My earliest memory at Brownsville Baptist Church, my first church where I was a child and a young man – is really a memory of remembering a memory that was told more than a few times. I missed the offering plate and my little legs carried me out running after it until I caught up and put my quarter in. (Mom always gave me a quarter to put in.) I remember it because my pastor from age three until I left home, H. K. Sorrell, noticed it and mentioned it from the pulpit and to me personally on more than one occasion. I was reminded of it last Sunday when I noticed about the same thing happen at Simpson Church when little Austin put his dollar in. There is another early memory of an altercation between me and a bully at Vacation Bible School on the side steps of the westside of the church building in Brownsville. I do not remember who won. I think it was a standoff.
Simpson Baptist Church is a wonderful people. I have so much pleasure being a part of this church, my church. I have been amazed at the quality of the fellowship and the willingness to accentuate my strengths. overlook my shortcomings and follow my leadership.
My first memory with these people began late December 2012. I came at the request of Dr. James Cecil to assist him as he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He died about two months later. I stayed on as long as I could until other obligations at the James Cecil College of the Bible, where I was Dean, demanded more attention. Around a year later I came back as pastor and another eight and one-half years have passed. And what a pleasure it has been and is to this day.
The word “church” in the original languages of the Bible, translates an idea best captured with the word “congregation” identifying a gathering of people. For three centuries it signified a small group of people who were bound together by the Holy Spirit and met in homes – three centuries. During this time, as they grew, they met in addon rooms annexed to private homes. The early church was a close and tight group, but open and inviting of strangers. It was not nearly always a unified family. For just one example, take a look at the letters to Corinth in the New Testament. To expect that a church will always be harmonious is a false expectation. Afterall, families sometime fall on hardships. Willpower causes a standoff and emotions flare up because God’s people are still imperfect humans. I am glad Jesus liked the company of sinners (Matthew 9:10).
I never quit church in spite of the disappointments. I never gave up on my natural family either. I never gave up on Janine nor she on me. At its core love means loyalty and I love her. I never gave up on my two children. I love them too much. I still love my two sisters even though they aggravated me when I was little. Of course, they have a different version of those stories and I will confess – their accounts are likely the correct ones. I miss my Mom and Dad and wish they were still alive so I could talk to them and visit them. I am still interested in my cousins even though, geographically, we are miles apart. I miss my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, too. These people in church and family are the constants of my life and I will not give up on them. I need them for balance. These constants continue to foster wellbeing in my soul. My commitment to these people is strong enough for me to be patient when and if an uncomfortable season comes along.
My expectation is that our good and pleasant season at Simpson will outlast my remaining years. The evidence suggests that this will be the case, and this delights me to no end.