Relton Floyd (R. F.) Gates
A Man Who Walked with God
Relton Floyd (R. F.) Gates, Jr., one of God’s most faithful witnesses, went home to be with the Lord Jesus Christ on Wednesday, February 2, 2005, at the age of 72. He was born September 17, 1932, in Jonesboro, Louisiana, to Relton Floyd and Tavia Golden Gates. He graduated in 1951 from Byrd High School in Shreveport and in 1954 from Centenary College with a degree in accounting.
Brother R. F. came to know the Lord at the 1951 Billy Graham Crusade in Shreveport, Lousiana. His call to the ministry quickly followed and so he pursued ministerial training, receiving a BD in 1957 and a ThM in 1958 from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. For fifteen years he pastored churches in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, and in 1966 formed the R. F. Gates Evangelistic Association, which included the “Men for Jesus” organization. From that time on, he ministered as a full time evangelist across the United States and in several foreign countries. In addition to his itinerant evangelistic ministries, he also served for the past twelve years as one of the pastors of the Heritage Baptist Church in Shreveport. Brother R. F. was an original member of the Founders Conference Planning Committee and was greatly used by God to bless many pastors and congregations both through his preaching ministry at various Founders Conferences and in the pulpits of many Founders friendly churches.
R F. was married to his loving wife of 52 years, Nancy McGregor Gates, of Shreveport. The Lord gave them three children, Timothy Gates and wife Valerie, of Fort Collins, Colorado; Kim Bonner of Shreveport; and Dan Gates and wife Brenda, of McKinney, Texas. He lived to see his children’s children (eight of them) as well as his children’s children’s children (seven of them). The impact he made upon the lives of others will reverberate all the way into eternity.
I had the unspeakable privilege of meeting “Brother R. F.” in the late 1970s while I was serving on staff at the Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana. Our meeting was a precious providence of God, who in His goodness and mercy brought into the life of this preacher one of the most truly godly men I have ever had the privilege of knowing. I often expressed my desire that the Lord would let us labor together in a shared ministry, not at all quite sure how God might bring such a situation to pass. In 1992 God did a wonderful thing in my life when He called me back to Shreveport to take up the pastorate of Heritage Baptist Church, a new congregation whose beginnings involved the regular exposure to the preaching ministry of my dear friend, Brother R. F. We were both set apart to the work at Heritage as co-elders and fellow-pastors. The twelve and a half years we spent together went by far too quickly and afforded me untold opportunities to learn from R. F. both by precept and example what the Scriptures meant by “walking with God.” I do not know of another person who always spoke with people about their souls, and almost always had a gospel tract to leave for them to read. He was driven by the burning desire to share Jesus Christ with others. My friend and fellow pastor, R. F. Gates, was truly a man who walked with God—living by faith in Jesus Christ and dying in faith.
Dr. Tom Nettles said of him, “Of all the people I have ever known, R. F. exhibited more thoroughly transparent joy in the presence of God than virtually anyone.” And now that joy has no doubt become exponential, since he who walked by faith for more than fifty years now worships by sight in the presence of the Lamb forever and ever.
Dr. Don Whitney, whose teaching and writing ministry has impacted the spirituality of young ministers across this nation, said, “Perhaps the most important and life-changing message I ever teach—both to seminary students and in the churches where I speak—is on praying through Scripture. And I trace the practice in my own life back to R.F.’s visit to our church on March 1-4, 1985. I still remember the turning point: he held up the Bible and said, ‘Use the prayer book!’” And use the “prayer book” he did. He practiced in prayer what he proclaimed from the pulpit.
R. F. was a master in turning a phrase and was gifted with the ability to make a penetrating observation or ask a disarming question. I wish that I had written down all the “Gatesisms” through the years. I will offer two as an example of his divine wit.
Concerning church members who tend to complain over petty matters, he would say, “I ask myself, ‘Now where would I fit that into the book of Acts?’”
Concerning church members who would act in a mean and selfish way toward others, he would say, “Did that person have to get saved to be that way, or could he (she) have been that way naturally?’”
R. F. Gates, like Enoch, walked with God and then suddenly “was not,” for God took him. He will be missed, but, by God’s grace, we will join him in glory one day.
It is with both joy and sadness that I respond to your note concerning our dear R. F.’s entrance into the presence of our Lord. Surely, there was no one that I have ever met that had more consciousness of desiring to see Christ than this dear brother. He gave us sweet tastes of Christ’s glory in the way he lived and ministered. I’m sure that the bitterness of the moment in losing such a close ally in ministry will be overtaken by joy in considering R.F.’s new estate. We see things only dimly but now our brother sees Christ face to face, seeing Him as He really is in all of His fullness and glory.
Phil Newton, Pastor
South Woods Baptist Church
I have just received the news of the death of RF. I did not expect it to be so soon. I recall having one of my last meals in Shreveport with him in that restaurant. I have his photo on the laptop, which we took with the new digital camera. I will treasure it for life.
Your African cousin,
Conrad Mbewe, Pastor
Kabwata Baptist Church
Thanks for letting us know about R. F. We have lost a good friend and servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, he beat us to the throne.
Tommy French, Pastor
Jefferson Baptist Church
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,” says the apostle. “But how can I make melody in my heart?” asks somebody. “I don’t feel like singing.” My friend, consider him until you do! Ask the Spirit so to reveal him until you cannot keep silent. This is what you must do, says the apostle: “Be filled with the Spirit.” And as you are led by him, you will look at the Son and you will not be able to contain yourself. You will burst forth in praise.
Let those refuse to singDo you sing, or do you say, “Why didn’t you deal with the present international situation? The world’s in a terrible state. Why have you spent time telling us all these things we already knew?” I will tell you why: it is because you do not sing about them! And I sometimes wonder whether I should not go on just repeating this Sunday by Sunday until we are all singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord. There is no greater insult to the person of Christ than to forget him because you are so interested in the state of the world, and so on. It comes near being the final blasphemy.
That never knew our God:
But children of the heavenly King
May speak their joys abroad.
Let us not be among those who, in their ignorance, refuse to sing. Rather, we want to say, do we not,
Brightness of the Father’s glory
Shall thy praise unuttered lie?
Break, my tongue, such guilty silence,
Sing the Lord who came to die!
—Excerpt taken from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Singing to the Lord (Bryntiron, Wales: Bryntiron Press, 2003), 58–59.