When I meet new people, initial conversations often raise the same questions.
It begins with my name. Yes, my name is H.B. No, it does not stand for anything. I don’t know. My father did it to me, and I did it to my son.
The next set of questions is about the church I serve. The detail that typically captures attention is that the church I serve is in Florida. The conversation turns to whatever the person thinks about Florida, good or bad.
Then I am asked if I was raised in Florida. I answer that I have lived in Florida since 2008. But I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I may also mention that I pastored the congregation my father served.
This raises another question: How did you get from California to Florida. My answer is usually the same: “The Lord drug me to Jacksonville kicking and screaming.” Then I quickly add: “At this point, however, the Lord would have to drag me from Jacksonville kicking and screaming.”
This weekend – the second Sunday in November – marks the eleventh anniversary of my installation as pastor of the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church.
Six months prior to my installation, I preached at Shiloh for the first time during a holiday weekend. I had no intention of visiting Shiloh ever again. But I was invited to a little more than a month later. – again, during a holiday weekend. By the end of that month, the congregation selected me to be its new pastor.
I expected my ministry at Shiloh to be like an arranged marriage. I would be faithful. But my heart would be in Los Angeles. To be honest, I did think I would be at the church long enough to get too attached. The church was in trouble. It was not clear what the future held for the congregation. I was convinced that if the church survived the next three years, they would surely put me out by then. It almost happened!
Through it all, the Lord sustained the church. And my predicted three-year pastorate has now lasted for eleven years.
These eleven years had been an adventure. There have been many heart-breaking burdens. There have been many mind-blowing blessings. I believe both have come from the good and wise providence of God. As I look back on more than a decade of ministry now, with all of its ups and downs, my natural, immediate, and overwhelming response is thanksgiving to God!
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” – Psalm 115:1
The Lord deserves the highest praise, full credit, and total praise for all that he has done. We dare not take credit for anything. To God alone be all the glory. But I must admit, not only have my ministry in Jacksonville been blessed of the Lord, but I am also the undeserving beneficiary of a wonderful congregation.
The Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church was a great church before it ever knew a creature named H.B. Charles Jr. existed. I have every confidence that it will continue to be a great church in the years to come if my ministry to the congregation ends tomorrow. But I give thanks to the Lord to be the pastor-teacher of this great church during this season of its life and ministry.
During the fall of 2008, Crystal and I moved to Jacksonville with our three children. Well, HBC3 and Natalie were children. Hailey was already an old lady, even though she was only a few months old. We did not know anyone. Our entire support system was on the other side of the country. But the Shiloh Church put their arms around me and my young family. We count ourselves blessed to have raised our family serving this loving congregation.
I love my church! I am grateful for these eleven years of pastoral ministry. And I pray the Lord would make me forward and further in growth, health, and fruitfulness for Christ.