J.D. Grant- "Fruitland has given a lot to me"by BSCNC Communications
James Dillard Grant, affectionately known as “J.D.,” was honored in a celebration of his retirement on Tuesday, May 27, on the campus of Fruitland Baptist Bible College (Fruitland). Grant’s association with the school began in 1970 when he first came to the campus as a student.
Recalling how he was struggling to find the right school after submitting to God’s call on his life to pastoral ministry, Grant told the audience that when he first walked onto the campus of Fruitland, he knew it was where God wanted him to attend. He also expressed his gratitude for the role the institution has served in shaping who he is today.
“I felt the Spirit of God on this place that day,” Grant said. “I cannot say that I’ve given a lot to Fruitland, but I can say it’s given a lot to me.
Grant retires after serving as a professor, vice-president of academic affairs, and most recently as vice-president of development. A graduate of Fruitland, Grant continued his education completing his bachelor’s degree at Western Carolina University, earning a Master of Divinity at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and the Doctor of Education at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
David Horton, president of Fruitland, thanked Grant for his service while noting that Grant will continue to teach at the college.
“Thank you for being a good friend and faithful laborer in the Lord’s vineyard,” he said. “I’m’ glad you’ll continue to teach.”
Horton stated that he believed God has gifted Grant with the ability to touch people from across all areas of life. “I admire the way you conduct yourself. I’ve watched how you interact with donors who had much and those that had very little,” Horton said. “But to your credit you treated all as if you were speaking to royalty.”
As he concluded his remarks, Horton noted that when he thinks of Grant his mind is drawn to II Kings 4:9, where the woman at Shunem said, upon serving the prophet Elisha, “I know that this is a holy man of God.”
Brian Davis, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (Convention) associate executive director-treasurer, reminded the gathering that the relationship between the Convention and Fruitland is very strong, but has not always been so.
“Some of you may recall challenges in the [Convention’s] relationship with Fruitland in the 1980s,” Davis said. “At times it even seemed that some Convention leaders were even working against Fruitland.”
Davis recalled how, after a series of decisions by the Convention’s Executive Committee and General Board, Fruitland supporters realized that the only way they could address these decisions would be on the floor of the Convention’s annual meeting.
“To address these issues would require a bold leader to step forward asking the messengers to direct the General Board, and its Executive Committee, to reconsider their actions,” Davis said “The individual who stepped forward was J.D. Grant.”
Davis explained that the process that followed has resulted in a change that continues to benefit Fruitland and bless the students that attend the school today. He also noted the strength of Fruitland and how it continues to impact North Carolina Baptists in many positive ways.
“Many do not recognize that 20 percent of the churches in this state are served by Fruitland graduates. Many do not recognize that Fruitland graduates currently serve on our Board of Directors, as officers of the Board and as officers of the Convention,” Davis said. “Many do not recognize the impact that Fruitland has; but we do. It’s long overdue, but I want to thank J.D. Grant for his leadership nearly 30 years ago that continues to impact us today.”
A “friendly roast” was conducted by longtime friend, and fellow Fruitland professor, Greg Mathis. Mathis shared several humorous anecdotes about Grant. However, he used the humor to draw the crowd to his main points. “While you [J.D.] stand like King Saul, head and shoulders above us all, you remind us of King David, a man after God’s own heart,” Mathis said.
Gifts were presented to Grant by Horton and Milton A. Hollifield Jr., the Convention’s executive director-treasurer. Prior to his presentation, Hollifield said he was thankful for Fruitland’s commitment to remaining faithful to God’s Word.
“I thank God for the strong stand upon His Word that Fruitland has taken through the years, and continues to take. Fruitland holds a special place in my heart as well,” he said.
Hollifield then thanked Grant for his service to the institution, saying, “While I know that your connection is much longer than your employment, I thank you for all that you’ve done in your service of this great school.”
Hollifield also noted that his travels take him across the state, preaching and worshipping in different churches nearly every week. As he travels, Hollifield stated that he comes in contact with former students and fellow pastors that know, love, and appreciate Grant.
Hollifield presented an envelope representing a financial gift for Grant’s years of full-time service to Fruitland, which began in 1999. Horton also presented several gifts, including a keepsake book of letters written to Grant, a limited edition silver lapel pin, and a special gift purchased through the generous donations of students, faculty and staff.
Grant shared the following reflections with those in attendance: “This all makes me sound better than I am but I appreciate all that’s been said. Fruitland is so important and important for the Kingdom.”
Grant then shared how he first came to serve at Fruitland, saying, “I was president of the [Fruitland] alumni. Dr. Alex Booth and I met to talk about strengthening the school [financially] and that’s how I came to begin my work with the school; Kenneth Ridings then brought me on full time.”
He expressed appreciation to everyone present at the gathering and quipped, “I may have been roasted, but I’m not done.” He concluded his remarks, saying, “I have a new determination to be the very best teacher in the classroom that I can be; [I] will take every opportunity God gives to serve Him.”
In addition to his service at Fruitland, Grant has served numerous local churches across western North Carolina. He has served the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) on the SBC’s Committee on Committees and as a trustee for Lifeway Christian Resources.
When asked to share their thoughts about Grant, Tim Blair, first vice-president of the Convention said, “J.D. has been a faithful servant of Jesus Christ and a tremendous blessing at Fruitland Baptist Bible College.”
Michael Smith, Fruitland graduate (1984) and fellow Fruitland professor said, “J.D. has certainly been a blessing not only to the school but the individual students as he’s invested in their lives; there’s been fruit born from that. He has a common touch that is well received by everybody. It’s evident to see why people love him.”