Residents of Deptford’s Jericho section are saying goodbye this weekend to a man who gave more than 60 years to his community and his faith.
Rev. William Donald Willis, assistant pastor at the First Baptist Church of Jericho, died Nov. 18. The preacher, who was a fixture in Jericho and a dedicated participant in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, was 100 years old.
“I used to hear him preach from the time I was 10 years old,” said Rev. Clabon Bogan, the pastor of First Baptist for the past 20 years. “I’ve known him for almost 50 years. That grew to the point where there was a vacancy here at the church, and Rev. Willis was the one who approached me about the position I hold now.”
A native of Carolina County, Virginia, Willis moved to Camden with his family at the age of 13. It was at New Mickle Baptist Church in the city that Willis met his wife, Mildred Ann Graham, who died in 2001. The couple had three children and raised one of their nephews as well.
After leaving school with a sixth-grade education to help support his family with a railroad job, Willis eventually returned to school, graduating from Woodrow Wilson High School before attending seminary and earning a doctorate degree.
Willis worked as the main pastor of First Baptist from 1953 to 1983. In those 30 years, he was a major player in a variety of initiatives, including establishing a church summer camp and holding a number of positions in the statewide Bethany Baptist Association.
In the 1960s and ’70s, Willis became a major local leader of the Civil Rights movement. He brought a number of guest ministers to Jericho to discuss a range of social topics, and attended Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington in the summer of 1964. Willis also hit the picket lines with other members of the clergy when Irene Hill-Smith, the leader of the local NAACP chapter at the time, was held in jail.
“He was bigger than life to us,” said his daughter, Karen Burgwin. “He loved people, and he loved helping people. And he was very mission-minded. He reached out to people all over the world and was very adamant about the church’s involvement with foreign missions and locally as well.”
As far as his political activism went, Burgwin said, “he determined he was free like everybody else.
“He took us everywhere,” said Burgwin. “He stepped out along with other community leaders like Irene Hill-Smith to make sure that people’s rights weren’t being stomped on.”
Willis did not take his children to see King speak in Washington, but his daughter Cheryl Rolen shared one memory of seeing her father in action.
“I can remember an episode here in Woodbury where he took my sister and I and a couple of our friends to the diner, and the lady didn’t want to wait on us. He spoke with the manager, and then he let us order seafood platters,” Rolen said, laughing.
“We made her awfully angry. I know he did things like that. He didn’t usually pull us into them, but he did do things like that.”
On a personal level, Willis’ daughters said friends and family could always count on him to listen to their problems, provided they were ready to hear what he thought. Soft-spoken but principled, Willis always stood by his convictions.
“He was a very caring person. People knew when they came to him that he was going to listen, but that he was also going to tell them the truth, whatever that truth was.”
And although he may have been busy throughout his career, his daughters said, he never forgot about his family. Willis was particularly fond of food and travel, and was a charismatic friend who loved to hear personal anecdotes and share jokes.
After stepping down from the pulpit in the First Baptist Church, Willis spent the later years of his career working as an interim minister at several different congregations. He came back to Jericho as an interim before signing on as assistant pastor when Bogan joined the church in 1994. Willis had to scale back his activity in his late 90s when he was diagnosed with dementia, but he kept the title of assistant pastor until he died.
“He had the ability to show his love even though he didn’t voice it. It was about action and not rhetoric,” said his grandson, Chris Rolen. “As I embark on my own personal development, I realize he embodied changing yourself so you can change the world. When I think about him dropping out of school and getting a doctorate and becoming a scholar, the places that he’s been and educating himself the way he did, that’s what I want people to remember about him. He changed himself so that he could change the world.”
Willis is pre-deceased by three sisters and eight brothers. He is survived by his younger sister, Pearl, who lives in Camden; his daughters Karen and Cheryl of Woodbury; son Charles of Philadelphia; numerous grandchildren as well as great and great-great-grandchildren; and his nieces and nephews.
A viewing will be held for Willis Friday evening from 6 to 9 p.m. at the First Baptist Church of Jericho, 981 Mail Ave., Deptford. The family will greet visitors at 9 a.m. on Saturday, and a funeral service will be held afterward at 11 a.m.
