Published September 23, 2004
Rastus Salter of Second Baptist Church in Warner Robbins has been a mainstay of the Houston County congregation for 48 years. Recently he sat down with Index editor Gerald Harris to talk about nearly half a century of ministry at Second Baptist.
The Christian Index: You have a long tenure of service here at Second Baptist. How long have you been the pastor here?
Salter: I have been the pastor here since November of 1955. That is over 48 years. I thought maybe I was going to have the longest pastorate in United States history, but I found out that First Baptist Church of Glendale, California had one pastor for 75 years. (Actually, James Whitcomb Brougher, Jr. was the pastor of the Glendale church for 76 years and died on July 13, 2003 at the age of 101).
Index: You may still break that record for the longest pastorate. How old are you, Pastor Salter?
Salter: I am 80 years old. I was born in Upson County, Georgia in 1924.
Index: Rastus is not a common name these days. What is your full name?
Salter: Rastus is a nickname my uncle gave me. He heard a song when I was just a little boy; and the song was "Rufus Rastus Johnson Brown, What You Goin' to do When the Rent Comes Around". He started calling me Rastus and it stuck. My name is actually Isaac Franklin Salter.
Index: What is the secret of a 48-year ministry in one church?
Salter: Well, early on I just decided to be meaner than they are. No, that's not true. It is really a marriage made in heaven. It is an unusual situation here at Second Baptist. We have not had any splits. I have just loved the people and tried to preach the Word.
Index: How many times do you preach each week?
Salter: I preach four times. I preach twice on Sunday morning and on Sunday night and Wednesday night.
Index: You keep a busy schedule. How do you feel after preaching three times on Sunday?
Salter: I feel tired sometimes. Why do you think we are building a new auditorium? The new building will seat 2,250 for worship. Then I will only have to preach twice on Sunday.
Index: Governor Perdue was a member of Second Baptist before moving to Atlanta. Have you had other notable members?
Salter: Every member is notable and important to me, but Sonny Perdue is undoubtedly the most well known member. He is a wonderful man and served here as a deacon.
Index: Who have been your heroes?
Salter: Robert G. Lee was one of my heroes. I got to preach on the same conference with him one time. I told a friend, "I am going to a conference and have to preach before R. G. Lee. Pray for me." And he said, "Just thank God you don't have to preach after him."
Index: What is your most notable achievement here at Second Baptist?
Salter: I don't know. God has been so good. We have started three churches since I came to pastor this church. We have baptized a lot of people - over a hundred for the past several years. We have also seen a lot of young people go into full-time Christian ministry.
Index: I know that Second Baptist has produced a lot of ministers. How many have accepted God's call to Christian service?
Salter: I wouldn't really know. I imagine it has been in the hundreds. We have quite a few training for the ministry right now. They are in colleges and seminaries preparing to be faithful servants of the Lord Jesus.
Index: It is remarkable to have youth respond like that to the call of God. To what would you attribute that blessing?
Salter: Mike Dorough is our youth minister. He has led our students to have a consecrated walk with Christ. And our youth haven't had to see what some pastors have to go through. They have been a part of a healthy, harmonious church. If the youth of a church see the church at cross-purposes with the pastor they won't be interested in full-time Christian service.
Index: You must have a good staff that provides a lot of help. Is that correct?
Salter: Absolutely! We have a great staff. Gary Morton is our music man and church administrator. He has been with us for 15 years. He is my right arm and half of my left arm. He is the best there is.
Index: Are there any other notable achievements you would like to mention?
Salter: Well, let see, I have just had a young couple name their son after me. Jason and Kelly Sikes named their little boy Elijah Rastus Sikes. I performed their wedding ceremony a few years ago. God called Jason into Christian ministry and now he has gone to Truett-McConnell to prepare himself to serve the Lord.
Index: Do you have a hobby?
Salter: I like to play golf. I haven't played much recently, because I hurt my back. I thought for a few days it was old age, but then Gary Morton hurt his back and he is in his forties, so I know it's not old age.
Index: Do you take vacations? Where do you go on vacation?
Salter: I don't take much time off. I figure if I take much time off they might figure out they can get along without me.
Index: Tell us about your family.
Salter: My wife of 56 years is Lena. We have six children, 12 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.
Index: Do you have any advice for young preachers who may read The Christian Index?
Salter: Know your calling, know who you are, where God wants you to be, love the people and preach the Word.
Index: How much longer do you think you will keep up this pace and pastor this church?
Salter: When I get up some mornings I think it won't be long until I will have to give it up, but then when I get up to preach I think I may keep on for another 10 or 20 years. People seem to want me to stay. Moses didn't even start his ministry until he was eighty; and Caleb was 85 when he determined to conquer that hill country for God.
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