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Tuscaloosa’s Forest Lake Baptist Church honors pastor, associate pastor for joint 20-year tenurecomment (0)

April 23, 2009

By Sammie Jo Barstow

At Forest Lake Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, in Tuscaloosa Baptist Association, Donnie Payne says he loves the “treasured moments” of being the church’s senior pastor of 20 years.

Some things have changed since he became pastor of the church in 1989. Screens in the sanctuary, more contemporary music in worship and occasional video presentations are just a few examples.

But what has remained the same is the steady leadership of Payne and Jim Carey, associate pastor of worship and growth.

On March 15, the congregation honored the two pastors for their joint 20-year tenure in the church, which is nestled in a residential area near the University of Alabama’s campus. Jerry Wilkins, director of missions for Tuscaloosa Association, delivered the celebration sermon and presented the pastors and their wives with commemorative plaques acknowledging their long service to the congregation.

Using Ephesians 6:10–15 as his text, Wilkins stressed the need for Christians to wear the armor of God in today’s world. “These two men have proved to be good soldiers,” Wilkins said.

In addition to wearing the armor of God, good soldiers exhibit several other qualities, Wilkins said. They are proud to be soldiers, not ashamed of their calling; they obey orders from their High Commander; they prepare for battle; they identify the enemy; and they are willing to make sacrifices for their beliefs.

“When the average stay for pastors these days is four years, Donnie Payne and Jim Carey have modeled true commitment and stability for their church. They made the commitment and sacrifice necessary for being good soldiers,” Wilkins said.

Twenty years of service together means developing a special kind of care and communication. “Yes, we can complete each other’s sentences,” Carey joked.

Close friendship and good communication have been especially important in the numerous missions trips the two pastors have led together during the past 20 years. 

“I love the opportunity to grow old with people, to see how we’ve changed — not just the culture but the church and ourselves as well,” Payne said. “Just to be able to watch the children be born and grow up and be able to see them graduate and to do their weddings. You develop a family atmosphere and family relationship. And, of course, you bury a lot of people over the years as well. These are treasured moments with families.”

Church member Barbara Harris has shared some of these moments. Several years ago, her husband, former U.S. Rep. Claude Harris Jr., was in the hospital several weeks before his death. “Visits from Donnie in the hospital and at home were such a comfort to me at that time,” Harris said.

Longtime church member and deacon Mike Burroughs agreed that the stability has been important to the church. He has learned a lot from knowing his pastor and his family for a long time.

“You see him go through the same experiences that we all go through, which provides a good example to know how to deal with those experiences,” Burroughs said. “You get to the point where you not only hear him and what he’s preaching but you also see what he’s living out in everyday life, and that helps all of us know how to handle these life challenges.”

As much as Payne and Carey enjoy looking back over the past 20 years, they both believe God has a fresh vision for Forest Lake.

“I believe God is going to ask our church to go out into our community in new ways this next year, and I look forward to seeing Him unveil His plan for how that will be done,” Payne said.

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