Harmony Missionary Baptist Church is seeking a Pastor who will provide spirit-directed, visionary leadership for our church, and possesses excellent skills in the areas of preaching, teaching, counseling and congregational leadership development. Candidates should have a minimum of 3 years of pastoral experience, be licensed and ordained by a creditable, licensed ordination committee and have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited Bible College.
Mail a cover letter, resume and ministerial license(s) to:
Harmony Missionary Baptist Church
ATTN: Pulpit Committee
P.O. BOX 3330
Oakland, CA 94609
Resumes must be postmarked between 11-16-2014 and 12-01-2014. Review the Qualification Summary and Instructions for Applicants and other pertinent information on our website at: www.harmonymbc.org
You may also visit us on FaceBook at Harmony Missionary Baptist Church, Oakland CA 94609
NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE
by Robert Earl Houston
The Faith Community around the world received the shocking news on late Sunday afternoon that internationally known preacher and author, Dr. Myles Munroe, his wife Lady Ruth Munroe, his executive pastor Richard Pinder, and several members of the staff of his congregation, Bahamas Faith Ministries, International, were killed in a tragic airplane crash in the Grand Bahamas Shipyard, on approach during a storm to the airport.
According to the church’s website, the souls who perished in the crash included, Dr. Munroe, his wife, Pastor Ruth Monroe, senior vice-president Dr. Richard Pinder, newly installed Youth Pastors Levard and Radel Parks and their son Johannan, and pilots Stanley Thurston and Farkhan Cooper, and one additional passenger.
Dr. Munroe, 60, was a trailblazer in so many areas. He was one of the first international voices that God raised up from the small nation of the Bahamas, as a prophetic voice in this generation. His teachings on leadership, on developing the next generation, on singleness, and life after divorce, have been cutting edge and the basis or echoes of many teachings that are commonly found within the Body of Christ.
There was not a medium of ministry that Dr. Munroe was not involved in. Whether it was writing books, speaking at auditoriums, stadiums or at private meetings with heads of state, or television ministry or internet, he was “everywhere” while encouraging everyone else to be “everywhere” as a believer.
I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Munroe on several occasions and he was in person like he was on television – smiling, laughing, full of joy, and serious about ministry. A clip that is found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noLu-9PauxU&feature=youtu.be had an interesting comment by Dr. Munroe about leadership. He stated that the problem in his country and others like his is that leadership is not preparing the next generation. He used an example of a runner who refuses to pass of the baton to the next runner and that the runner will wind up dead in a casket while someone has to pry the baton from his hands. He was intentional on raising up the next generations of leaders and, ironically, was on his way to a conference he was conducting on Global Leadership with an emphasis on growing new leadership.
His compendium of literary works include: The Principles and Power of Vision; Understanding the Purpose and Power of Woman; Understanding the Purpose and Power of Prayer; Rediscovering the Kingdom; Keys for Marriage; Power of Character in Leadership; The Purpose and Power of Love and Marriage; Kingdom Principles: Preparing for Kingdom Experience and Expansion; Spirit of Leadership; The Purpose and Power of Praise and Worship; The Most Important Person on Earth; Understanding Your Potential: Discovering the Hidden You; Waiting and Dating: A Sensible Guide to a Fulfilling Love Relationship; Understanding Your Place in God’s Kingdom; Fatherhood Principle; Understanding the Purpose and Power of a Man; Single, Married, Separated and Life after Divorce; the Myles Munroe 365 Day Devotional; and many, many more. At his death he authored or co-authored over 100 books, and wrote from various publications, Bibles, and online magazines.
Dr. Munroe was born on April 20, 1954 and was a lifetime resident of the Bahamas. He graduated from Oral Roberts University in 1978 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Education and Theology in 1978. He earned his Master’s Degree in Administration from the University of Tulsa in 1980. He has received many honorary doctoral degrees and briefly served as an adjunct professor of the Graduate School of Theology at ORU.
He is the founder of the Board of Trustees of the International Third World Leaders Association. He has been invited to over 80 nations as an ambassador of his nation, to address government bodies, business leaders, universities, and religious organizations. He received numerous civic awards including being the youngest recipient of the Queen’s Birthday Honors of the Order of the British Empire Award 1998 bestowed upon him by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, II of England, for “his spiritual and social contributions to the national development of the Bahamas.”
His wife, Ruth, served as co-pastor with him at his church. The couple are survived by two adult children, Myles, Jr. and Charisa. Homegoing services are pending.
PRESS RELEASE FROM THE CHURCH:
On behalf of the Board of Governors and the entire Bahamas Faith Ministries Family we wish to extend our gratitude for the tremendous outpouring of love and support by the many persons who have offered condolences and prayers.
Among those confirmed to have passed away in yesterday’s tragic plane crash were Founder & President of Bahamas Faith Ministries International Dr. Myles Munroe and his wife Pastor Ruth Munroe, Senior Vice-President Dr. Richard Pinder, Newly installed Youth Pastors Lavard and Radel Parks and their son Johannan, Pilots Stanley Thurston and Farkhan Cooper and one additional passenger.
Words cannot express our profound sense of loss for all of the team members on this tragic flight. Dr. Munroe was our visionary, our founder, our mentor, advisor, father figure and friend. He was a global leader and icon and was respected worldwide. His wife Ruth was a faithful companion and constant support for Dr. Munroe and was equally beloved.
Dr. Richard Pinder was the embodiment of a true Pastor who loved people, was faithful in service and gave his best to all. Pastor Rich as he was affectionally called was truly the glue that kept our ministry together. His warm smile and personal pastoral care was truly a comfort and a blessing to so many of our members throughout the years of our church.
Pastors Lavard & Radel Parks were recently installed as Youth Pastors of the Youth Ministry having both being officially ordained and installed as the church’s second full time Youth Pastors on Easter Sunday April 20th 2014. Both were products of both Dr. Munroe and Dr. Pinders’ leadership and were personally mentored by Dr.Dave & Pastor Angie Burrows.
Our pilots included Senior Officer Stanley Thurston who was an experienced pilot and served for many years as Pastor Myles’s personal pilot. Also on board was Co-Pilot Frakhan Cooper who was also a faithful member of our aviation team. Both gave excellent service.
Dr. Munroe taught us to have faith and to pursue purpose and advance the Kingdom Principles of Jesus Christ here on earth. He also taught us to be leaders. As a Church body and organization we will move forward as Dr. Munroe would have wanted us to. We recognize that there will be challenges but we have full confidence that God will see us through and we intend to make our founding leaders proud.
We ask for your continued prayers and support. We will issue further details on plans for home going services and other matters relating to the future of Bahamas Faith Ministries in due course.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.
The Park Ridge Baptist Church, Sparta, Kentucky (a small rural congregation) is now accepting resumes to fill the position of Pastor. A successful candidate must meet the following qualifications: Be a born again believer in Jesus Christ, and must be guided by Biblical principles set forth in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Send resumes to: Pulpit Committee, Park Ridge Baptist Church, c/o 4229 Arbor Court, Independence, KY 41051. Resumes will be accepted until November 17, 2014. The church will not be responsible for travel expenses.
Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church is seeking a God-called, ordained baptist pastor to edify through God’s Holy Word and to direct our congregation by divine example, strong leadership abilities, and Scriptural teaching. Submit the candidate package by mail to: Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, Pastor Search Committee, PO Box 8496, Paducah, Kentucky 42002. Deadline for submission is November 30, 2014. Candidate package must contain: (1) Current resume including summary of relevant ministry, professional and educational experience; (2) Copy of Ministerial License, Ordination Certificate and Degrees; (3) Three Recommendation Letters: Two from fellow clergy and one personal.
UNION BAPTIST CHURCH 233 Glenwood Avenue Easton, Maryland 21601
Union Baptist Church officially organized itself in 1887. The mission statement is: The Union Baptist Church, in seeking to glorify God in everything it does, will provide a foundation for Christian development and growth, and a foundation for the enhancement of Christian maturity. We therefore, will strive to proclaim the Gospel to all people through Christian teachings and living, planning and training our local congregation as well as the community. We further proclaim to build and maintain reciprocal relationships with other Christian churches and community organizations.
Pastoral Vacancy Announcement *revised*
Candidates must possess at least a Master of Divinity or Theology degree from an accredited theological seminary and have at least six (6) years of pastoral experience or significant related experience which includes experience in church administration (e.g., Assistant Pastor, Executive Pastor, Associate Minister). Candidates must also be licensed and ordained in the Baptist church. Candidates must be Holy Ghost filled and guided by the Biblical principles set forth in 1Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Candidates must have a passion for discipleship and mentoring individuals, families and the congregation as a whole. Candidates’ personal character and financial standing must be above reproach both inside and outside the church.
