Pastor celebrates 40 years at Baptist Temple (w/video)
Jennifer Lee Preyss
Nov. 18, 2013 at 5:18 a.m.
Updated Nov. 19, 2013 at 5:19 a.m.
The Rev. Johnny Wilson has stood before the Temple Baptist Church members thousands of times before.
He has spoken to them privately and publicly of grace and thanksgiving, charity and righteous living.
He has shared his gifts of choral direction and Christian music ministry for four decades in Victoria.
But as he stood before them Sunday morning at his 40th anniversary celebration service, his heart was humbled. That's when his hands started to shake, and his eyes filled with tears.
"I was just thrilled with the service by itself; it was a total shock and such a blessing," said Wilson, 66, who received a check for $25,000 from the members as a token of appreciation for his dedication to the church. "I didn't feel like I deserved it. But that's why I have stayed at this church; the people are wonderful."
Wilson and his wife, Sherry Wilson, moved to Victoria four decades ago to work at Baptist Temple.
A graduate of Texas Tech University with a degree in music education, he aspired to be a choir director and eventually began to use his talents for the church.
"I was involved in church music my entire life. I really enjoy the challenge of volunteer choirs and working with the adult and youth," he said, mentioning that he grew up a Baptist and gave his life to Christ at age 10. "I think music has the ability to evoke an emotion in people that they just don't get in the spoken word."
In the 40 years Wilson has spent at the church, he has committed his time and efforts to building a solid music ministry and sustaining a functioning multivoice choir when other churches were switching to praise bands.
"There was a time when choirs were dying out, but I think they're coming back. Even the megachurches are trying to bring them back," he said.
Tom Gillespie, a member of the church, remembers meeting Wilson for the first time more than two decades ago.
"He's always been such a gentleman, a Christian gentleman," said Gillespie, 68, who currently works as Temple's building superintendent. "The music ministry has really flourished under his leadership. ... I don't want to toot our own horn, but I would stack our choir up against any in Victoria."
Gillespie said the church would not be the same without Wilson. He is always going out of his way for everyone, so when they decided to honor the pastor with a special celebration six months ago, members of the church started taking up a love offering.
"This is not a wealthy church by any means, and those people gave from their hearts," Gillespie said. "It really lets you know how much the church appreciated him."
Wilson said he isn't planning to retire from ministry any time soon and hopes the next 40 years are as rewarding as the first.
"It doesn't feel like 40 years. It went by so fast," he said. "I just hope I've made some impact on the many lives I've come in contact with in a positive way ... and I hope God is pleased" with the last 40 years.