It is unusual for a father and son to be pastors, but not that rare. It is rare for a son to follow his dad and serve as pastor of the same church his father pastored at two different churches.
Charles and Rich Wilson are partners in ministry. They have traveled together to Israel six times, attended many Southern Baptist Convention annual meetings, and graduated from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, although separated by many years.
“Dad and I both served Robinson Baptist Church in Peoria, Miss., located two hours from New Orleans Seminary,” Rich said.
“It was unique,” added Charles, noting that “I was 29 when I became the pastor there, and Rich was 23 when he served. Many of the same people were still attending. I was very proud of him and have great memories of hearing him preach as their pastor.”
Rich and his wife, Kristi, lived in the same single-wide mobile home (parsonage) his parents lived in at Robinson. Charles stated, “Rich has fond memories of his days as a child there. It was a very pleasant place for both of us to begin our ministries. The church believed part of their ministry was giving seminary students a place to start.”
Rich has been in pastoral ministry more than 30 years, including a year of mission work in Kenya while Charles has been a pastor for more than 40 years. “I sat under his preaching for so much of my life and witnessed his work,” Rich said. “Many have told me they see similarities between my style and dad’s style.”
Charles retired and attended Oakwood Baptist Church, Lexington, when Rich was the pastor there. After a year, he accepted the pastorate of Mt. Elon Baptist Church, Hopkins, where he serves today. “He was my pastor for one year after I retired,” said Charles. “He ignited a passion in me to pray, preach, and study harder.”
Charles also served as the pastor of First Baptist Church, Langley, where Rich serves today. Their ministry at the church is separated by 29 years.
“I was just completing the eighth grade when we moved to Langley. I was here through high school and college, and my wife and I were married here before moving off to seminary. While this is like any other pastorate, there is an ever-present connection to my dad and my childhood. I have heard so many positive comments about my dad’s service at the church and the community. So many of my thoughts and feelings about church ministry were formed while my dad was here,” Rich noted.
The father and son duo have drawn insights from each other throughout their years as pastors. Rich pointed out that “we both love preaching the Word of God, and we have learned from each other. When he’s preaching, I am taking notes, and he does the same when the roles are reversed.”
Charles added that Rich is more “technical” than he. “Neither of us enjoy confrontations, and we both love to preach. His gift of teaching is far above mine. We both rejoice at seeing souls saved, as well as building friendships and relationships.”
During Rich’s growing up years, he said his dad was always busy, but he is quick to stress that even though his dad was busily engaged in ministry, his “prevailing memories are not of an absent dad. I often reflect on the things we got to do together from football games to vacations and holidays. Dad loves people and has so many ways of showing it. He loves his family and finds ways to demonstrate that love to us.”
Pat, Charles’ wife, died of cancer last June. He and Rich ministered to each other during that time. “Dad and I talked openly and honestly about Mom’s battle with cancer, showing more vulnerability with each other than ever before. He is an amazing grandpa to my kids and a super great-grandfather to our four grandchildren. I feel closer to Dad today than ever before. I have come to see how deeply he loved my mom and how he cherishes her memory. I am amazed by all he’s done, where he’s been, and lives he has touched.” Charles echoed that, stating, “Rich has become my best friend, my prayer warrior, my shoulder to cry on, and my go-to guy when I need to laugh. We are closer now than ever.”
Rich said, “He’s been my pastor, and I have been his during his ‘failed retirement.’ I count it a privilege that he attended our church at Oakwood during that time in his life. He is my dad and my friend. When I need my dad, he is there. When I need a friend, I can always turn to him. What more could I ask?”