It was a great joy and privilege to bring the Sunday morning sermon for the 25th anniversary celebration of Dr. Billy Godwin. Billy has served faithfully as pastor at Ephesus Baptist Church, Villa Rica since January 1993. Billy and his wife, Miriam, and their three children – Hayley, Harris, and Hope – have been a great blessing to this church as well as to the entire community of Douglasville and Villa Rica.
Jason Loudermilk, associational missionary for the West Metro Baptist Association, was on-hand for the Sunday morning worship service to present a certificate of appreciation from West Metro for the outstanding leadership Billy has provided in the association across these 25 years. Billy’s wife, Miriam, is the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Gerald Harris, who are also members at Ephesus. Gerald and Martha Jean Harris were present for this service of celebration as were also Billy’s parents, Ray and Ann Godwin.
A video was prepared with personal comments from members of the congregation ranging in age from children to senior adults. Frank Gillespie, minister of music, led the choir and praise band in a beautiful presentation of music and worship.
As I have reflected upon Billy’s 25-year pastorate, I have thanked the Lord for his long tenure and the many lives that have been impacted by his ministry. I am not sure what the present average length of tenure is for a Southern Baptist pastor. I do remember when it was about 1 ½ years. You can hardly unpack your boxes in that length of time.
There is much to be said for a long tenure in the pastorate. During that length of time, the pastor is able to celebrate the birth of a baby; participate in leading that child to faith in Jesus Christ; celebrate with the family the graduation of the young person from high school and from college; and unite that young person in holy matrimony at the marriage altar in the church. There is no substitute for the joy that comes in a tenure that length.
I will quickly add that a long tenure of 25 years cannot happen without emotional and spiritual balance in the church. Some churches seem to prefer cycling through pastors every few years. Such a cycle denies the congregation the opportunity for a long-time, meaningful, and nurturing relationship with a loving pastor. In that length of time, the personality and leadership style of the pastor has a lasting impact on the personality of the congregation.
Several times on Sunday morning, it was noted that no pastor can have an effective ministry without the support of a loving and faithful wife. I reiterated that wonderful truth, but also said that a long and successful pastorate cannot happen without a supportive congregation.
Clearly, Ephesus Baptist Church has been that kind of church.
Much of their joy and stability is reflected in their Christian stewardship. They have a strong heart for missions; giving 10 percent to missions through the Cooperative Program and 2 percent to their local association. They also contribute strongly in support of the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for the North American Mission Board and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for the International Mission Board. Likewise, they have shown strong support for the Mission Georgia Offering. I would remind all of us that you cannot out-give God. He shows Himself faithful to those who demonstrate faithfulness to Him.
There are many churches in Georgia that deserve celebration and recognition. Ephesus is one such church and will continue their commitment to Christ and their mission as a congregation under the leadership of a conscientious, faithful pastor and wife. This kind of health in our Georgia Baptist churches is good to see.