When Jake returned home, he told his father, Roland Brown, who has been pastor of Golden Springs Baptist Church in Anniston for nine years. Roland — known by all to be a straight shooter — offered some hard-won words of wisdom.
“If you can do anything else,” Roland told his son, “do it.”
Jake Brown was in the seventh grade. Like his father suggested, he didn’t tell anyone about God’s call to become a preacher. Instead, he wrestled with it for several years until he was 16 years old, when he again told his father what could no longer be denied.
“Dad,” Jake said, “I can’t do anything else.”
“I know,” was his father’s response.
From that point on, Roland Brown became more than a father. He became a mentor — a “godly example,” Jake said — guiding his son down a path that, despite all of its rewards, can be incredibly demanding.
With 35 years in the ministry, Roland Brown understands the challenges of leading a church; what it means to be on the receiving end of a phone call in the middle of the night, knowing instinctively that a congregation member has died; what it means to be there in times of spiritual crisis and rejoicing.
“To be a pastor is a wonderful gift from God,” Roland said. “At the same time, it’s one of the heaviest burdens and responsibilities I’ve ever experienced.”
Jake Brown now understands those burdens and responsibilities firsthand, having accepted his first job as interim pastor of CrossRoads Baptist Church in Wellington.
Jake is 23 years old, four years older than his father was he when he took his first job leading a church.
“Coming in as a pastor at only 23 has been … interesting,” Jake said with a laugh. “God opened this door, and I just walked through it.”
It was October 2011. Jake had graduated from Auburn University. He was teaching jobs readiness classes at the Calhoun County Department of Human Resources when CrossRoads called, asking if he could fill the pulpit for a few weeks while they searched for a full-time replacement.
“He left the house in November,” Roland remembered, “and never came back.”
The leadership at CrossRoads was quickly impressed. Jake “displayed a loving spirit and a level of maturity and leadership seldom found in a young man his age,” church officials stated in a press release announcing his appointment as pastor.
Jake was ordained in February at CrossRoads. Roland and his son met with the deacons of the church, and Roland wanted to make one thing clear — they weren’t just getting Jake, they were getting Jake and his father.
“To have that kind of support is such a blessing for me,” Jake said. “A lot of young pastors don’t get that. I know that my father will be there to help me whenever I ask for it.”
But Jake must ask. His father isn’t the type to stick his nose where it’s not wanted.
“I try to provide advice only when it’s sought,” Roland said. “I’m a safety net. The kid’s on a high wire all by himself, but I’m there to catch him if he falls.”
As Roland knows from experience, there are times when Jake will fall. When Roland first heard of Jake being offered the pastorate at CrossRoads, he was both exited and fearful.
“This is my son, so I have all those fatherly feelings,” Roland said. “I want to protect him. But since he was little, I’ve told him, ‘Stand on my shoulders, son. I want you to go higher.’”
Jake has done just that. But now he’s also standing on his own two feet.
Contact Brett Buckner at firstname.lastname@example.org