Season of Glory

Season of Glory

What God began, He continues to do.  So the story of one church is really a story about the faithfulness of God.  The One Thing that held the ship steady through all those stormy days was the absolute and total conviction that the Principles set forth in the Word of God would work today just as they did throughout history past.  I came bursting out of Seminary with a renewed conviction that the Bible was indeed the Infallible Word of God and that it was Alive and Full of Power.   My faith had been challenged on several fronts during the days of my graduate studies, and those challenges proved to be a catalyst that forged my determination to Believe God… and to Trust God no matter what.  There were several “religious camps” that emerged in evangelical Christianity during those years that sort of separated various churches and denominations into identifiable groups.

There were the “modernists” or the liberals (the “left wingers”) who were not totally convinced about the trustworthiness of every word in the Bible.  Perhaps some of it, but not all of it.  They were on track as far as the basics of evangelical beliefs were concerned, but they interpreted portions of the Bible as mythical or symbolic.  This camp was most popular with many large traditional churches.  And those churches were found in a cross section of the major protestant denominations.  The Modernist message was prevalent among many intellectual laymen, college and seminary professors, and “high church” theologians.  And it was this “doctrine” that became anathema to the fundamentalists.

Then there were the “fundamentalists” or the conservatives (the “right wingers”) who accepted the Word of God as literal and inerrant.   They were characterized by their emphasis on evangelism and soul-winning.  I would estimate that the majority of evangelical churches (especially in the Bible Belt) were in this camp.  Their preaching and teaching was Bible Centered and they were very strong in their stand against worldliness and sin.  Their message was a primarily a message that emphasized Salvation and their “success” was usually measured by the annual number of conversions they recorded and the number people who attended their Sunday services each week.  They were openly outspoken concerning their stand against modernism and modernists.

The Pentecostal or “Full Gospel” churches were usually considered to be “off the page” as far as the above two groups were concerned.  They were often considered in gross error concerning their interpretation of the Scriptures regarding the work of the Holy Spirit.  Especially concerning speaking in “other tongues.”  They had strong convictions (and expectations) concerning women’s hair styles, women’s make up and women’s dress codes.  This group was generally seen as a group that appealed to the less educated and the less prosperous class of evangelical society.

All of the above were active during the season of change that came to Lott Road Baptist Church.  I could not comfortably identify with the modernists or the Pentecostals.  I fit much better in the fundamental category.  And it was my firm conviction concerning the Absolute Reliability of the Word of God that caused me to reconsider my fundamentalist beliefs when the Charismatic Movement emerged.

When I saw what the Bible said concerning the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the Gifts of the Spirit listed in 1Corinthians 12, I could not deny the hard facts listed there.  I tried to interpret them in every way that would eliminate the “Tongues” part, but could not justify my prejudiced opinion.  I was “trapped” by my conviction that the Word of God was inerrant, factual and true.  This brought about my willingness to upgrade my Baptist Theology to include and embrace the reality of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit…. With the evidence of speaking in tongues.

The speed with which this “new” movement spread was incredible.  The entire religious scene across the country and the world was changing and changing rapidly.    Reports were coming from all sectors of our society concerning signs, wonders and miracles taking place in the most unexpected places.  In the large metropolitan churches, in the small country churches and especially on the mission fields of the world.  Home prayer meetings were springing up.  Bible seminars were being scheduled.  Conferences and conventions were taking place and literally thousands were being exposed to this wonderful Season of God’s Glory.   Great Healing Crusades were being held in tents and theaters and sports arenas.  Many of these moments of Glory were televised.    Remember Oral Roberts?  Thousands crowed into these crusades and Television Evangelists began to come into our homes during evening network prime time.  This surge of God’s Visitation gave birth to Christian Television stations and networks.   Now this phenomenal Spiritual Awakening was being broadcast across the United States as well as Europe and Asia and South America… the posture of “religion” was changing and Life was emerging in the New Testament Church once again.  “Full Gospel” publishing houses were established and books and magazines and pamphlets were being printed by the millions. They were finding their way into the churches and homes and hearts of those seeking to Know God Better.  During this time it was almost “acceptable” for one to Speak in Tongues.  The stigma attached to the old line Pentecostal denominations was fading and this New Wave of God’s Visitation was being promoted and accepted by the majority of those in the Christian community.  We suddenly found ourselves in a Season of Glory.

How blessed we all were to be allowed this great privilege!   And how blessed I was to find myself in an environment and in  a  place and among a people where God was allowed the liberty and the freedom to accomplish His Will.  As we gently and carefully walked through those days of change and adjustment and transformation, God led us step by step.  Unusual things began to happen.  Things that are unexplainable apart from a sovereign move of the Holy Spirit.  Since we were in on the “beginning” there were few precedents for us to analyze and fewer pastors to for us to consult.  Not much had been written about these things and we were hard pressed to find any “directions” or “instructions” concerning what to do or where to go.  We would receive cassette tapes from various meetings across the land.  The Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International had meetings and conventions in the larger cities.  We could get some publications from them and some recordings of awesome testimonies.    God began to raise up anointed preachers and teachers and then send them our way.   They came and validated my testimony and the course we were charting for the Church in Mobile.

Some of the early pioneers of the Charismatic Movement who came to Lott Road Baptist Church included the following:

John Osteen from Lakewood church in Houston, Texas.

A.S. Worley from Walhalla, South Carolina.

Kenneth Hagan, Jr.  from Tulsa.

Marilyn Hickey from Denver.

Marianne Sitton from Hamilton, Montana.

