Editor’s Note: It’s hard to know the full impact of one’s ministry. Few will see how lives are truly changed this side of Heaven. Dr. Blackwell shares, for the glory of God, the bounty of a ministry that planted deep seeds and continues to produce a rich harvest.
They came from five states—50 of them— for a time of hugs, tears, songs, stories, and deep sharing. They were “my kids,”—now 70 years old—members of my college and youth ministry in the magical years of 1970-1974.
The place was Ridge Road Baptist Church (RRBC) in the North Carolina capital city of Raleigh. I was fresh out of seminary and as an eager 28-year old, accepted a call to become the church’s Associate Pastor and Minister of Youth/ Education (and other duties as assigned).
I started with a “blank slate”—no real job description. My salary was $6,000 a year. We lived in a duplex about the size of a large cardboard box. My wife was two months away from having our first child, Julie Renee Blackwell. Michael, Jr. would come along in 1973, also born at Rex Hospital in Raleigh.
I remember having one of those middle-of-the-night “light bulb” moments: Meredith College and N. C. State University were just a stone’s throw from the church. So, I wrote as many of the incoming Freshmen as I had addresses for and invited them to Ridge Road. Men from the church picked up the guys at a central N. C. State location and a bus from Meredith brought the girls.
That August Sunday ministry launch in 1970, there was a delightful surprise when scores of college students from State and Meredith came. Thus, began a delightful (and historic) ministry that, in many ways, continues to this very day.
Fast forward to September 18, 2022. I was Guest Preacher at Ridge Road. College and youth from those 1970-74 years came back—Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia.
Six of those who went into ministry assisted with the day’s service. Two of them—upon their own retirement—served as Interim Pastor at Ridge Road. I was introduced as a “Super Hero” by Pam Sloan Annas, in 1970 a 15-year old tenth grader—now a member of the Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) Board of Trustees and my Council of Advisors.
After the service (Trey Davis is now pastor and leading an extraordinary ministry), I spent four hours with all the group, asking them to share their journey— highlights, lowlights, challenges, and opportunities still available. To a person, they all pointed to those RRBC years as pivotal in their personal and professional development.
Take a look at the picture above. I love these “kids.” I invested in them. I listened, encouraged, counseled, laughed, performed weddings, ordained several, attended funerals, and learned so much from them—youth in junior and high school and eager learners in college.
We paired college students and church youth. I also assigned each college student a Watchcare family. All these decades later, several of those relationships are still firmly in place.
College students and church youth traveled the two Carolinas as members of The King’s Players drama group. A coffee house ministry was begun for non-church youth—attracting over 200 on opening night.
Who knows whether there will be another Reunion like there was on 9/18/22. I do know that we will stay in touch. Those four years at Ridge Road “marked” me to this very day. What I have sought to do for almost 40 years as BCH president, had its beginnings at Ridge Road Church (followed by a lovely seven-year pastorate at First Baptist, Carthage NC).
Positive, redemptive, fun relationships are more important than ever. Invest in others. Never give up on pouring yourself into ministry. Encourage, bless, and empower. I can’t guarantee this type of reunion this side of eternity, but I can boldly tell you that ministry always returns a harvest. For me, I’m glad that a part of me will always reside at 2011 Ridge Road in Raleigh, NC, 27607.
Written by Michael C. Blackwell, President/CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer)