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Father, son and grandson turn ministering into family affair

MANNING, Ark. (BP)–An Arkansas grandfather, son and grandson in the Carey Baptist Association share a lot more in common than just genetics.

The three men each pastor a church in the same association. The grandson, Jerry Holland, was ordained to the gospel ministry Dec. 12, but had begun serving as pastor of Prosperity Baptist Church, Ramsey, a few weeks earlier. The three generations also share another thing. Each tried to run from God’s call to preach.

The grandfather, Jerry George, pastor of Manning Baptist Church, was 29 years old before he came to know Christ as Savior.

“I felt God was going to call me to something special even before I was saved,” George said. “I just had a feeling.”

He came to know Christ and was attending Garden Home Baptist Church, Little Rock, when he felt the call to preach. He was about 35 years old when the call first came.

“But I tried to run from the call to preach,” George explained. “I began to teach Sunday school. I thought that’s what it was (God was calling him to do). Then I was ordained as a deacon. I thought, ‘That’s it, that’s what God wants me to do.'”

However, God didn’t give him a peace about it.

“Finally I went up and surrendered to preach,” George recalled. “The next Sunday night I preached my first sermon.”

Garden Home (since disbanded) ordained him and licensed him to preach. His first pastorate was Gilead Baptist Church, Malvern, where he served for two years. Then he was called to Manning Church, where he has served for more than 19 years.

“I’m more of a pastor than an evangelist,” George said. “I have a concern, a burden for people.”

The second-generation pastor, Bobby George, pastor of First Baptist Church, Thornton, remembers life as a preacher’s kid. “I remember going with Dad when he would go supply preach,” the younger George said. “We went everywhere.”

He felt God’s call to preach at age 18, during a service at Manning Church. “I went up and told dad God had something special for me to do but I didn’t know what it was,” he said. “That was a lie. I knew God wanted me to preach.” Bobby George got married a few months later and moved out of his mom and dad’s home and influence. The sudden freedom led him astray.

“I didn’t have my folks to influence me and keep me on the right path,” he said. “For seven years I ran from the Lord.”

He started drinking and doing other things he knew were wrong.

“Then my wife and kids were taken from me,” he said, his voice breaking with emotion.

His wife left him, he got laid off from his job, his truck “blew up,” and he moved back in with his parents. He had hit bottom all at once.

“I made a deal with God,” George admitted. “I told Him I’d do whatever He wanted me to do if He would just give me my family back.”

He quit drinking and got back in church. He began taking an active role in church, serving on committees and participating in many activities, but he was still avoiding God’s clear call to preach.

His wife took him back, and they’ve been together ever since.

“One night during a revival at church, I got to praying for a man who was lost,” George said. “The Lord told me, ‘How can you pray for him when you’re not right with Me yourself?’ That’s when I gave up.”

He was ordained to preach at Manning Church. His dad preached the ordination “charge.”

He was called as pastor of First Church, Social Hill. While there, the church grew from eight to 50 in Sunday school. He resigned in March because he just felt God telling him to. He did supply preaching for a while, but Fred Gay, director of missions for the Carey Baptist Association, asked for his resume. He had never prepared one, but he put one together. Soon he was called to First Church, Thornton, where he has served since June.

“The Lord has used me to baptize 14 already,” George said.

As it turned out, both Georges had a profound impact on the third generation preacher in the family.

Jerry Holland, named after his grandfather, had made a profession of faith early in his life, but in retrospect, he realized it was because his friends were doing it.

At age 17, he was dating a devout Christian girl who took him one night to a youth rally. There he heard a powerful message that made him realize his childhood decision was not real.

“I went to my papaw (Jerry George) and asked him if we could talk,” Holland said.

They went outside and sat on the picnic table at the George’s home. “I said, ‘Papaw, I’m not right with the Lord. I’m not sure I’m saved. I have a doubt that I’m going to heaven,” Holland said. “He told me, ‘Jerry, with God there’s no doubt.'”

His grandfather explained the plan of salvation and Holland prayed to receive Christ.

“After that I was 100 percent sure I was going to heaven.”

He said he was captain of the basketball team and valedictorian of his class, “but I was afraid of the dark.” Having Christ in his life took away those fears, he said. “There was a peace.”

As he began to listen to sermons by his grandfather, his uncle, and other preachers, he said, “The Lord would give me thoughts about preaching. I would get ideas for sermons.”

But like the previous two generations, he tried to run from the call to preach. “I tried to fill that void in other ways,” he admitted.

About a year after he was saved, Holland “put out a fleece.” He was living with his grandparents at the time and working a night shift. His grandmother would let him sleep as late as he wanted.

He told the Lord, “If you want me to preach, let my grandmother wake me up in the morning.”

She woke him up the next morning, confirming what he already knew to be God’s call.

He preached his first sermon at his uncle’s church. “I preached everything I knew in five minutes,” he said. Nevertheless, his uncle and others encouraged him, assuring him that God’s hand was on him.

Like the previous generations of preachers in his family, he began supply preaching. He felt God might be calling him into evangelism. Then Prosperity Church called him as pastor.

“Prosperity Church took me in like I was one of their own,” he said of his first pastorate. “The last two Sundays people have joined the church. I know I’m where God wants me.”

He still may consider an evangelism ministry some day, but feels the pastoral experience will be invaluable regardless of the direction God leads him. He plans to continue his education at Ouachita Baptist University and possibly take seminary extension classes.

His grandfather introduced him to the congregation during his Dec. 12 ordination service and his uncle preached the “charge” sermon.

“I’m proud of these boys,” said Jerry George of his son and grandson. “I’m proud to say I’m the grandfather. The Lord sure has blessed me. They are both natural pastors.”

All three men expressed special appreciation to retired pastor John Clement and his wife, retired director of missions Jack Bledsoe and his wife, and current director of missions Fred Gay for their support and encouragement.

“They touched all our lives,” the older George said.

Bledsoe was interim pastor of Prosperity Church for the past five years before Holland was called.

Perhaps that’s another thing the three generations share in common — strong mentors and encouragers.

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  • Charlie Warren