Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Pastor's 50th Anniversary

I've written this article to several newspapers...thought it might be interesting.

In a couple of weeks, Glendale is planning on having a dinner to honor our pastor, Bro. Richard Oldham, who is celebrating his 50th anniversary at the church this month. Most pastors don't make it 50 years in ministry, much less fifty years at the same church! I wanted to provide you with a brief background of his life.

Bro. Richard grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, during some of the darkest days of the depression. He was a member of the Walnut Street Baptist Church, where Dr. Finley Gibson was pastor. After graduating from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, at the age of 21, Bro. Richard was offered a full scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. in English at Auburn University, but turned it down because he felt God had called him to pastor a church. He would serve churches in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Michigan before coming to Glendale in 1957. His first trip to Bowling Green was by passenger train down at the old depot!

Through the years, Bro. Richard has led the church to open several ministries to our city. When he first came to Glendale, our church family consisted of just 19 members and still met at a house on Jones Avenue, a couple of blocks from the present location on Roselawn Way. Since the church had no money, Bro. Richard suggested selling $25,000 worth of bonds in order to construct a building. The only place they could find with that little money was an abandoned sink pit on the edge of town, where the Smallhouse neighborhood sits today. They constructed what became known as the "flat-room" auditorium, which is now part of the East Wing of the church complex.

After he came to Glendale, Bro. Richard began spending many hours visiting throughout Bowling Green and the surrounding community, and the church began to grow, so much so that by 1962, the church had completed construction of a 700 seat auditorium. The church would continue to grow, peaking in the 1970s, with attendance sometimes reaching 1500. One of the earliest ministries of the church was the Bus Ministry, which was used to go into the inner cities and surrounding areas of Bowling Green and Warren County to pick up children and adults who didn't have transportation to church. In 1962, a local youth radio broadcast known as Teentime was started in the auditorium after church on Sunday evenings, and that broadcast still continues today. In 1972,the church began construction of the Day Care and Child Development Center, the West Wing of the church. Also in 1972, the Anchored Christian School began inside the church with a small kindergarten class of 5. Today, the school has a pre-12th enrollment of more than 180. In 1993, we purchased the Cave Mill property, and in late 2003, construction was finally completed on the Anchored Christian School building, which also functions as a church Family Life Center.

But Bro. Richard has made a much bigger impact on this community than simply brick and mortar. To date, over 7000 individuals have made professions of faith in Christ at Glendale, and over 4000 of these have been baptized. Our pastor has especially had an impact on influencing young people to serve in the ministry. Over 250 individuals have gone out from Glendale to serve as pastors, evangelists, teachers, and missionaries. They are collectively known as "Swordsmen." Several of these now pastor churches numbering in the thousands, so Bro. Richard's scope reaches far beyond the walls of Glendale. In fact, if I'm counting correctly, about 10-15 of these individuals have named one of their children after him! The church has also been instrumental in starting various community centers around the city, including a service for several years at Beech Bend Park; the Oak Forest Chapel, which still continues in Riverside, KY, under the direction of assistant pastor Johnny Deakins; the Glendale Chapel, now known as the Victory Baptist Church, pastored by R.B. Adamson, who was a swordsman at Glendale. Others who are currently pastoring and have come from Glendale include Kevin Hamm, pastor of Gardendale's First Baptist Church in Gardendale, Alabama; Hollie Miller, pastor of Sevier Heights Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee; Bill Ricketts, pastor of Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Athens, Georgia; and Mike Routt, pastor of Circle Drive Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. These are just some of the individuals . There are many more if you want the full list!

But Bro. Richard's real legacy is far more personal. He has tremendously impacted this community by conducting thousands of weddings and funeral services in this area, all at no charge. Many of the funerals he conducts are for people who aren't from our church, but they have asked him to be their honorary pastor. Many times the funeral directors will call him if there is no one to conduct the funeral, and he is always ready to help. In addition, Bro. Richard makes daily hospital visits to encourage those who have gone through medical problems. He will visit anyone if someone asks him to. He has never been married, often telling people that he feels "married to the Lord." Several times he has received offers to pastor bigger churches with much better salaries and benefits, but he has felt committed to the work at Glendale and Bowling Green. Whenever finances have become tight, he has increasingly reduced his own salary. He could easily be making 20 times as much as he does today. He consistently sacrifices for those who have no money, and if the church benevolent fund is low, I've personally seen him many times reach into his own wallet and give what little he makes away.

I know I'm biased, and I also know he's not perfect, but Bro. Richard's legacy is something that deserves to be remembered and appreciated. On Friday, July 13th, at 6:00 PM at the Carroll Knicely Center on Western Kentucky's South Campus in Bowling Green, Kentucky, we will be having a celebration in his honor. Currently, about 100 of the Swordsmen are planning on coming from out of town to be at this event. Bro. Richard has a lot of humility, and he probably wouldn't allow this event if he knew about, so it's supposed to be a surprise. Thought you guys might be interested in hearing about it.

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