I love October. October is in my favorite season of the year. It is the heart of football season and brings us the baseball playoffs. October also brings a special day that is dear to my heart. No, it’s not my birthday. My family birthdays are all neatly lined up, one after another, from late July to mid-September. We don’t eat birthday cake in October…unless, of course, you invite us for your October birthday. There is one federal holiday in October, but not one with great celebration. This year, October 11th is Columbus Day. Of course, there is that unofficial holiday at the end of the month when the kiddos go out and beg for candy. The special day I’m speaking about comes on the second Sunday of October. This coming Sunday, October 10, is Clergy Appreciation Day in the United States. In fact, the entire month of October has been set aside as Clergy Appreciation Month. This is a day, and a month, when we recognize our pastors and ministers, and express our gratitude and appreciation to them.

I have not had as many pastors as some my age have. That is because I have spent almost half of my life as a pastor. As they say, the only member of a church who doesn’t have a pastor, is the pastor. As I think back on the pastors I have had, I’ve had several great ones, but there are three who stand out above the others. Each of these three men made a huge impact in my life, and are dear to my heart. One of my first pastors was a delightful man affectionately known as Bro. Griffin. Rev. Jim Griffin served as pastor of Broadway Baptist Church, in Rainsville, Alabama, 1965-1971. He was the one who explained to me, in the living room of his house, what it means to be a Christian, and how to become one. He helped me pray the prayer that changed my life for eternity. He was the pastor who baptized me. He was also our pastor when my father died.

The next pastor at my home church, 1971-1986, was Rev. Nolan Ford. Bro. Ford was my mentor and father-in-ministry in the earliest days of my ministry. He was a skilled pulpiteer, but could also sit down at the piano and play a tune as he sang you a song, which might be serious or hilarious. He could quote poetry that held you captive. He was one of the best storytellers I have ever heard, and wasn’t afraid to tell you a joke or two. A little bit of this part of him may have influenced my humorous Billy Bob character. He also gave me and other young “preacher boys” many opportunities in the pulpit. He was always encouraging, but cared enough to let us know when we were wrong about something. He, and my brother, Briggs, performed my wedding ceremony.

The third pastor has been my pastor longer than any other. Dr. Rusty Sowell has been pastor of Providence Baptist Church, in Opelika, since 1984. He has been my pastor since 2007, but he has been my friend since 1978. We attended seminary together, worked together during seminary days, and served churches in the same association. I’ve had two pastors who were like a father, and this one who is like a brother.

If you have a pastor, let him know how much you appreciate him. He gives of himself to others more than most everyone ever knows. Do something for him on this special Sunday, or during this month.

— Bill King is a native of Rainsville, where he and his wife graduated from Plainview High School. King is a director of missions in Opelika, a writer, musician and author. His column appears in the Times-Journal Wednesday edition. Visit brobillybob.com for more information.

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