Pastor/teacher at heart
Dr. Frankie Rainey takes pastoral approach to leading, serving students
by Coby Sauce, MBA '14
Though he has positively impacted the lives of an untold number of students throughout his time at Howard Payne University, Dr. Frankie Rainey, retired professor of Christian studies, has one regret – that he was never an HPU student himself.
“I do regret that I am not a graduate of Howard Payne,” he says. “I thought when I went to teach there I could take classes and get another degree, but life happened.”
“Life,” in Dr. Rainey’s case, includes 14 years as a professor in HPU’s School of Christian Studies and 10 years as professor of biblical studies at Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary & College in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada. Before and after his tenure at HPU, he served in pastorates throughout Texas, leading to a total of almost six decades in teaching and ministry.
Dr. Rainey grew up in Houston and graduated from Plainview’s Wayland Baptist University in 1960. He went on to earn three degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth – master’s degrees in theology and divinity and a doctorate in theology. He served in an adjunct role at the seminary while pastoring nearby, and it was then that he first learned of HPU’s excellent reputation in its pursuit of preparing students for lives of service.
“Students came to the seminary from churches and schools everywhere,” he says. “But it didn’t take us long to notice a difference in quality of the HPU graduates. They were just a notch above everyone else.”
Dr. Rainey received a call shortly thereafter from the dean of HPU’s School of Christian Studies and moved to Brownwood to join the HPU faculty in 1979. He taught several different subjects in biblical studies including pastoral ministry, preaching, counseling and, his favorite by far, Greek.
“I’m still very much a student of Greek myself,” he says. “I read in the Greek New Testament every day. That’s important if someone wants to keep up with it.”
In addition to his personal study, Dr. Rainey meets weekly to study the Greek New Testament with a group of men from his church, Glen Meadows Baptist Church in San Angelo.
“The study of Greek enables a person to get as near to what the original writers of the Bible were saying as is possible,” he says. “You couldn’t get any closer. I think many misconceptions about biblical texts come from teachers. The students have been misled. Pastors have to have a knowledge of biblical languages.”
Dr. Rainey returned to HPU in 2016 and continues to serve in an adjunct role.
“I’ve flunked retirement three times already,” he says, genially, “and I don’t think I’m retired now. I want to keep serving as long as I can.”
Dr. Rainey and his wife of 64 years, Sue, have two children, four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Dr. Rainey says his wife has been an “indispensable help” throughout his ministry.
“She typed every one of my papers throughout school and the rough draft of my dissertation,” he says. “She’s really well equipped.”
Three of his family members are HPU graduates – daughter Rhonda Bertrand ’83; Rhonda’s husband, Ray Bertrand ’89; and their son Phillip Bertrand ’12.
For others considering continuing their education at HPU, Dr. Rainey has words of encouragement.
“I would tell them that they will be treated as individuals,” he says, “they will be known by name, they will feel cared for and they’ll get a wonderful education.”
Dr. Rainey says there are many parallels between pastoring a church and teaching students.
“In Ephesians, Paul says the Risen Lord gave to the church pastors and teachers,” he says. “It’s one office. I like to think when I’m pastoring, I’m teaching and when I’m teaching, I’m pastoring.”
Dr. Rainey also approaches learning as something that ought to be fun.
“I take learning seriously, but I want students to enjoy it,” he says.
His students over the years have shared in this philosophy.
“They love to set me up every once in a while,” he says.
"It certainly affirms that it has been God's will for us to be at Howard Payne."
“One time I had a big class with every seat full. When I turned around to write something on the board, I heard every one of the chairs move forward.”
The students continued to move their chairs forward every time Dr. Rainey’s back was to the room.
“By the time class was over, they were nearly even with me,” he says.
His joy for his teaching material is evident, but most memorable to his students is his joy of the Lord.
“You don’t meet many people like Dr. Rainey in your lifetime,” says Mickey Wells, a 1983 HPU graduate. “He is one of the godliest men I’ve ever met. He would go the extra mile for me then and he’s not any different today than he was in 1979.”
Dr. Joe Loughlin ’83, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Temple, says Dr. Rainey has remained a dear friend and mentor since his graduation from HPU.
“At heart, Doc is a pastor/teacher, and that is how he approached his work with us students at HPU,” Dr. Loughlin says. “He was always focused to gently guide, encourage and, when things got really tough, offer some humor to keep things light.”
No matter the attitude or prank a student would bring into the classroom, Dr. Loughlin says, Dr. Rainey remained unflappable, kept the upper hand and always got the last laugh.
“On the first day of every semester, to conclude his review of the syllabus, he would state, ‘We’ll accomplish two things this semester, brothers and sisters. We will learn Greek and we will have fun. If we’re only able to accomplish one of those, well, we’ll just have fun!’ Who couldn’t learn in that environment?”
Dr. Rainey feels humbled to hear his former students’ kind words about him.
“It certainly affirms that it has been God’s will for us to be at Howard Payne,” he says. “And there’s a great deal of satisfaction to hear that you’ve had a positive impact on students.”
Photo: Dr. and Mrs. Rainey are pictured outside their home in San Angelo.