WARNER ROBINS -- The Revs. Jerry Walls and Matt Walls, father and son, both preach Sundays at Southside Baptist Church.
Jerry Walls, the elder, has been pastor at Southside Baptist for 25 years. He regularly preaches at the churchs main campus on Houston Lake Road.
Matt Walls is campus pastor at Southsides second location, off Ga. 247 on Bear Branch Road in Kathleen. Hes also family pastor at the main campus and has served for 11 years.
Southside Baptist Church began in rented barracks on South Pleasant Hill Road in 1958. In 1962, the church built its own building on South Pleasant Hill Road. The pastor then was Eugene Calhoun, who led the church for 20 years.
In 1987, Jerry Walls accepted a call to Southside. An Alabama native, he said he and his wife, Debbie, both graduated from Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga in 1976, he with a degree in Bible. The Walls have three children: Matt, Jake and Stephen.
After university, Walls said he took an assistant pastor post at a large Florida church and was later called to Bethel Baptist Church, a small church in Bay Minette, Ala.
Walls said he was not seeking a move when Southside called him; he was happy at Bethel. However, he said through prayer and counsel it became clear God wanted him to pack his family, move to Warner Robins and pastor the 125-member church.
Southside began to grow. And grow. And it has continued to grow since. Walls said just shy of 3,000 people attend the main campus three weekend services.
I want to be careful about all this, Walls said. Its important people realize growth is not the indication of success. With this being Fathers Day, I feel my legacy is more with my children rather than a ministry. Jesus is foremost, my wife second and then my children -- including three wonderful daughters-in-law and 10 grandchildren.
Walls said its a delight to be in ministry alongside his son at Southside, but has equal pride in his other children. He said ministry is not just being a pastor but is true of anyone serving God, even if theyre a basketball coach like another of his sons.
When I came to Southside, it had a good foundation and people who loved Jesus and wanted to reach others with the gospel, Walls said. I cant tell you why weve grown like we have except God decided to put his favor on us. Its our responsibility to stay close to him and clean before him. I had goals and dreams when I came here, but God exceeded anything I imagined. Believe me, its not through personal brilliance; its the grace of God.
Because Southside is large, it can support many varied ministries. Walls said he finds the churchs Celebrate Recovery program especially satisfying. He said Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered 12-step program based on the Beatitudes.
He said hes also pleased with the churchs work in missions.
Southside was committed to missions when I got here he said. Because God has blessed us with resources, we want to be a blessing to others locally and abroad. Were able to send people out to raise up churches and missions stations.
Two weeks ago, our people adopted 275 children in Kenya to feed for the next year through a missionary family from our church.
A group of 16 just returned from the Dominican Republic with a program called Happy Feet. They literally washed peoples feet and gave them shoes and shared the gospel -- filthy feet, abused feet, hurting feet. Its an experience they weep over. I love the humility of our people.
Walls said he learned how to be a pastor in Bay Minette.
On staff at the large church in Florida, I was always busy, he said. At Bay Minette, I had time for my family and for people. I learned -- the people there helped me learn -- that people have priority over paper. People are more important than organization. People are the reason for all the ministries, not the other way around. Being a pastor is far more than being able to preach. Its being a shepherd and caring for people.
As things grew here, Im grateful God gave me the grace to stay focused on that. Shepherds smell like sheep. They hang out with sheep and arent above them or anything special. Theyre just shepherds on the same journey with the same problems. Theyre sheep, too, following the Great Shepherd.
Wall said its Southsides leadership and staff that keep things going and his wife whos been by his side lending her support that keeps him going.
Anything Ive done for Southside has done has been because of Gods grace, he said. We just stay excited about him, he gets the credit. Im very humbled to be pastor here. I dont deserve it, yet here I am. I look at any church down the road and know were no better. Were all family, not enemies. Were on the same team, loving God, loving people and loving the world on the journey to life change.
Contact Michael W. Pannell at firstname.lastname@example.org.