In my days at Dallas Christian College, back in the 1970s, I was blessed to have a number of excellent professors. Some were great thinkers. Some were excellent students of the word. But I never knew a better man of God than Ronnie Hanna.
Brother Ronnie, as we called him, served 18 years at DCC, sometimes as a professor, sometimes also as an administrator. But his real talent was as a man who loved people. He had one of the most amazing memories I have ever seen for remembering names and faces. On more than one occasion, I saw him – without any notes – go around a room of a hundred people or more, from all across Texas, and introduce every one of them, telling something interesting about each person. He genuinely loved people, and more than that, he genuinely loved the Lord’s church. In his time at DCC, he toured extensively throughout Texas and the Southwest on behalf of the college, and I think once he met someone, he never forgot.
And he told the corniest, goofiest preacher jokes you have ever heard.
During my four years there, I was blessed to get to travel with him a lot, visiting different churches, so I heard all those jokes many, MANY times. Driving down the road, he would point to a field of fresh-cut grass and say, “Hay!” If there was a period of silence in the van, he would say, “Look! What’s that up there in the road — a head?” He would pull up to a railroad crossing and announce, “I believe a train was just by here.” When some gullible freshman would ask, “How can you tell?,” he would say, “It left behind its tracks.”
Sometimes he would say, “Don’t be bitter – reconsider!” I never knew exactly what that meant, but he said it a lot.
By his own admission, Ronnie could sometimes be, shall we say, directionally challenged. He generally knew – approximately – what part of town a given church building was located, and he would get in the right area, but then he’d have to drive around a while to find the exact location. Once we got there, he would just chuckle in his good-natured way, and say that he knew where he was all along, and that he was just taking us to our destination via a “scenic tour.”
One of his favorite soap boxes was a personal mission to stamp out euphemisms – saying “heck” or “darn” instead of their unrated counterparts. We used to sometimes make fun of him (behind his back) about it, but I know that He took seriously the command of Jesus to let your yes, be yes, and your no, be no. And he had the courage of his convictions.
Brother Ronnie taught “Life of Christ,” which was a freshman-level class. One of the first things he covered was to define for us, exactly what Jesus was talking about when he described the Kingdom of Heaven / Kingdom of God – “The reign and rule of God in the hearts and lives of men.” To this day, I’ve never heard a better definition, and I’ve used his definition, without exception, every time I have ever taught on the Kingdom. It’s not a place, it’s not something in the future – God’s Kingdom is here and now, and it’s made up of all those who humble themselves before the living God to let Him rule in their hearts.
The other thing I remember about his Life of Christ class – he had us read “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Great stuff, life-changing stuff.
I had Ronnie for other classes, and he taught me other things, but if for only those two things, I will always be grateful to have been his student.
After he left Dallas, Ronnie and his beloved wife Janet moved to Colorado, where he ministered for many years. They moved back to the Dallas-area after his retirement. He passed away last week, and is being remembered Monday and Tuesday in services on the DCC campus.
But I can’t get over to Dallas to share with others who knew and loved him, so this is my tribute to him, and sharing my thoughts about him. He was a decent, good and gentle man, who loved his God and loved his family. And he loved the Lord’s church, and spent his life ministering before the Lord and training others who would do the same.
Thanks for everything, Brother Ronnie. It was an honor to know you. But I wonder: when Jesus showed your mansion in glory, if he took you around the block once or twice, just for a “scenic tour.” If He did, well, don’t be bitter – reconsider!