Arthur Flake and the lesson behind his grave marker

A team of writers and I are creating a new book that is due out in 2020 for the 100th anniversary of Arthur Flake’s ascension to the position of Sunday School Director at the Sunday School Board (now LifeWay) of the Southern Baptist Convention. My wife Tammy and I took a photo trip to Mississippi and were able to capture photos from the church he served, plus she located his grave and the address of one of his three daughters with whom he lived in retirement, passing away in her home in the early 1950s in Memphis, TN. Those photos tell a lot about the man, Arthur Flake. You can see the photo of his gravestone to the right. Here are a few things I learned about him on this trip, and something I learned about him based on his burial plot.

  1. He didn’t brag on himself. His grave marker is quite unremarkable. Name. Birth year. Year of death. That’s all that is on this great man’s grave marker. No fanfare. No great remembrances of his important work to grow churches. Nothing said about his massive accomplishments for Sunday School. No mention of his 5-step formula for growing Sunday Schools. All that marks his grave (and we almost didn’t find it because it is so unremarkable) is this flat marker with the most basic of information about the man. He was humble, simple, and I am sure died confident that he would hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” But his grave marker doesn’t toot his horn, nor does it alert you to the great man you’re standing so close to when you see that weather-worn marker.
  2. He sacrificed for his Lord. When I visited the town in which the church that he served is located, a 90 year-old deacon served as my guide and took my wife and I around town to show us what I thought was going to be the one store that Flake owned (I had always read that he owned a clothing store in Winona, MS., and that he stocked it with some fine clothes from New York). What I didn’t know is that he had several other businesses! This man was a hard-working entrepreneur who owned not only a clothing store, but also a market and a carriage repair and construction business. He gave it all up and sold out in order to take a position at the Sunday School Board as a field worker, meaning he spent his time traveling and training and consulting with churches about their ministries and how to reach more people by growing them. Unlike the Rich Young Ruler in the parable Jesus told, Flake let go of his earthly wealth in order to follow Jesus’ plan and purpose for his life. He sacrificed so that the Kingdom could advance.
  3. He served others. On this photo trip I discovered that Mr. Flake was allowed to invest much time into the work of the Mississippi Baptist Convention. The First Baptist Church of Winona realized that it had someone special in Arthur Flake, and they allowed him to take time off to travel to the state office in Jackson, MS., in order to participate in meetings that led to much planning and implementation of training, rallies, and other things that helped churches throughout Mississippi.

I will be sure to let you know when this new book is released, because I want you to get to know Arthur Flake and the thing he’s most famous for – his 5-step formula for growing the church through its Sunday School ministry.


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