Candidates must be an effective communicator and demonstrate the ability to prepare and deliver biblically sound, stimulating and spirit-filled sermons. Candidates should also have a demonstrated aptness for Bible-based teaching: have strong interpersonal skills; be approachable; and demonstrate inclusiveness for all demographics of the congregation. In addition, candidates must be able to spiritually counsel members of the congregation; be proficient in the use of technology; and be open to new ideas.
The successful candidate will have a vision for growing church membership that is both educated in the Word of God and strong in relationship with Christ, particularly a vision, commitment and experience for increasing the numbers and spiritual development of youth and young adults in the congregation. The successful candidate will also have a proven record as a skilled administrator and manager of church staff and programs. In addition, the successful candidate will have a proven record of developing leaders. Finally, the successful candidate will have a commitment to Christian Education and a zeal for missions and evangelism.
All interested and qualified persons must submit an Application Packet consisting of the following information:
- A current resume or curriculum vitae which should include a summary of relevant ministry professional and educational experiences;
- Copies of any ministerial licenses;
- Copies of any ordination certificates;
- Copies of diplomas and degrees
- Three (3) current letters of reference
- one from clergy
- one from a layperson
- one from personal friend/acquaintance
Candidates may be asked to submit two videoed sermons at some point during the application process. The Pulpit Committee will formally request videos, if needed.
Applications must be postmarked by November 30, 2014. Any application received after this date will not be considered. NOTE: Missing information may result in automatic disqualification. Final candidates must consent to a reference check, a full background check including criminal history, a drug test, and a credit check. The background check will be performed by an outside agency for complete confidentiality. All information submitted will be considered “confidential” and For Official Use Only.
Submit completed application documents to:
Union Baptist Church Attn: Sis. Rose Potter 233 Glenwood Avenue Easton, Maryland 21601
Pastoral responsibilities include duties in the follow: Worship Services
- Preaching (Preach the gospel by preparing and delivering relevant, spirit-filled sermons)
- Worship Leadership (Plan and conduct worship services)
- Administration of the Holy Ordinances (Baptism and Communion)
- Officiate at weddings, funerals, baby dedications, etc.
- Teaching (Bible study, membership classes, seminars, and other Christian Education training)
- Training church leaders
- Evangelistic, ethical or discipleship concerns and issues
- Pre-marital/Marital counseling of church members
- Spiritual counseling of church members
- Visitation (Evangelism)
- Minister to sick/shut in and bereaved church members (homes, hospitals, nursing
- Serve as the chief officer of the church, carrying out, with church officers, the policies and mandates duly approved by the congregation
- Serve as moderator of church business meetings except in meetings where the tenure of the pastor is discussed
- Serve as ex-officio member of all ministries, committees, and organizations of the church
- Collaborate Church Council with the to lead the congregation in developing a comprehensive business operation plan for the church
- Develop and implement a strategic plan for healthy church growth, to include among other things, spiritual growth, membership growth, financial growth and facility growth
- Supervise, mentor and prepare written annual evaluations of the paid church staff along with the trustees
- Possess a demonstrated commitment to corporate social responsibility
Demonstrate financial awareness and responsibility Worship
Leads the congregation with an attitude and lifestyle of worship through o Preaching and teaching God’s Word
o Evangelism outreach
o Music and praise
o Commitment to marriage and family
o Building relationships
o Dedication to prayer
o Integrity in the workplace and in all things for the Glory of God
Equips the saints for acts of service, evangelism, and discipleship training; recognizes the gifts and talents of the church body; actively promotes opportunities to share the gospel with the unsaved and to grow all believers to maturity in Christ.
Works with and guides existing church staff; delegates responsibilities appropriately; works collaboratively with and encourages the efforts of the church boards, committees, ministries to successfully function as a church body; does not micromanage; strong and effective communicator; strong organizational skills, embraces and leverages technology as a tool for administration and effective ministry.
Is a role model; maintains the highest standard for ethical conduct and integrity; transparent; willing to admit failures; a living example; demonstrates good stewardship in managing personal finances.
Experience: A licensed or ordained minister holding to Baptist teachings; six years or more of senior pastoral experience is required; significant related experience which includes experiences in church administration (e.g., Assistant Pastor, Executive Pastor, Associate Minister); the applicant’s education must include at least a Master of Divinity or Theology from an accredited theological seminary.
