WARNER ROBINS -- The Rev. James McCullough said no to God when he called him to preach as a young man.
With the addition of a good many years and an abundance of lifes ups and downs, McCullough changed that no to a yes.
After getting a good bit older, I became a deacon at Sandy Valley Baptist Church, McCullough said. God spoke to my heart and asked me, Remember when you told me no? Now its time to serve me. By then, I was in my late 30s or early 40s and I still gave God every excuse. I told him I wasnt educated, I was too old, I was tongue-tied, but he told me, No problem. My son was 30 when he went into ministry and Moses had a speech impediment. I finally gave up and said yes.
After being licensed at Sandy Valley, McCullough began preaching. In 1994, he was called to pastor what is now New Life Baptist.
New Life was originally Garrison Baptist Church and thats what it was when I went there, McCullough said. It was begun as a mission in the mid-1950s by Second Baptist Church and located on the corner of Watson Boulevard and Second Street. Demographics changed as Warner Robins grew and the area became more of a low-income area. The church experienced difficulties but there were still fine Christians attending and there still are.
While still on Watson Boulevard, McCullough said the churchs name was changed to New Life and about seven years ago they moved to the southwest side of Commercial Circle next Master Cleaners.
The original Garrison building is used by Rehoboth Baptist Association as a social services facility.
Growing up in a poor area of Macon, McCullough said he was known as a fighter and mischief-maker. He later moved to Warner Robins and after a stint in the Air Force that took him to Vietnam, he returned to Warner Robins but was far from God.
He said he experienced great turmoil in his life and family that began to cost him his health, too.
I went through a time where I dropped from 212 to 150 pounds in three months. I ended up on my floor crying like a baby and calling on the Lord. I told him I couldnt handle it and turned everything over to him. The weight loss stopped. I could eat again. Getting my heart right with God became something I didnt ever want to lose again. Knowing the love and fellowship of God in the Holy Spirit can keep you going even when things are down. When I was young, people said Id never be anything, but God says no matter how bad you are I can use you if you give your life to me.
McCullough said Garrison had about a dozen people attending when he first went there and that as New Life there is now about the same number. He said the small church does not have all the ministries of a larger church, but its a family with open arms.
When we get together its like a family gathering at Thanksgiving or Christmas, he said. Theres a love for one another. Ive never preached a sermon on tithing but God has kept New Life going all these years and hell keep it going until hes done with it. Its a good place for someone that wants to serve and asks God how they can serve the church rather than how can the church can serve them.
McCullough said New Life remains in a low-income setting and that his own experience gives him a love for people experiencing problems.
Maybe you can see a lot of drunks and hookers down here but you can go to the rich side of town and there are plenty of drunks sitting in their houses, you just cant see them -- thats the difference. We do all we can to serve the area and support the Rehoboth Association with what we have. We want people to feel comfortable here and that were not judging them or putting them down. Were a conventional church and were strictly here to worship the Lord and serve him.
McCullough, 65, has served the church bi-vocationally as pastor and is now retired from Robins Air Force Base. He spent 14 years studying evenings to get masters degrees in pastoral ministry and theology through the Georgia Baptist Associations continuing education and extension programs.
There were times I felt like beating my head against the wall and wanted to give up, McCullough said. It can be frustrating pastoring a small church, but I was in a meeting once and the speaker made a comment strictly at me. He said a small church is just as important as a mega-church, as long as youre preaching the gospel and doing what God wants you to.
Contact Michael W. Pannell at firstname.lastname@example.org.