3. Thanks everybody - blessings to all of you!

  4. I was baptized by Bro. Bill Watts at the Escondido Church of Christ in 1970 when I was 12 years old. Bill and Barbara and their whole family made a big impression on me in my younger years. I especially remember Bro. Watts ever constant HUGE smile and love of people. I feel blessed to have heard him preach for the years they were in Escondido. Thank you, Bro. Watts, for sharing Gods word with us!
    Love, Diana (Reutlinger) Simpson, Escondido. CA