Preaching: Preaches with an emphasis on exegetical/expository preaching with a sound, unwavering commitment to the Word of God; carefully guards the pulpit entrusted to him from strange doctrines and worldly thinking; preaches the whole counsel of God, not for personal agendas, political correctness, nor fear of man’s opinions.
Teaching: Emphasizing Christian Education has a demonstrated aptness for Bible-based teaching; leads and teaches stimulating Bible studies, classes and seminars.
Leadership: Leads by biblical example and lifestyle, putting God first, family, and church family; eager to serve with humility; has a teachable spirit, and sees oneself as an equal part of the body of Christ under His headship – first among equals.
Shepherding: Considers the needs of the entire church; watches over the flock; guards the church body from false teachings, and secular ideas; encourages and reaches out to all members of the church family regardless of age or gender or race; works to bridge generational gaps; promotes a spirit of unity and of love among all members of the body.
Pastoral Counseling: Gives sound, biblical counsel, advice, and guidance; encourages mature believers in the faith to assist with counseling opportunities through various ministries and outreach opportunities.
Prayer: Prays dedicatedly for the saints and encourages a lifestyle of prayer; is committed to both public prayer (congregational/small group outreach) and private prayer (with spouse and children/personal alone time); leads by example.
Outreach/Evangelism: Is committed to making an impact on the surrounding communities and then throughout all the earth with the gospel of Jesus Christ, with various ministries, missions and outreach opportunities.
Vision: Understands the strengths and weaknesses of the church family; learns from past successes and failures; recognizes the gifts, talents, and faithfulness of its members; builds upon the biblical principles and standards which have endured for generations in order to cast a vision for the future of God’s people at Union Baptist Church.
Fellowship: Actively encourages and promotes both intra-and interchurch fellowship with those of like faith (not necessarily of like denomination).
Central Baptist Church
“The Church Where Everybody Is Somebody”
2400 California Street Denver, CO 80205
Senior Pastor Position Available
Sis. Lois Y. Johnson: Chairperson 2400 California Street
Denver, CO 80205 Email:email@example.com 303-388-1246
Deacon Michael Griffin: Co-Chairperson 2400 California Street
Denver, CO 80205
Congregation Size: 400; Active Members: 200 Denomination: National Baptist USA Participation: Active
About Us: Central Baptist Church is a 123 year old Landmark located in the Historic Five Points Community, Denver’s first predominantly African-American neighborhood. This dynamic neighborhood is currently experiencing a period of resurgence and revitalization, creating new housing and business opportunities which maximize its near downtown Denver location.
Central serves as a Beacon of Hope and Salvation for this immediate community, the city of Denver, the State of Colorado and beyond.
Through the efforts of the Church leadership and the very dedicated and loyal membership, Central embarked upon a long range building project in 2004. This plan included the purchasing of the remaining city block of 2400 to 2500 California Street. In addition, this long range plan includes the retention and renovation of the old Historical Sanctuary. The first phase of the project was completed in September 2006.
Generally, the Church enjoys a dynamic, progressive Sunday School and worship service each Sunday. Our Deacon and Deaconess Ministries capitalize on the Holy Spirit already present in each member, setting the tone for the divine inspired message to come. All of our services are accompanied by a spirit filled melodious Mass Choir, Male Chorus, or Youth\Children Choir on their respective Sundays to serve, under the Direction of a very talented Minister of Music.
Our congregation is comprised of many long time, loyal and committed Christians. It’s a diverse educational, socio-economical membership\audience that includes youth, young adults, singles and many families. They are hardworking, loyal, unique, eager to learn, and determined to serve our extended communities through various ministries.
One of our Associate Ministers currently serves as the Interim Pastor. There is also a part time Administrative Assistant on Staff.
Senior Pastor Qualification:
- Spiritually Gifted
- Excellent Communicator
- Quality People Skills
- Called by God (Confirmed from other believers)
- Fulfills Scriptural description of qualifications as written in (Timothy 3:1-7 & Titus 1:6-
9) and other Biblical References.
- Minimum 5 years of ministerial/pastoral experience
- Demonstrates the epitome of moral integrity: models and lives it daily
- Agrees with the constitutions and by-laws of Central Baptist Church
The Senior Pastor shall be instrumental in facilitating the development of Church Ministries and program including but not limited to Youth Ministries.
