In recognition of Pastor Appreciation Month, I am sharing some personal comments about pastors who faithfully serve our churches. Baptist pastors in North Carolina are a very diverse lot. Many carry labels like “old fashioned,” “contemporary,” “Calvinist,” “traditional,” “evangelical,” and “purpose driven.” They serve a wide variety of congregations.
One of the honors I have as the editor of your Biblical Recorder is the privilege of meeting many pastors across the state.
Recently I visited with pastor Wade Hampton Huntley. At 85 years young, he has served as pastor of Holly Springs Baptist Church in Rutherfordton for 58 years. That might be a record.
Last year we reported that Sherrill Wellborn retired from Lewis Fork Baptist Church after 41 years in the same pulpit. Next month V.C. Potter Jr. will celebrate 33 years at Town Creek Baptist Church in Leland. In a time when the average pastorate is less than 2 years, it would be interesting to learn how many pastors in N.C. have faithfully served the same church more than 25 years.
Maybe the long ministry of these faithful pastors has a message for us.
Without apology, Wade Huntley calls himself an “old fashioned, country preacher.” Holly Springs church is definitely rural.
BR photo by K. Allan Blume
Wade Huntley, 85, has been pastor of Holly Springs Baptist Church in Rutherfordton for 58 years.
The GPS may struggle to locate it. But, they have a broad ministry that includes a 32-bed senior adult center, a 10,000-watt radio station and stately facilities on 15 acres in the rolling foothills of the Appalachian mountains.
The traditional attendance and offering board hangs on the wall, reporting 297 people in Sunday School last week. But the church averages almost 500 in worship.
A graduate of Fruitland, the energetic pastor told me about meeting Charles Stanley at a gathering of pastors.
Stanley commended Huntley for his long ministry. In his message to pastors the popular Atlanta preacher said, “You men better learn to be faithful to God wherever He puts you – in the country or city, little church or big church,” according to Huntley.
I asked, “What is the key to a long ministry?” Huntley said, “Keep the proclamation of the gospel in the middle and be sure you know for certain where God has put you. Don’t be looking for another church. Stay right there!
“You can’t just read somebody’s books or sermons. You better get with God,” he added.
Huntley has walked many difficult roads. He lost his father when he was 3 months old. His oldest brother, also a preacher, “was like a daddy to me,” he said. He proudly wears the Fruitland class ring his brother gave him on his death bed.
Huntley and his wife have each battled cancer. The church facilities burned to the ground in 1958 and they rebuilt.
The walls outside his office are laden with recognitions of milestones and men from the church’s 126-year history. A picture of the popular evangelist, Maze Jackson, hangs on the wall beside many others who have preached in the church. J. Harold Smith is one of Huntley’s favorites. Smith’s sermons are still broadcast daily on the church’s radio station, WWOL (Wonderful Words of Life).
A letter from President Ronald Reagan is prominent on the wall honoring the church’s 100th anniversary. A letter from President George W. Bush honoring the pastor’s 50 years in the ministry in 2005 is also on display.
Huntley said one of his best friends and fellow pastor Harold McKinnish preached his last sermon at the church in August and died a few days later.
I need to point out that I learned about Wade Huntley when McKinnish called me in July.
He wanted the Recorder to know about a pastor who has been faithful to God and the same church for 58 years. I am thankful for the call!
Let’s honor the godly pastors who are “… steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord …” (1 Corinthians 15:58).