Pastor marks 30 years with Smyrna Baptist
By John Dilmore
Brother Gene Parker will mark a special anniversary this weekend, as he and his congregation celebrate his 30th anniversary as pastor of Smyrna Baptist Church.
It’s a unique accomplishment, as not many pastors can say they’ve been with the same church for three decades. But Parker and Smyrna Baptist have been a good match, right from the get-go.
“I came here and was just as nervous as a cat next to a dog yard,” Parker said. “I preached my first message and one of the members came by and said … ‘just relax.’
“The church is filled with absolutely some incredible people -- loving, giving encouraging. I used to tell them all the time, ‘You are a such a gracious church, and I’ve given you plenty of opportunity to show grace.’ One of the things I experienced was that God calls us to do that which we cannot do, in order to demonstrate his strength through us. That’s exactly what he’s done.”
Parker was in the youth and music ministry at First Baptist in Liberty City before coming here 30 years ago. Now, three decades later, the post at Smyrna Baptist remains his first and only pastoring job. He and his wife, Celeta, have gotten to see all four of their children raised in the same church.
Such a tenure is not something anyone could have predicted, but the words of Parker’s predecessor at Smyrna, Brother Leland Maxey, might have offered a hint.
“He said Smyrna was the garden spot of his life,” Parker recalls, “and that when the Lord Jesus came everybody at Smyrna would go straight up, and everybody else would have come at a slant.
“It didn’t take long to realize what he was talking about.”
Over the years, he’s seen a lot change at the church, from a growth standpoint. In addition to seeing more folks saved, there have been building projects that have helped the church. These include a fellowship hall, a family life building and some gym facilities.
But it’s the people who’ve made the biggest impression.
“It’s amazing to see how God brings people into your life,” Parker said. “You strive to be a blessing to them, but it turns out they’re always more of a blessing to you.”
“I love the size of the city -- I love the people in Atlanta. They’re really sweet, good hardworking people.”