By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
NATALBANY – Rodney Taylor is closing 41 years of service at Natalbany Baptist Church, but he has not stopped pushing to win more souls.
During the final day of VBS in mid-June, Taylor presented the plan of salvation to more than 100 children and youth, patiently waiting as 15 new converts, one-by-one, stepped forward to publicly declare faith in Jesus.
These students are among more than 700 new believers who committed their lives to Christ and were baptized during Taylor’s ministry at Natalbany.
“I was praising the Lord for the fact that the teachers had done such a wonderful job of teaching them,” Taylor said. “My part at the altar with them on Wednesday night was just the culmination of what had been going on each night here in the different classes. It was easy for me to just go over and review the plan of salvation and then to give them the opportunity to make that public decision to say ‘I’m not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for I know it’s the power of God unto salvation.’”
EARLY START TO MINISTRY
Taylor, who was born in Greenville, Mississippi, accepted Christ when he was 15. A year later, he preached his first sermon at Forkland Baptist Church in Greenville, where he served as pastor from his junior year of high school until he graduated from Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi.
Taylor also was pastor of three more churches, including two separate stays at Natalbany.
“I have been committed to serving my God in ministry for 61 years,” Taylor said. “He has never failed me. His Mercy and Grace have sustained me.
“Just working with people and being able to see folks get saved has made my time here memorable,” he said. “Lives have been changed by the filling of the Spirit of God. We have as our mission statement to lead people to Jesus Christ, and then see them filled with the spirit which will empower them for spiritual growth.”
DEDICATED TO DISCIPLING FAMILIES
Taylor has baptized entire generations of families at Natalbany. Children’s minister Alisa Colona is among those; Taylor baptized her dad, her children and herself.
“With his approaching retirement date it’s been very difficult on some of us, and especially me,” she said. “I thought of when my children and I were baptized, I can’t say enough about him. He’s there for anything. Anytime I and my children have needed anything, he has been there. As a leader you are supposed to think into the future. That’s one of his attributes. He finds people and gives them the support and help to serve for many years to come.”
Taylor said serving for more than four decades at the same church has afforded him the blessing of watching hundreds earnestly seek God and then serve Him.
“It’s certainly been so satisfying and rewarding to see people grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ,” Taylor said. “Discipleship is what Jesus commanded us to do. Part of becoming a disciple is to follow the Lord’s teachings and His commands. What we try to do is to make sure that these people have had a genuine experience with the Lord.
“We want to take them through a process of talking about what it means to be a Christian and what it is like to have a change in your life,” he continued. “Serving as a pastor is all about introducing people to Jesus, baptizing them and then seeing them grow as they are taught the Bible. I’ve enjoyed seeing young people come to Christ, grow in Him and then bring others with them to the Kingdom. That’s one of the blessings I will take away when I retire.”
Natalbany will honor Taylor Aug. 12 with a special presentation and reception at 2 p.m. Taylor will deliver his final sermon at Natalbany during its 10:15 a.m. worship service that day.