Milestones are defined as significant historical markers in the life of an individual, organization or nation. They are points that should cause us to pause, recognize, celebrate and give thanks – such as a church’s 100-year anniversary, the celebration of a pastor’s long term of service and other meaningful accomplishments in Kingdom work.
The Biblical Recorder is pleased to learn about these special times and share them with our Baptist family. Two weeks ago I shared about a pastor who has served the same church for 58 years – a very rare accomplishment.
I learned about another unusual church milestone. On Oct. 6 Parkwood Baptist Church in Gastonia celebrated 50 years of ministry. Several unusual elements make this event worth noting. The church has only had three pastors during that time, all three are still in active ministry and one of them is 100 years young!
Parkwood Baptist Church photo
Jeff Long has been part of Parkwood Baptist Church’s 50 years of conservative leadership.
The church’s first two pastors, M.O. Owens Jr. and Ned L. Mathews preached in the 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. services respectively as about 1,600 people gathered for the celebration. Owens, who served Parkwood from 1963 to 1980, turned 100 in September. As pastor emeritus, he still preaches in one of the church’s services every Sunday.
Ned Mathews shepherded the church from 1980-1999, and also serves as pastor emeritus. He has since taught at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary as a professor of pastoral ministries.
Jeff Long is the current pastor of Parkwood. He began his ministry there 21 years ago as the youth pastor. For 14 years he has served as senior pastor.
Long was deeply moved by the golden anniversary celebration. “It was a humbling and historic moment for the church …,” he said. “It’s a moment I am not going to forget … it was powerful for me … the clarity of what those two men preached that day. It was a good day.”
But there is another significant ingredient about this scenario. All three men have been actively involved in the conservative resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the conservative direction of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). All three had important roles in the struggle for the future of the SBC and BSC.
Owens was a gentle, but determined writer and proponent of inerrancy. He launched a publishing company and spoke untiringly at events that challenged the theological drift of the SBC. He was the key figure in the launch of Conservative Carolina Baptists, the longest running conservative organization of the conservative resurgence. His role in Baptist life is inestimable.
Mathews never backed down from a discussion of scripture’s essential role. With a keen mind and passionate heart he has regularly preached and debated, holding high the value of scripture.
“Not only do these men have the rich history that has impacted and marked Parkwood for 50 years, but at the same time they have marked the Southern Baptist Convention in a significant and powerful way,” Long said. “These two men are historical figures beyond Parkwood… They’re kingdom men. It’s an honor to serve after them and to be personally discipled by both of them.”
Long’s influence is not insignificant. He serves as a trustee of the International Mission Board. His courageous leadership as chairman of the Nominating Committee for BSC about 6 years ago has profoundly shaped the composition of today’s convention.
So, here are three pastors who had valuable roles in shaping the identity of the SBC and the BSC, and all have served the same church for half a century. I am thankful for these brothers and for others across N.C. who serve sacrificially with conviction and character.