My father was H.B. Charles Sr. He pastored the Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles for 40 years, until his death in 1989. All I saw my father do was serve the church. Whether I became a preacher or not, my father’s example taught me to associate Christianity with serving others.
The Lord called me to preach as a boy. I was 11 years old when I preached my first sermon. By my teens, I was basically preaching every week. I was 16 years old when my father died. A year and a half later, I was called to succeed my father as pastor of Mt. Sinai at the age of 17.
My father prayed the Lord would call me to preach. But he did not encourage me to preach. He wanted the Lord to call me, not him. As he listened to me preach, tears would flow down his face. But he treated me sternly, desiring that I take my calling seriously. He would often warn me not to be a stereotype. And he did not want me to be a flash-in-the-pan. He wanted the best for me.
I did not have many years with my father. But he was and is the primary influence on my ministry. Looking back over 25 years of pastoral ministry, I can see more clearly the ways my father mentored me. Most of it was not formal instruction. He took me with him to services, classes, funerals, hospital visitations and meetings. He taught me along the way.
Here are a few of the lessons my father taught me.
My father was a voracious reader. Many of my mental images consist of him holding a book. He owned thousands of books. They were scattered about everywhere. Yet he guarded his books vigilantly. He lived in a world of books. And he constantly fussed at me about not reading enough. When I would ask my father a question, he would go to his library and get a book for me to read. I would respond by saying, “Never mind.” I am glad that his discipline for reading inflicted me over the years. When I now meet with the associate ministers at my church, I typically begin by asking the question I heard my father ask countless times … “What are you reading?