This is my second blog in a series regarding the mentors God has placed in my life over the years. There have actually been many, but I’m mentioning just the ones that happen to be or have been in vocational ministry. My last blog was devoted to my first pastor, Worley G. Hawthorne. This one is devoted to my second pastor, J. W. Long Jr.
My first memory of pastor Long was when I was still a member of Park Avenue Baptist Church where Rev. Hawthorne was the pastor. Several Independent Baptist churches in the Wilmington area had an “Attendance contest” which lasted several months. Rev. Long’s church won. That’s not surprising now, after later observing his competitive spirit and “can’t quit” attitude. After being declared the winner pastor Long and his church, Community Baptist in Carolina Beach, along with all the other churches involved in the contest gathered at Park Avenue Baptist to enjoy a celebration dinner.
As young boys do, my brothers and I were in the church yard playing when Pastor Long and his family arrived. He had a large family, 8 including himself! I watched, intrigued as they all quickly yet with the precision of a military unit exited their station wagon. When Pastor Long got out of the car and started towards the tables where the food was, he glanced over at us, stuck his index finger high in the air and said, “We’re number one!!” In response, and not knowing any better I barked, “We’re number two!!” That was my first memory of many. Sometime later, after some internal problems at Park Avenue Church, my Mom decided to start attending Community Baptist church; Rev. Long had become my pastor.
I loved Pastor Long’s family, and still do…they all were very gracious and friendly to me…more than they will ever know! It was clear that they had been raised with a high view of God and His Word, which speaks highly of their Father…and their incredible mother!
I’ve tried to think of one word that describes this man best…some that have crossed my mind are, passionate, zealous, fervent, enthusiastic, animated, faithful, hardcore, even fanatical… None of those fully encompass the personality and passions of this man, although he epitomizes each of them at times. He loves God’s Word. That’s one thing that was evident from the beginning and remains with him today. He instilled in me a passion for the Word of God and a desire to hide it in my heart. That was huge with Pastor Long!! He pushed us to memorize Scripture…to know it by heart…to be able to recall it whether we had a copy of it in our hands or not. That was priceless. His compassion for people drove him to be a passionate evangelist.
His preaching style was unlike anything I had ever heard…loud, passionate, and unreserved. He certainly wasn’t worried about what people had to say about him. He seemed, at times to invite controversy; but through it all he was faithful.
I suppose the greatest influence he had on me was his emphasis on Scripture. He consistently and constantly spoke of the importance of Scripture and why we should take it not only literally, but seriously. I will forever be grateful for that! His passion for the Word of God was infectious indeed! That is a huge reason why I love expository preaching now…I believe the Bible is God’s Word, and since it’s God’s Word we should certainly consider it priceless and handle it properly.
Pastor Long is in his twilight years now; he still preaches on the radio, and I suppose other places when he can. His family still carries on his charismatic personality (that’s a good thing), and I still have an extremely high view of God’s Word because of J. W. Long. There’s so much more I could say, but for now I simply want to say…Thanks Dr. Long, you made a difference in my life…