The Rodgers Baptist Church is an exceedingly blessed congregation. In an era when many churches have been shuttered rather than sustained, this one has celebrated 80 years of gospel ministry. One reason why this church has been able to join the octogenarian club is because of dedicated, godly leadership; pastors who love the Lord, His church, and hold to a long view of ministry. We live in period of time when the average pastorate of Baptist churches is 3 – 4 years. Nothing long view about that! Thankfully, for a long while now, the Rodgers Baptist Church has not fallen into that statistical slag pile.
That is why the Rodgers Baptist Church gathered together on Saturday evening, January 12, because for the last 25 years our church has been well-served by the pastoral leadership of Brother Thomas, as well as the support and leadership provided by his dear wife Sister Brenda. For the past 25 years they have, as our pastor and pastor’s wife, selflessly, consistently, and joyfully, provided us with Biblical examples to follow. Their sacrificial, fruitful, and faithful service to our Lord and His church was worthy of a celebration and thanks to God.
Two years ago we studied the book of Joshua in Sunday school. I could not help but think of Pastor Thomas as we began that study. Joshua followed a long-tenured and much loved leader; just as Bro. Thomas did 25 years ago. The same promise God made to Joshua, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee…” is a promise we can claim today, or, in this case, 25 years ago.
“As I was with Bro. Charles, so I will be with you: I will not fail you, nor forsake you only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest propser whitersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:5, 7-8).
One thing I love and appreciate about Brother Thomas is his love of the truth. Right away I recognized and was blessed by his God-given ability to communicate the truth. You see, I met him 17 years ago this April because he was preaching a revival at the church where I was a member. Dianna and I had only been home from active duty in the Army for six months, and I was a backslidden believer; not serving the Lord.
But for those six months God had been working on my hard heart, little by little, through Bro. Sparks’ – my pastor at the time – faithful exposition of the scriptures, through the prayers of the members of my church and my family, and finally through the preaching of a Texas pastor. God used Bro. Thomas’ preaching during that revival as the hammer blow that finally busted up my hard heart. Less than a year from that revival meeting I surrendered to the gospel ministry.
It doesn’t take long to realize that Bro. Thomas is a good preacher, that he can clearly and powerfully preach the truth. What I’ve come to appreciate even more than his commitment to preach the truth from the pulpit is that he is equally committed to living the truth every day, in every way. That is something you cannot appreciate unless you walk with a man, and it’s been my privilege to do that these last three years. Many members – current and former – of Rodgers Baptist Church, and many believers around the world, who have been blessed to walk with Brother and Sister Thomas for much longer than I have, are also able to attest to having been blessed by their commitment to the Truth.
Other than his commitment to preaching and living the truth, the other aspect of Bro. Thomas that I have come to value, and could only experience by laboring together with him, is that he is a great leader. Great leaders are always learning, and part of that process is developing the appropriate leadership vocabulary. I’m incredibly impressed with Bro. Thomas’ vocabulary. Let me share a short vocabulary list so you know what I mean. This is just a tithe of what Brother Thomas will often say…
- “Yes” more than “No”…
- “Why not” more than “How come”….
- “We” more than “I”…
- “Thank you” more than “I wish you hadn’t”….
- “Let’s do it” more than “We’ve never done it”…
- “Go for it” more than “Stop that”….
- “I encourage you to” more than “I command you to”…
- “What do you think” more than “Here’s what I think”…
- “Find the good and praise it!”
- “Preach the gospel to others AND to yourself!”
Great leaders understand the power of their language. They choose their words carefully. In Brother and Sister Thomas we have a pastor and pastor’s wife who are committed to teaching and living the truth, and who are great leaders.
So thank you, Brother and Sister Thomas, for your faithful, fruitful, and Biblical commitment to each other, the Lord, and His church. We rejoice in God’s goodness to us these past twenty-five years, and we look forward to doing this again twenty-five years from now!