R.W. Shambach from his large revival tent somewhere in the USA.

Clarence Matheny from Hattiesburg, Ms.

Norvelle Hayes from Cleveland, Tenn.

“Holy” Hubert from Berkley, Ca.

Dave Duell from Denver, Co.

Andy Wommack from Colorado Springs, Co.

Danny Ost from Mexico City.

The Cameron Family from Scotland.

Richard Carter, a prophet, from Atlanta, Ga.

Lester Sumrall from LESA in Indiana.

Dr. Bill Basansky from ORU in Tulsa, Ok.

Roy Stockstill from Bethany Church in Baton Rouge, La.

And many, many others….

During this time, we were literally inundated with Truth from the Word of God.   As a result of the intense interest in hearing the Word, we began multiple church services during the week.  There were two services on Sunday Morning.  And two services on Sunday Evening.  There was a Saturday evening prayer service.  Then we had a teaching service at the church on Tuesday evening and on Thursday evening.  There were Monday evening home prayer meetings scheduled throughout the community and city.  Several times a year, we were taking bus loads of hungry folks to Bible Conferences being held in other cities.  Some as far away as Dallas, Texas.  Then we took numbers of our folks on short term mission trips into Mexico to establish churches and hold crusades.  We were busy.   And we were growing.  And we were excited.

Our staff grew throughout this Season of Glory.  Scott and Susan Howard, former students of mine when I taught at Liberty Bible College in Pensacola, Florida came as our Associate Pastor, and Worship leader.  He was also in charge of our Youth Department.  Our music began to take on new directions.  We had transitioned from the “Baptist” hymnal to the “Modern” hymnal (which had more lively songs and hymns) and from the Modern Hymnal to the soft cover “Stamps Baxter” song books.  These were full of Southern Gospel songs usually favored by the many traveling Quartets that hung on the edge of Blue Grass Gospel.

Then the Bible Choruses began to emerge.  It seems they were born in due season from the spontaneous worship and praise that was so indicative of the Charismatic Movement.  We printed small booklets with the words to these choruses and often projected them on a large screen with an overhead projector.  The praise was electric and the worship was awesome.  There was singing “in the Spirit” and chanting and clapping and shouting and rejoicing.  And, yes, dancing accompanied much of our praise time.  As a matter of fact, Susan Howard became the leader of a ballet-type dance group that took the stage during the preliminary praise and worship time on Sundays.  This was a real “eye opener” for a former Baptist Church to have choreographed dance as a part of the Worship and Praise ministry… but it was wonderful.  And it was real.  And it was contagious.

Gene Brack from Hattiesburg, Mississippi  was added to our staff during this time.  Gene was on the Dramatic Arts staff at William Carey College, now a University,  (my Alma Mater) and He became Pastor of our dramatic arts department. He also became one of our Bible Teachers.   Under his direction, Lott Road Church began a series of dramatic productions…. Some of which Gene wrote.  They were presented at the church during certain seasons of the year…. Especially during Easter.  This, as far as I have been able to determine, was one of the “firsts” that we were privileged to pioneer at Lott Road Church.  Those productions were so powerful and profound and anointed that many were Born Again at the conclusion of the each presentation.  Some of those who were saved are now missionaries or have served as missionaries in various fields of service.    Gene ministered to the students at Faith Academy (our church school) during chapel for several years with dramatic productions he wrote and directed.  Again, numerous conversions took place in the school population.

As we continued to grow, it became apparent that we needed more space.  During the beginnings of this Movement, we had to keep taking out walls and adding more pews to accommodate the crowds that came to the meetings.

We had already moved from one auditorium into another at the Lott Road site and were still out of room.   There was limited parking and we were landlocked with no way of acquiring more acreage.  At this time, Marianne Sitton was ministering in one of our Bible Conferences.  She was known for and respected for her prophetic preaching.  When she witnessed our dilemma she prophesied to us that it was time for us to move.  Relocate.  Find more room.  Prepare for increase.  From that point we were led to the one-hundred acres we purchased and now occupy on the west side of Mobile.  We moved the church to the new site in 1985 and then moved Faith Academy two years later.  This relocation was definitely ordered by God and it was this assurance that kept us pressing through during the many trials that accompanied this transition.

To have been privileged to minister to and pastor one church for over 47 years is almost as miraculous as the transition that took place both geographically and spiritually.  During this span of time, we raised our family and maintained our dependence on God and our trust in His faithfulness.  But as with all things, change will come.   Through the years we were all eye witnesses to the powerful provision of God in times of great need and impossibilities.  He always was there when we needed Him.  Even in times of unimaginable financial pressures and foreclosure threats from banks and lending institutions.   In times of decrease as well as times of increase.  God was always there.  Leading us ultimately to a debt-free campus.

When we came to Mobile in 1962, God was here.  We were acutely aware of His Presence as we began our life journey at Lott Road Baptist Church.  God simply allowed us to join with Him in this Great Adventure.  And over the years we have had the awesome privilege of having hundreds and hundreds of others come along on this pilgrimage.  Through all the years of transition and transformation God has been with us.  He has proven His faithfulness time and time again.

In 2009, my tenure as senior pastor was completed.  Our course has been run.  And we, too, are in transition.   And the mantle of leadership has been passed on to Scott and Susan Howard.   They are anointed and they are capable.  They were as definitely called to this place as were Pat and I.  God has great plans for the future.  That is why there will be additional Seasons of Glory in store for this sacred place.  And those who choose to join this Great Adventure will be assured of experiencing God and Knowing God in greater depth and deeper passion.

To God be the Glory.


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