Appreciating My Pastors

“The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17, NASB95)

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Like many pastors, I have been blessed with a number of personal cards and words of appreciation during this month. In recent days, I have been thinking about the pastors in my life who influenced me. I thought about writing them a card of appreciation, but some are already with the Lord in glory. I decided to write a blog post of appreciation and share it with anyone who reads this blog.

VERNON MCKINNEY, the first pastor I can remember in my childhood. I never got to know him well because he moved to another church when I was a young boy. I do distinctly remember preaching at a church years later where he was present in the service. He gave me kind words of affirmation that day.

DOYCE WHITE, the pastor who baptized me and let me preach for the first time. “Brother White” as we called him was a butcher in a grocery store and served as the pastor of our small country church for a number of years. He baptized me on a Sunday afternoon in a creek just off highway 117 near Ider. I pass by that place every time I go back to Ider to visit family, and each time I remember the day I was baptized. When I was 17 years old, I went over to his house and told him that I felt God had called me to preach. “Well, you can preach this coming Sunday!” he said to me through tears. I will always be grateful for his affirmation and giving me the opportunity to preach at such a young age. Since that day, I have been in a pulpit somewhere almost every Sunday.

ROGER WATKINS, the pastor who ordained me. In August 1991, New Home Baptist Church in Rosalie had asked me to be their interim pastor. “Brother Roger” felt it was time for me to be ordained before I went to do that. I still remember his prayer over me on that day. Later, I was called back to that church and served on staff as Youth Minister and Associate Pastor under Roger. He ordained me and gave me my first opportunity to serve on staff at a church, and I will always be grateful for him. Roger is struggling with declining health now, and I prayed for him as I typed these words.

BOB PRUITT & MELVIN SLATTON, the pastors who performed our wedding. Bob returned to Rainsville First Baptist as pastor and I served with him for a brief period of time. Even though Bob “inherited” me as an existing staff member when he came, he was always encouraging and affirming of me. He was a first class pastor and gentleman whom I always had great respect for. I still have the letter Melvin wrote to me when I graduated from high school. He was the first pastor who encouraged me to go to seminary. Both of these men are with the Lord now, and I am grateful for their investment in my life.

BILL LETT, my first Director of Missions. When I was called to pastor my first church – Pisgah Baptist Church – Bill was the Director of Missions for that association, a former pastor, and member of the church. Bill and I quickly grew close. His door, his phone, and his home were always open to me. His love, listening ear, and advice meant WAY more to me than I ever knew at the time. More than once he talked his brash young pastor off a cliff or out of a ditch! As a Director of Missions, Bill was a pastor to pastors – par excellence. Over the years we talked regularly and he was a great encourager before going to be with the Lord in 2019. I still miss my phone calls with Bill Lett and his friendship. Bill taught me by example to love people – even the ones who disagree with you.

TOMMY TURNER, a key influence at pivotal times. When I became the 23 year old pastor of Pisgah Baptist Church, Tommy was pastor at First Baptist Boaz. I was pastor of his home church and his parents’ pastor. From time to time, I would drive to Boaz and Tommy would buy us barbecue for lunch and encourage me. There were two distinct occasions when Tommy spoke truth to me and influenced me in making key decisions that have greatly shaped my life and ministry. Tommy’s wisdom helped me say “YES” on one occasion and “NO” on another occasion. As I look back, I am grateful for both occasions and I believe my life and ministry would not have been as blessed had I made different decisions. It’s been a joy to renew my friendship with Tommy in recent years.

TED TRAYLOR, a friend and mentor for the last 27 years. The first church I served as pastor was Ted’s home church. His parents attended there faithfully, so Ted was in town often and was always gracious to give this young pastor his time. In the years since I left that ministry, Ted has continued to graciously give this young (and now middle-aged) pastor his friendship and time. Ted has helped me in immeasurable ways. I have learned much from Ted, but two lessons stand out in particular. First, Ted demonstrates the power of faithful, consistent, expository preaching of the Word of God. The first priority of Ted’s ministry is the pulpit, and I have tried to follow that example. Second, Ted has been faithful at the same church through thick and thin. His favorite piece of advice to me and many others: PERSIST.

JIMMY JACKSON, still my pastor. He was literally my pastor during the years I served with him as Associate Pastor at Whitesburg Baptist Church. Those were very good days in the life of the Corbin family. After working closely with Jimmy for several years, I had more respect for him the day I left than when I arrived. He was/is the “real deal.” For 40 years, he faithfully preached the Word and shepherded the Whitesburg flock. He is probably the wisest man I have ever known, but I know for sure he is the godliest man I have ever known. To this day, hardly a day goes by that I don’t think of him and something he said or how I saw him handle a situation. I am a better man, a better husband, a better father, and a better pastor because of Jimmy Jackson’s influence on my life. To this day, I still call him “my pastor” because he truly is.

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