J. Curtis Goldman: One-of-a-kind pastor

By Keith Bassham

From the Baptist Bible Tribune, February 15, 2002.

J. Curtis Goldman claimed that had he been born February 12, he would have been named Abraham, after the 16th president of the United States. And had he been born the 14th, he would have to bear the name Valentine. As it was, he was born to John and Stella Goldman February 13, 1923, in San Angelo, Texas. The J is just an initial, nothing more.

John Goldman was what Curtis called a “weekend drunk,” and he was unfaithful to his wife. Though Stella was a Christian, she had long given up hope that John would ever be saved. Curtis would ride his bicycle around town looking for him on weekends. He actually saw his father with another woman one Sunday afternoon in 1938. Curtis’ love for his dad died that day. That love would be rekindled years later, after Curtis was saved in 1945. John Goldman would himself be saved in 1948.

By the time of the Second World War, Curtis had graduated from Tyler Junior College. After graduation, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, volunteering as a combat glider pilot in 1942. One event in his training shows some of his character.

In the final phase of his training in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, after which he would receive his commission, Goldman was instructed by his check pilot to hold his two-seater Taylorcraft at 500 feet. The check pilot then instructed Goldman to do a two-turn spin to the left. Goldman said such a maneuver was against regulations because the plane was too low. The check pilot insisted he make the spin, taking full responsibility. Goldman says, “I throttled back as I pulled the nose up, kicking the left rudder, causing the plane to come out of the stall into a spin. The ground was coming up quick, and as I held [the aircraft] in until the full two turns were completed, the check pilot literally yelled for me to turn loose of the controls.”

The check pilot took the controls and safely landed the plane. Goldman knew he would be among the 50 percent of his class who washed out for doing such a stupid stunt.

“Get out of the plane,” the check pilot said. Goldman’s heart sank. He thought he had washed out. And then the instructor said, “You’re okay, kid. You passed with flying colors.”

Goldman was speechless. The check pilot went on, “All we are checking you glider pilots for is guts. Had you not completed the full two turns, I would have washed you out!”

Goldman received his wings in December 1943. Although officially the G on his wing insignia stood for “glider,” Goldman and his fellow pilots said it stood for “guts.”

Goldman participated in airborne invasions of France, Holland, and Germany, as well as resupply and evacuation missions all over Europe during the war. In July 1945, he returned from Europe, planning to reenter the conflict in the Pacific after 90 days of furlough. During that furlough the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, ending the war and Curtis Goldman’s military career.

A friend, Clyde Davenport, arranged a double date for Curtis and Katherine Ruth Aven in September 1945. When Clyde and his date got out of the car to enter a honky-tonk, Katherine remained in her seat. She refused to go in with Curtis because she was a Christian. No amount of persuasion would change her mind, so the foursome went skating. Or, at least, Curtis tried skating. On the way home, Curtis told Katherine they would marry. When he asked her for another date, she suggested they all go to Central Baptist Church the next Sunday evening.

John Rawlings was preaching. Curtis was hostile during and after church. He made a scene during the altar call when his friend Clyde was responding to the invitation. He cursed the preacher on his way out of the building. Poor Katherine decided to get some things understood. If she was to continue seeing Curtis, he had to agree to straighten up, and for them to date during the week, Curtis must attend church with her every Sunday night. In his words, Curtis was trapped.

Aware that Christians ought not to marry unbelievers, Katherine and her mother had made a pact that the couple would marry only if Curtis was saved before Christmas, about four months away.

The Sunday before Christmas, John Rawlings was closing the service. Katherine was planning how she would return Curtis’ ring, praying for the strength and courage to end the relationship. Rawlings said, “I believe someone is here tonight who should accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Who is it? Is it you?”

Curtis knew he was the one with the need.

Rawlings continued, “If it is you, will you, right now, by faith, receive Jesus Christ into your heart as your very own Savior and Lord?”

Curtis responded from his heart, “Yes sir, I will.”

J. Curtis Goldman had become a Christian just a few days before Christmas. And Katherine knew that she would soon be Mrs. Katherine Ruth Goldman.

Curtis and Katherine were married March 28, 1946. She introduced her new husband to Christian basics, like praying before meals and tithing. He responded slowly and skeptically, but he came to enjoy his new life. In June, he thought perhaps the Lord might be calling him to preach.

Curtis hated the idea of speaking in public. He had earlier attempted a course in public speaking. After less than two weeks, his professor encouraged him to drop out, calling him a hopeless case. Besides, Curtis also knew preachers didn’t make much money.

Finally, after months of struggling with the decision, he surrendered to the call in March 1947. The next day he quit his college classes and placed an ad in the local newspapers:

Young preacher has never preached a sermon, but wants to get started. Phone Curtis Goldman #5867.

The next Saturday, March 8, the pastor of Central Baptist Church in nearby Lindale called. He asked Curtis if the ad was serious or just a prank. After being assured the ad was a serious offer, the pastor engaged Curtis to fill his pulpit the next day since he had to be away for a revival meeting and his supply preacher was in the hospital.