The Senior Pastor is mutually accountable to the official boards and serves at the pleasure of the congregation. The Senior Pastor will lead and encourage the execution of God’s vision, mission and goals for the Church. Formal preaching, teaching and personal relations will facilitate the delivery of the Gospel message.
All interested persons, please respond by: January 30, 2015.
The Pulpit Committee of Second Missionary Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN is prayerfully seeking a full-time Senior Pastor called by God to serve as the spiritual leader of the congregation. Our Church is committed to fulfill our purpose, which is the enhancement and advancement of the Kingdom of God through worship, preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, evangelism, missionary endeavors, teaching of sound Baptist doctrine, engaging in pastoral care, Christian education, and Church ministries. The church profile, job description and application are located on www.smbchurch.org website under Pulpit Committee. The requested information must be postmarked by December 1, 2014. If you have any questions, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Covenant Baptist Church, P.O. 11147, Louisville, KY 40251
New Covenant Baptist Church now accepting resumes to fill the position of Pastor.
New Covenant Baptist is seeking an ordained preacher / teacher to fill the position of pastor.
All travel and lodging expenses will be the responsibility of the candidate.
Please send resumes and letter of interest to: New Covenant Baptist Church
Attn: Pastoral Search Committee P.O. Box 11147, Louisville KY 40251.
“Resumes and letter of interest must be postmarked by November 30, 2014”.
One of the greatest frustrations of newly called pastors is what I have termed is the Rubber Band Church.
Often times Pastors come in with different expectations and anticipations than the congregation that has called them. After pastoring over 25 years, I have discovered that churches will adapt to the vision of the Lord through the Pastor with great success or they will snap back and return to their original form which is the Rubber Band Church.
Recently a young pastor reached out to me. He has been at his church 18 months and the church and is frustrated that “they haven’t changed.” He ranted and raved for 30 minutes and then I said to him that churches have a center core. They have certain practices and belief systems that are at their core. You can stretch them or try to stretch them or suggest that they stretch – but at the end of the day (and this is non-denominational), a church will return to it’s center.
That is applicable even during a pastoral change of leadership. How well I remember leaving my former congregation in San Diego. For months, I sat in the audience with my deacons because I was tired of being the focus of attention. I am primarily a worshiper. I wanted to worship without every eye of support, criticism or ambivalence staring at me. I resigned on a Sunday morning, came down to the office to clear my office on a Monday and peeked into the sanctuary, and those chairs that I had removed miraculously and mysteriously reappeared. Chairs in a pulpit were a part of that church’s center core.
I’m not suggesting it’s always a bad thing because all churches need to have core beliefs. The Word of God should never be compromised; Preaching and Teaching the Gospel should never be rebuked; Serving each other and the community should be resident within a congregation. However, brother and sister pastor, they are some things that will always bounce back to center and become part of the lore of that congregation.
Whether it’s a name change or location change or change of worship or change of structure – some churches will eradicate change made by a leader to “get us back where we belong.” It’s akin to the GOP mantra of “taking back our country.”
Three things to be careful of:
1. Make sure that you are stretching the congregation because of the Lord and not because of an agenda. Keeping up with the Joneses is a poor excuse for stretching a congregation.
2. Make sure that you have a firm grip on the process. One of the most painful experiences can occur when you stretch a congregation (rubber band) and then it slips and you get with the force of the rubber band.
3. Make sure that when you stretch make sure that the vision for it is compatible with the amount of effort you’ll be exercising. Never put out great energy for minute projects.
I pray for that pastors and leaders who are challenging their congregations to go beyond boxes, limits and paradigms. And may the church follow and not grudgingly stay in place like a rubber band that will not yield.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED
by Robert Earl Houston
On this past Sunday, October 26, 2014, I had the joy of going back to my adopted church home, the Westwood Baptist Church, University Center in Nashville, Tennessee, where Minister Barton Elliott Harris is the senior pastor, as they celebrated their 94th Church Anniversary.
Jessica and I were joined by the people of First Baptist Church, Frankfort, KY, who made the trip from Frankfort to Nashville and what a time we had! In worship, the Men of Praise of FBC sang and the WBCUC Fruit of the Spirit dance ministry performed. The Spirit of the Lord was, as the saints of old used to say, “was high” and from Praise to Worship to Benediction, God’s spirit was moving. The Lord “was kind” to the preaching moment. I preached from Revelation 3:8 with the subject, “The Doors of the Church are Open.” God blessed Westwood with the addition of two new members. God be praised!
