By Holly Jo Linzay, Regional reporter
Two long-term directors of missions may be retiring from their positions, but both Bert Langley and Clovis Sturdivant said they will not be retiring from ministry.
WINNFIELD – Sturdivant, who recently retired from the position of director of missions for the North Central and Shady Grove Baptist Associations, first accepted the position in July 1996.
“It was as much of a call of God as that of any church I have accepted,” Sturdivant said about his role as director of missions for the last 18 years.
A retirement celebration for Sturdivant is planned for Jan. 25 at 2 p.m. in the Family Life Center of First Baptist Church of Jonesboro. Although he is retiring from a position, Sturdivant said he is by no means retiring from the “calling of God” to spread the Gospel.
“You can definitely retire from a position, but never a calling. A calling has a beginning, and that is when God, and He only, leads you to enter His ministry as a lifelong pursuit. The end comes when you are called home to heaven,” Sturdivant noted.
With this milestone in his life, Sturdivant is in the process of making several changes. He and his wife, Susan, recently moved from Winnfield to Calhoun where he will be a bit closer to his six grandchildren. They have three grown children, Jeremy, Shelley and Leah. Since 2000, Sturdivant has served as the chaplain for the Winnfield City Police Department. He recently became a chaplain for the Winn Parish Sheriff’s Department. This month he will become the new chaplain for the West Monroe Police Department. He is North American Mission Board endorsed as a law enforcement and Disaster Relief chaplain.
For more than 40 years Sturdivant has been preaching and been a servant of the Lord. He has shared his testimony countless times to thousands. As a child, he and his little sister, were awarded to his grandparents to raise by a custody court. He grew up in Franklin Parish. At eight years old, Sturdivant said he “went through the motions” of salvation and was even baptized, but it was not until years later that he would actually accept Christ.
“I went through a rebellious streak after high school and later was in the Army from 1969 until 1971,” Sturdivant said.
Shortly after his stint in the military, Sturdivant met Susan and married her six months later. In February 1973, Sturdivant’s pastor asked him if he would preach for the upcoming Sunday morning service, and it was that very morning when Sturdivant made an actual profession of faith.
“When I was working on the sermon that Saturday night, I realized something wasn’t right. I preached the next morning, and I walked up the aisle at the same time. That was when I truly accepted the Lord as my Savior,” Sturdivant recalled, adding that a deacon and a former Sunday School teacher also came forward for salvation that same morning.
By July 1974, Sturdivant knew he was being “called” into the ministry and accepted his first church as the pastor of Turkey Bluff Baptist Church.
The following spring he enrolled in the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned his master of divinity degree in 1978. In 2000, Sturdivant earned his doctorate degree from Trinity Theological Seminary.
Ever since his ordination in 1974, Sturdivant, who remains the coordinator of the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s Chaplaincy Ministry, has served in LBC churches as a full-time pastor in Amite, Denham Springs, West Monroe, Natchitoches and Winnfield.
“Throughout the 40 plus years in ministry, we’ve had probably 25 to 30 people go into a ministry. That’s part of my legacy for years to come,” Sturdivant said.
As a DOM, Sturdivant said he always shared with young pastors that people respond to love above anything.
“Churches need an old-fashioned pastor who will be involved in their lives and in the community and who will love them. They need to stand firm on the word of God and preach it. Love is the only thing that can turn a preacher into a pastor. And old-fashioned doesn’t mean antiquated. It just means you are going to show them you love them and are involved in their life,” Sturdivant noted.
LAFAYETTE – Bert Langley, who served as the director of missions for more than 20 years for the Evangeline and Gulf Coast Baptist Associations, started his first day of “retirement” from the position on Jan. 7.
“I am not retiring, just transitioning. We [he and his wife Deedy] believe that as long as we are here in this world, God has something for us to do,” Langley said.
To that end, Langley is currently the supply pastor for First Baptist Church in Milton and will continue to serve three days a week as the interim DOM for Evangeline and Gulf Coast Baptist Associations. He says it is a desire of his heart for him and his wife, Deedy, to be more involved in mission trips. They are currently planning a mission trip to San Salvador this summer.
“My life is like a blank sheet of paper now, and I am asking the Lord to tell us what He would have us do,” Langley added.
As a boy, Langley grew up in Kinder. His mom was Methodist and his dad was Roman Catholic.
But his mother would take him and his brother to Kinder First Baptist Church.
“My brother and I gave our lives to the Lord. The pastor came to our home and my dad accepted Christ as well as my younger sister. We were all baptized at the same time,” Langley recalled.
From 1961 to 1964, Langley served in the U.S. Army. He received jungle training in Panama, but later played the French horn in the Army Band for the 2nd Armored Division. After his service in the Army, Langley enrolled in the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
“I didn’t really have any direction in my life at this time. I thought about a business degree, but dropped out of college after one semester,” he said, adding that he had a “rebellious” attitude.
However, through his involvement with the Baptist Student Union, Langley met Deddy, and the two were married in 1966. He sold life insurance for a while, and later worked in the oil field industry.
“In 1971, God begin again to deal with my heart. Before I had not understood God’s call on my life,” Langley said.
“I am so thankful God did not leave me out there in my rebellious nature when I was younger and walking in darkness. He convicted me and brought me back,” Langley said.
By 1972, he accepted his first church as pastor at First Baptist Church Youngsville. “I was pastor, janitor, music minister, and pretty much everything else,” Langley said with a laugh.
He returned to college and earned his bachelor’s degree from ULL in June 1975. In August 1975, he enrolled in New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
For the first two terms, he was able to remain as the pastor of his church but eventually he moved his wife and three little children to New Orleans. He accepted another pastorship and worked three other part-time jobs for the first year.
Later, he became a pastor at a church in Biloxi, Miss. After earning his masters of divinity from NOBTS, Langley received a call to pastor at large church in Shreveport. In 1982, the doors opened for Langley and his family to return to South Louisiana.
“We had felt like ducks in a desert in North Louisiana,” Langley laughed, “but we felt like we were back at home. We understand the Cajun culture.”
In 1994, Langley became the DOM for Evangeline and Gulf Coast Baptist Association. “It has been a very rich rewarding experience. I have had the opportunity to expand my ministry to about 65 churches and missions. God has really blessed us,” he said.
Twelve years ago, Deddy battled with breast cancer, and a few years ago, had to deal with colon cancer, but Langley said the Lord has brought them through those trials and strengthened them.
Retirement is not going to be a part of Langley’s life or vocabulary. “Time is short and we plan to be as busy as we can be until the Lord comes. I look at all my experiences all these years, and my prayer has been that I want to accomplish more in my last days than I did all my other days,” Langley added.
There are too many pastors to quote, but all agreed that Sturdivant and Langley both have made quite an impact on Louisiana congregations statewide.
And from what they are both saying, they still plan to stay on the pathway as the Lord directs.