One of his hearers compared Curtis’ preaching to that of Sam Jones. He was invited back a couple of weeks later, but this time was different. The music service was short and uninspiring. Curtis tried to preach, but after about 10 minutes he just dismissed the crowd. When he came back for the evening service, he hardly expected anyone to show up. To his surprise, the church was packed. He preached, and several people were saved.

Goldman enrolled in Bible Baptist Seminary of Fort Worth in the fall of 1947, studying under the faculty headed by J. Frank Norris and Louis Entzminger. In December 1949, his pastor, John Rawlings, took him to Center, Texas, where Central Baptist Church was seeking a pastor. The church called Goldman and he fully plunged into the work, “having the time of his life,” as he puts it. School was put on hold, and it would be almost 50 years before Curtis Goldman would receive his degree in theology.

The church grew from about 20 to over 200 in attendance over the next 18 months. Near the end of May 1950, Goldman and his church raised a special offering of $100 for Bible Baptist Seminary. The church’s treasurer, however, did not know how to spell the word “seminary” so he left the payee line blank on the check, just filling in the amount. When Goldman arrived in Fort Worth, the now famous split in the World Fundamental Baptist Missionary Fellowship was underway. By Wednesday, May 24, the Baptist Bible Fellowship had been formed, along with Baptist Bible College and the Baptist Bible Tribune. In the formational meeting, after the motion was made to begin Baptist Bible College, Goldman seconded the motion and gave his check for $100, filling in the words “Baptist Bible College” on the blank line.

One year later, in May 1951, Goldman resigned the pulpit of Central Baptist Church, not knowing where he would go. He attended the first BBF meeting in New Mexico, hosted by church planter Howard Ingram in Roswell, New Mexico. Paul Morgan of Calvary Baptist Church in Chickasha needed a preacher to fill in for him the next Sunday. Morgan was leaving Chickasha to begin a church in San Antonio.

Goldman preached a revival meeting in the church the next week, after which the congregation called him as pastor. There was a small split in the church within a short time of his moving to Chickasha, but the following two years saw growth, with an average attendance of nearly 300 when he resigned in 1953. Again, Curtis did not know where God would lead.

Two churches, Southwest Baptist Church of Denison, Texas, and later Tabernacle Baptist Church in Altus, Oklahoma, voted 100 percent in each congregation to call him as pastor during the summer of 1953, but he had no peace about those opportunities. Earlier, Howard Ingram had asked him about going to Albuquerque to start a church, but the matter was dropped, for Ingram at least. The thought of going to Albuquerque, though, grabbed Goldman’s heart. Albuquerque was why he had turned down the other churches.

In September 1953, Curtis and Katharine and their family moved to New Mexico and began the Temple Baptist Church of Albuquerque. His dream was to build a church with 1,000 in attendance.

The church organized officially October 18, 1953, with 17 members. The first order of business was to call Curtis Goldman as pastor. His greatest hope, in fact, was to continue as pastor of the church until October 2003. If Goldman accomplished this, he would occupy a unique place as a founder and pastor of a church for 50 years.

The second order of business was to secure property and to begin construction. Goldman acquired several lots, and after some initial setbacks, began building. One year later, over 200 people packed out the small building. More plans and more construction followed. In 1956, after dozens of people had been saved week after week, the church reached a record attendance of more than 600. By 1983, after 30 years, the church had gone through 10 separate building programs, given over $2 million to missions, established a Christian school with 200 students, recorded more than 9,000 conversions, and boasted an average Sunday school attendance of over 1,000. On one special Sunday in the 1970s, 2,584 attended services at Temple Baptist Church.

In the spring 1998, Curtis Goldman went back to school. Baptist Bible College’s oldest underclassman was a great hit among the student body. In May, after finishing requirements for the Graduate of Theology diploma, he walked the platform at graduation to the applause and delight of all attending the ceremony. Upon receiving his diploma, however, he was greeted with another document. The ceremony paused as Curtis Goldman was presented an honorary doctorate. The unique surprise was fitting for such an unusual preacher.

Curtis Goldman’s ministry was not without its bumps. Several church splits occurred at Temple Baptist. He had been an outspoken leader in the Baptist Bible Fellowship International, taking controversial positions on a variety of issues. He “filibustered” one national fellowship business meeting, threatening to read through the Bible beginning at Genesis 1:1, and holding the floor until the president agreed to let him speak to an issue fully. At the end of the discussion, Goldman’s motion was approved by a great majority of the pastors voting. His persistence had won the day.

Curtis Goldman remained devoted to his family. He considered his greatest achievement (in partnership with Katherine) a family that served God. His children, Joe Goldman, Sue Garard, and Kristy Haas, are all actively serving the Lord.

He will be known for his soul-winning zeal, his “straight shooting” manner, and his sometimes outrageous sense of humor. One thing is certain: he was never ignored.

Curtis Goldman, US military veteran and BBFI pastor, passed from this life December 3, 2009. His son-in-law, Allen Garard, officiated a private memorial service December 7, after which Goldman was buried with full military honors at Houston National Cemetery, Houston, Texas. His book, Silent Warrior, is available from 21stcenturypress.com and Amazon.com. For more information about obtaining Curtis Goldman’s books and productions, contact the Mustard Seed Foundation (suegarard@aol.com).

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