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Don Aderhold: scholar, teacher, pastor, mentor, friend


J. Gerald Harris/Index

Don Aderhold has served in many roles as a Georgia Baptist. The longtime pastor of Columbia Drive Baptist Church in Decatur also directed the North Georgia Extension of New Orleans Seminary, which was located at the church.

Don Aderhold, retired pastor of Columbia Drive Baptist Church in Decatur, is one of the most committed Christian gentlemen and winsome personalities anyone would ever want to meet.

Since his wife Gerry (the former Geraldine Turner) died six years ago Aderhold has been living alone in his home in Dacula. As he approaches his 82nd birthday he admits that he was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. “When the doctor told me that I had Alzheimer’s I was devastated,” he said, “but he said that I still have 80 percent of my thinking ability and medication is supposed to help me retain my ability to remember.”

Aderhold spends six or seven hours a day writing his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. He painstakingly prints every word, carefully explaining the Greek words and pouring out his inspiring insights on every page. He has written lengthy commentaries on several books of the Bible and an extensive treatise on the office of the deacon. He remarked, “Sometimes I have a ‘blank out’ when I am speaking or carrying on a conversation, but this disease doesn’t seem to affect my writing at all.”

His commentaries are remarkably comprehensive and marvelously instructive. He is particularly pleased with the 350-page commentary he has written on the book of Hebrews. He isn’t concerned about having his works published, but writes them for his own edification and devotional life.

Cliff Duvall, a notable Georgia Baptist pastor, denomination leader, and life-long friend of Aderhold, testified, “I have known Don Aderhold since I was a teenager. He is one of the finest men and one of the most humble servants of Christ I have known in my lifetime.

“He has been a loyal friend and an encourager to me and an example of what a pastor ought to be. He has an amazing personality and I thank God upon every remembrance of him.”

Aderhold was born on Nov. 14, 1925 in Atlanta, but moved with his family to Gwinnett County before eventually locating in Fulton County, where he graduated from Russell High School in East Point. He attended Mercer University for about six months and then enlisted in the U.S. Navy Officer Candidate School and served as an Ensign and second in command of Submarine Combat Patrol Craft #882.

Aderhold’s small and fast patrol craft cruised the waters near the Panama Canal during WWII in search of German submarines.


Coming home

When the war ended he came home and returned to Mercer where he earned a bachelor’s degree. Desiring to continue his education he enrolled in Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur and earned a Master of Divinity degree and became the first student at the Decatur school to earn a Doctor of Theology degree. He also served as the president of the student body while at the seminary. He also did extensive study at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

As a teenager he had gotten to know Gerry Turner at Edgewood Baptist Church in East Point, but she was four years younger than Don and he paid her little mind, but she promised to write him while he was in the Navy and insisted that he reciprocate.

He replied, “I can’t very well write you while I am sailing across the ocean looking for German submarines.”

When he returned home from the Navy he called Gerry and asked her for a date. When he saw her for the first time upon his return from naval duty he thought, “My goodness, what a difference three years makes.”

That date eventually led to a proposal of marriage and when Don was 21 and Gerry 17 they became husband and wife and embarked on a journey of marital bliss that lasted for almost 55 years.

J. Gerald Harris/Index

Don Aderhold spends six or seven hours a day writing his commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew. He has also written lengthy commentaries on several other books of the Bible and an extensive treatise on the office of the deacon.

Unfortunately, Gerry was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 22 and had 37 surgeries over a course of 50 years, but bravely faced her physical disabilities with determination and courage.

Two children were born to the Aderholds. Their son, David, works in the Gwinnett Sheriff’s headquarters and is a part of the Georgia Tactical Officers Association that provides assistance and training to those officers who risk their lives to protect human life.

Laura is the older of the two children and teaches school in Vestavia Hills near Birmingham. Don boasts, “Laura made all A’s in school except for one B. She decided to become a teacher and her class ranked number one in a recent U.S. national testing program.” Pictures of Aderhold’s four grandchildren are prominently displayed in his study at home.


Denomination leader

Aderhold served Columbia Drive Baptist Church for 39 years before resigning to assume the responsibilities of director and professor of the North Georgia Campus of New Orleans Seminary. In 2001 he retired as director of the seminary to become the pastor of Columbia Drive for the second time while continuing to teach at the seminary as an adjunct professor.

He actually started teaching the Bible as a 15-year-old teenager at Edgewood Baptist Church. He initially taught the largest Sunday School class in the church as a substitute, but class members petitioned for him to become the regular teacher. The pastor gave his approval and the youthful Aderhold was soon installed.

At the pinnacle of Aderhold’s ministry at Columbia Drive the church became one of the leading churches in metro Atlanta and reached an attendance of up to 800 in Sunday School. The church ultimately succumbed to the transition of a changing community and disbanded, but gave the property to the New Orleans Seminary in hopes that the seminary would continue to meet there.

In time it became expedient for the school to sell the property, but Columbia Drive’s legacy lives on and the seminary is one of the great recipients of that legacy.

Aderhold has served as a trustee of the Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board) and the Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board), where he served two terms as president. He has also served as a trustee at Mercer University and president of the Georgia Baptist Pastors’ Conference.

Emmett Henderson, a well-known Georgia Baptist pastor and denominational leader, has known Aderhold since they were teenagers. He stated, “Don has been a loyal supporter of Baptists by serving in strategic positions of leadership both within the Georgia Baptist and Southern Baptist conventions and he has done all this with the highest ethical standards and unquestioned character. Throughout his ministry, he has practiced the injunctions of the New Testament: ‘Do nothing out of self-seeking motives…. If you want to be great, serve others.’

“Don has always had and proclaimed a deep love of and unquestioned faith in the Scripture as the inspired Word of God,” Henderson continued. “Indeed, he is recognized across denominational lines as a gifted Bible scholar, especially in the area of his expertise: the Greek New Testament.”

Even today, the beloved preacher and teacher continues to use his reservoir of Bible knowledge and has found an opportunity to do that at First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, where he teaches a men’s Sunday School class.

In reality, few people have saturated their souls with the Word of God like Don Aderhold. He is teaching the gospel of Matthew to his class of men and communicates God’s truth with no less passion than in the past, but now uses notes to make sure that he doesn’t have one of those “blank outs.”