As I sit in my office this afternoon, I contemplate that today, August 14, 2016, this church celebrates its fifty-eighth anniversary. In those fifty-eight years, God certainly has done some amazing things through this “one church.”
I have a unique perspective of this church because most of my life has revolved around what God has done in this place. You see, this church started in my grandparents’ living room. They moved out of their home so the young preacher, Roy Thompson, could lease the house to start a church. My grandfather consented to attend the first service, and the rest is history. I was just a baby when my parents carried me into that living room that was functioning as a church meeting place. What transpired in that house impacted my parents and several members of my family. This church has continued to play a part in almost every aspect of my life as a person and a preacher.
I am grateful for a man of God that had faith and a vision for a city and was obedient to the calling of God upon his life. That man, Roy Thompson, was my pastor for thirty-seven years. I am grateful for his influence, preaching and mentoring in my years as a young preacher. Six years ago God saw fit to take him to heaven, but there is hardly a week that goes by when I don’t think about him and the impact he had upon me and my family.
Today at fifty-eight years of age, Cleveland Baptist Church is still a thriving ministry that is impacting the world for Christ. There are a few things that have been emphasized through the years that have helped the church stay focused.
- The Word of God has always been principal in this ministry. Roy Thompson was a Bible preacher. He thundered the Word of God from the pulpit, and I have endeavored to continue on as a preacher of the Bible. I primarily preach expository messages, chapter by chapter and book by book.
- Soul winning and discipleship have also been a focus of this ministry through the years. For almost fifty years this church has maintained a dynamic bus ministry. Still today we have over fourteen bus routes that cover the west side of our city. We still knock doors endeavoring to reach people with the gospel. Those that are saved are encouraged to get into a discipleship class in order to ground them and help them grow in the faith.
- Church-planting and missions are also a key focus of this church. As it was in the days of Roy Thompson, that focus continues under my leadership. We have planted many churches in this region and across the face of the world through our CBC-sent missionaries.
- Finally, we have tried to keep the truth of loving and living for Jesus in the hearts of our people. We don’t want to be a ministry that just does things to do things. We want to be a church that does what it does because we love the Savior. Love is the greatest motivation for service and ministry.
I don’t think we can possibly know until we get to Heaven how many lives have been changed or individuals and families have been impacted because this church was placed by God in Cleveland, Ohio. I just know personally that five generations of my own family have been powerfully impacted and changed because of this church. May God help us to continue!