I have a very special warm spot in my heart for Pastor Harris and Westwood. After pastoring on the West Coast for over 15 years and experiencing a painful, wounding transition in ministry, it was this pastor and congregation that ministered me back to spiritual health. I became introduced to Westwood by one of their associate ministers, Minister Brian K. Wilkins, who knew me through my internet ministry. At the time he was over the Men’s Ministry and they brought me in to do a Men’s Revival during the summer of 2005. After preaching there for a weekend, Pastor Harris called me to ask me to come back and preach for their Church Anniversary.
During the call he extended to me the idea of becoming his second full-time assistant pastor. My job description was complimentary to the other assistant pastor and he flew me to Nashville to discuss the matter face to face. At the conclusion of our meeting and after prayer, I agreed to accept his gracious offer and as of October 1, 2005, I began my ministry as Assistant Pastor of Westwood Baptist Church, University Center – my first time living somewhere other than the west coast.
Admittedly, it was a culture shock. People from the south take church differently than on the west coast. I had never been a part of what was a literally 7 day a week congregation. Every morning at 6:15 a.m. and 7:15 a.m., prayer was held at the altar. I had never seen such a large Vacation Bible School and seen the kind of planning and investment. I had never witnessed a pastor who was comfortable in his skin to share his pulpit with two assistant pastors and a plethora of associate ministers. It was a teaching and learning environment and I learned more about pastoring in four years than I had ever in my life.
Pastor and First Lady Carolyn Harris modeled what a Christian marriage looks like and it made a tremendous impact upon me and my wife, Jessica. Jessica and I were engaged during the summer of 2005 and while we were making wedding plans, I was candidating at congregations in Richmond, CA, Oakland, CA, and Stockton, CA – however, God had other plans for us and after I had driven/moved across country to Nashville, I flew back to California for the wedding on October 22 and after our honeymoon in Reno, Nevada, we flew to begin our new life in Nashville.
I was faithful at Westwood. Never complained publicly. Never took issue with leadership, because I knew the secret of leadership – a leader follows and then becomes a leader. Pastor Harris gave me tremendous opportunities. He entrusted me with the Mid-Week Adult Bible Study (after 100 students in the class), the Young Adult Sunday School class, VBS (photographer), Graphic Art flyers, leadership of the Men’s Ministry, leadership of the Evangelism Ministry (and we set a record by the help of the Lord and He added 100 new members), and then finally, I became the music director for the Men of Praise Choir, which grew from a handful to a choir stand full. I enjoyed the MOP and we rehearsed every Wednesday evening after Bible Study. I consider these men my dear friends even to this day.
Westwood was organized in 1920 in a small storefront building on the corner of an alley between Albion and Alameda Streets at 26th Avenue North. As they grew, they called their first pastor, Rev. James Tunstill in 1920. A succession of pastors followed including Rev. S.M. Wright (1922-1924), Rev. J.H. Lawrence (1925-1928), and then the church proposed under the leadership of Rev. Ambrose Bennett, who was a major religious and civic leader in Nashville. After his passing two American Baptist Theological Seminary students served – Rev. W.O. Wells (1957-1959) and Rev. Alphonso R. Blake (1959-1960). Rev. George W. Brown (1961-1965), Rev. J.W. Watkins (1965-1969), and Dr. Amos Jones (1969-1986), who led the church in acquiring properties, revolutionaztion of Christian Education and Missions, and building its current edifice.
On December 1, 1987, Pastor Harris returned to Nashville from Boston, MA, to become the current pastor. He was reared, baptized, licensed, ordained and married at Westwood. Under his steady and prayerful leadership, Westwood has grown exponentially. Now Westwood is a major landowner in North Nashville, having purchased 20 different properties and currently rents 22 units inclusive of homes, duplexes, and apartments. The Church has expended its physical plant to include the West (Brick) Annex (where my old office was located), the East (White) Annex and the Youth Annex – each housing offices, classrooms and meeting rooms.
Westwood has completed 94 years. There are continual plans for modernization and what I learned most of all at Westwood was to continually evolve. They taught me that hard times and difficult days should never stunt your growth, but enhance it.
Happy Anniversary Westwood!