Jim McGinlay knew God had a plan for him at age 16, but it wasn’t until he was on the baseball diamond at age 19 that the plan was revealed.
“I was at second base,” said McGinlay, who played briefly in the Yankees minor league, “and you’ll never guess who came down as a shortstop – Mickey Mantle – the greatest player ever. They made an outfielder out of him to save his knees.”
The two players were attempting a double play. Unfortunately, Mantle’s throw pulled McGinlay off second.
“The player running from first base knocked me out in the center field and just tore me up. They carried me off the field. Me and my dreams were shattered. And that night, I said, ‘I can’t do it anymore, Lord. I’m getting the picture. I can’t run from you.’”
McGinlay says he immediately had a clear understanding of the path laid before him. He knew he was meant to preach. He grew up in a preacher’s home. He sat in the pews every Sunday listening to his dad give the weekly message.
“It wasn’t that I was against it,” he said. “I just wanted something else. I wanted to be a professional baseball player.”
Years later, McGinlay understood that he could win more people from behind the pulpit than the plate. But he struggled with it in his younger years. He was bitter.
“When they carried me off the field, they also carried away the dreams that I had dreamt for so long. I had no other plans,” he said. “But He had a plan before I was even came into existence.”
Many residents in Azle and Lakeside know Jim McGinlay as their former preacher at First Baptist Church of Lakeside. But his journey to that pulpit is fascinating.
After attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, he pastored at First Baptist Church of Archer City, College Avenue Baptist Church in Lubbock, and Ridgecrest Baptist in Greenville, before leaving Texas to pastor at Royal Palms Baptist Church in Phoenix.
One day he received a call from Mary Crelia, the church secretary at Lakeside Baptist Church of Azle. She wanted to know if he could fill in for just one Sunday while the church was searching for a new pastor.
McGinlay wanted to help, but he stayed pretty busy. After leaving Royal Palms, he had gone to work for Cargill Associates, a business that specializes in helping nonprofits raise money. He was traveling approximately 230,000 air miles each year. Still, he found time to travel to Lakeside Baptist with his wife Dottie that Sunday.
“I was not interested in being the pastor at Lakeside, but you know, the Lord works with people. Weeks later, I was in Chicago, and I called Mary and said, ‘How are things going at the church?’ And she said, ‘Well, we’ve got 59 resumes’ and my heart!” he said, grabbing his chest dramatically. “I thought to myself, ‘What do you care? You’re not interested.’ And then I thought, ‘Oh Lord, you’re not doing this to me again, are you?’ And so I told Mary, ‘Put my name before the committee.’
“It was the most wonderful experience,” said McGinlay. “It was a great church, gorgeous music, 50-voice choir. We saw His hand in everything that we did. We wanted to put Him first. The last building that we built was a family life center, 32,000 square feet. And it has everything in it – everything: gymnasium, dining room, weight room, exercise room, you name it, it’s got it. And I call it God’s Building because that $4.4 million building was paid off in two years and nine months.”
Despite the many blessings bestowed upon McGinlay and the church, he struggled in his personal life when Dottie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Because he was still working, she moved into assisted living. And it wasn’t long before McGinlay felt it was time to turn the church over to a new pastor.
“I enjoyed it, but I felt like that I had gone as far as I could go with the church. They needed someone else in there. And my desire was to leave the church debt free, and thank the Lord we were able to do that.”
McGinlay still attends Lakeside Baptist. It was that congregation’s love and support which helped him when he lost Dottie in 2020. Unfortunately, the couple were unable to see each other for the last eight weeks of her life due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“It just destroyed me,” said McGinlay. “I thought I knew what loneliness was. I didn’t have a clue. I do now. I can talk to you about being lonely, I know what it is.
“She was the best thing that ever happened to me. I met her in college when I was just a goofball, but when I met her everything changed. I was on the dean’s list, all the good stuff. She gave me something to live for. The hole she left was enormous.”
Shortly after her death, McGinlay moved into Legacy Oaks of Azle, a sprawling senior community on Highway 199 just west of Fort Worth.
“I had no desire to be here,” admitted McGinlay. “I lost my wife. I sold my house. I didn’t want to come here, but I had a terrible fall.”
McGinlay fell at his former residence, hitting his head on the bathroom sink on his way down. He struggled to get back up, but he had the wherewithal to keep trying and crawled to a bench in the adjacent bedroom. His daughter-in-law called the next day, but he didn’t answer. The phone was laying next to him on the bench, but he had sustained a severe head injury and had no idea she was calling. When the paramedics arrived, they told him he’d sat on the bench for 16 hours.
It was his family who encouraged him to move to Legacy Oaks. Shortly after he arrived at the senior community, the activity director asked McGinlay if he would consider preaching for the residents.
“She put her arm around me and said, ‘Jim, that’s the reason why God has you here.’” So he agreed to preach one Sunday a month. “And my life changed – because I had something, you know? When my wife died, I believed my life was over. I’d forgotten that God has a plan.”
He says he looks forward to the monthly service and puts great thought into it.
“I work on it. It’s not that I just grab a message that I’ve preached before. No, I work at it. I work at it harder now because I’m not as sharp as I was. That fall took a lot of my memory,” he said. “But it never took the ability to memorize scripture, and I am so excited about that.”
Legacy Oaks brings in a different denomination each week. The first Sunday of the month is led by members of the Church of Christ, McGinlay preaches the second Sunday, the third Sunday is led by the Methodists, and the fourth Sunday is led by The Neighborhood Church.
McGinlay admits he felt somewhat burdened when his son pointed out that the messages he preaches are the last some residents will ever hear. But bringing his peers the Word of God brings McGinlay so much joy.
“It’s an exciting life,” he said. “I mean, this world has gone nuts, but we are stabilized by the power of God.”
McGinlay also became a published author later in life, which was quite a surprise to him.
“I have a brilliant son-in-law – I love him so much. One day he called me and he said, ‘Your book’s in the mail.’ I said, ‘My what?’ He said, ‘Your book.’ I said, ‘What book are you talking about?’ He said, ‘It’s in the mail.’ A few days later, I opened this package and there was this book – and there’s my name. I cried. I never dreamt I would see my name on a book.”
A handful of McGinlay’s most inspiring messages were formatted into a book for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The first book was about the Names of God. Shortly after came one on the Ten Commandments. He’s working on one now on the Book of Joshua. The passion McGinlay has for his work shows in his face and voice. It shoots out of him like a lightbeam.
“This is an exciting time because we’ve got the answer,” he said. “And the answer is not the church. The answer is not the preacher. The answer is Him. We know Him. He’s the healer. He’s the victor. I am excited about it because in this lousy world there is a searchlight.”
McGinlay enjoys showing residents at Legacy Oaks the light. The walls of his apartment are filled with memories from his time preaching, including a shofar which was a gift from one of the 15 tour groups he led in Israel. Potential residents often tour McGinlay’s apartment, what he calls his “bachelor’s pad.”
“I like the homeyness of this place,” he said beaming.