This Treasure Within is a celebration of the loving and transformational presence of Christ in the life and ministry of Daniel Vestal. Part historical record, part reflection on contemporary issues, and part spiritual autobiography, this compelling memoir offers important insights into the contours of a social and cultural landscape in one segment of the Baptist faith tradition. By showing how he inherited and inhabited that tradition, only to have it deconstructed and reconstructed, Vestal points to how the presence of Christ can illumine not only one life, but all lives.
This Treasure Within is a remarkable pilgrimage from a serious upbringing to an amazing non-stop ministry to one who now reflects on the significance of a life lived. It is the inspiring story of one person who lives the vocation of Pastor, and yet it has a profound impact on the reader! Here is a clear and rousing account of a life of one who was in the room when so many things happened in the life of Baptists in the southern United States in recent decades. Daniel Vestal is my nominee for what the power of education does for clarifying a life’s vocation, and I am grateful for the opportunity to read his memoir.
—W. H. Bellinger, Jr.
Professor of Religion Emeritus, Baylor University
I have known and admired Daniel Vestal my entire life. He baptized me at First Baptist Church, Midland and embodied the role of pastor in such a noble and pure way that I chose to serve God as a pastor myself. Daniel has been a consummate leader in the Baptist movement, and, to me, he has been an invaluable colleague and good friend. After reading his memoir, he has become even more ensconced in my heart and mind as an exemplar worthy of immolation. Daniel has recounted the details of his extraordinary and influential life with tremendous humility, insight, honesty, and faithfulness. The work he has done here is truly unique and beautiful. I feel certain all who read these words will find them as meaningful, edifying, and inspiring as I have.
—Kelly K. Burkhart
Pastor, Baptist Temple
Daniel Vestal set out to write an autobiography and ends up providing an illustrated primer on leadership in the ecclesial community. He provides a paradigm of what authentic leadership looks like. Among the principal values he affirms are these: a Christ-centered faith that is ever open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit; a thirst for knowledge that leads to encounters with the other through reading and friendship making; a Spirit-empowered trust that knows no insecurity in asking and seeking answers to difficult questions; and a humility that permits the possibility of a change of opinion on controversial issues and opens a window to joyful living marked by a lively hope. To read This Treasure Within: A Memoir is to share in the Christian pilgrimage of one who is rightly regarded as a vibrant Christian and an exemplary leader.”
General Secretary Emeritus
Baptist World Alliance
If you have ever spent much time with Daniel Vestal, it will make sense when I say that while reading his memoir, I had to occasionally remind myself that he wasn’t right next to me. This is an honest self-portrait of a student, husband, father, pastor, and leader but it is also a graceful offer of historical mentorship from someone who deeply loves the church.
Pastor, Peachtree Baptist
This book is the autobiography of a gifted and experienced pastor who loves the local church. Gratefully nurtured in the cradle of Southern Baptist life in Texas, it is a refreshingly honest odyssey of a theological awakening. But the unique factor is the eyewitness account of the fragmentation of the Southern Baptist Convention and the testimony of a prayerful peacemaker attempting to do the best of things in the worst of times. It has acute observations on how a community of faith should handle discords and disagreements. As one of the pioneering leaders who eventually departed the SBC, Daniel Vestal speaks with personal authority on the forming of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. It is a profoundly significant work offering a unique interpretation of three turbulent decades of Baptist life in North America.
—David Coffey OBE
President of the Baptist World Alliance (2005–2010)
Free Churches Moderator and Co-President of
Churches Together in England (2003–2007)
Daniel Vestal defines himself as a pastor, and this memoir tells the story of the best sermon he could preach: a life lived in service to the God of love, justice, and compassion. From stories of a childhood spent shaping a calling as a preacher to his time as coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, This Treasure Within contains thoughtful remembrances and life lessons that are at once moving and edifying. This book is a gift to all who find a home under the
Baptist umbrella and to any who claim Jesus is Lord.
—Rev. Emily Holladay
First recipient of the Daniel and Earlene Vestal Scholarship
Pastor, Village Baptist Church, Bowie, Maryland
In this deeply reflective and forthright spiritual autobiography, Daniel Vestal has demonstrated both his deep grounding in the biblical teaching and his outward spiral of learning. With humility he writes about how his mind was expanded as he engaged critical issues of the epoch: the resurgence of fundamentalism in Southern Baptist life, the role of women in ministry, interfaith relations, human sexuality, and lay ministry in the church. His piety is palpable; his prayer is centering and there are hints of mysticism in his writing. He continues to open himself to the mystery of the gracious God in whom Daniel desires to dwell, through the power of the Holy Spirit. From the pen of a wise spiritual guide comes this cartography of grace. I commend it highly, for I have found it profitable to read.
Professor of Theology and Spiritual Formation
Interim President of United Theological Seminary
Daniel Vestal has lived a remarkable life. Reading the story of his spiritual journey as a man, husband, father, pastor, denominational leader, and teacher will inspire and motivate. I witnessed his denominational leadership up close when I held leadership positions in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship from 1997 to 2000. I soon was in awe of both Daniel the man and Daniel the servant-leader, and I am even more in awe of him now that I know his full story. He has made a giant impact for the gospel everywhere he has set his feet.
—John R. Tyler
Eighth Moderator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
Daniel Vestal is not only a transformational figure in Baptist life but also a transitional figure, someone who has stood in the gap and brought people together as the tides of religion pulled us ever more apart. The stories of this memoir illustrate his own journey from the kind of warm evangelicalism Southern Baptists once were known for to the broader community of faith that also values social justice. If you want to understand who Southern Baptists and Cooperative Baptists are today, you need to know where we’ve come from and how we’ve grown apart. That is Daniel’s story.
Executive Director and Publisher, Baptist News Global
Daniel Vestal is a voice of leadership, conviction, and wisdom in God’s kingdom. Reading this memoir is like sitting down with a friend who’s journeyed just a little bit ahead of you and has gathered much to share. This memoir is the voice of his heart as he opens up his life’s journey with God, and offers us words to consider in our own lives. Daniel’s honesty and transparency with his life experiences are a gift, and this book is a treasure.
Pastor, 19th Ave. Baptist Church
San Francisco, California