Dignity in Life and Death

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  • This morning, I attended the funeral of Dr. Earl C. Cotton. He was the founding pastor of the Liberty Baptist Church. And he served the congregation as its pastor for some 48 years, until he retired about a year ago. He was one of the well-respected pastors of this city, and rightfully so. He was a caring shepherd, a faithful preacher, and a wise leader. I especially respected him for having the foresight to lead the congregation to select a new pastor, when he became ill. I know some pastors who are just not able to let go of their work. Consequently, they spend the final years tearing down what the spent 20 or 30 years to build. It’s always tragic to watch a church die because a pastor can’t see the future of the church beyond himself. Thank God, Dr. Cotton was not one of those men. As his health declined in his final hands, Liberty Church was and is in the good hands of Terry Brown. He’s a godly man and a good preacher – a potent combination. I preached for him several times at his Fifth Ward congregation. And it was a great work. And I trust that the Lord is going to use Terry greatly here in Los Angeles.

    The funeral service today had a great sense of dignity to it. But that did not surprise me. It was the way Dr. Cotton lived. That’s the thing I remember about him the most. He was a very dignified man. He conducted himself with humility, sincerity, and respect. On several occasions, I heard him complain about the conduct of the younger generation of preachers, of which I am a part. And his complaint, in essence, was that we were not dignified. And he was right. Many of us younger preachers do not respect the dignity of the pulpit or the seriousness of our calling. Even though I did not know Dr. Cotton that well personally, I had much admiration and respect for him. I pray that the Lord will comfort his wife and family, that God would bless Pastor Brown and the Liberty Church, and that the legacy Dr. Cotton left would be continued and strengthened to the glory of God.

    Dr. A. Louis Patterson Jr of the Mt. Corinth Baptist Church in Houston brought the message. Dr. Patterson is also one of the men whose life and ministry has meant much to me over the years. I am always excited about hearing him speak. He was one of the men that the Lord used to introduce me to expository preacher, as a teenager. It was not until years later that I was actually able to meet him. But from the moment we met, Dr. Patterson has been a consistent encouragement to me and my ministry. He has blessed me in more ways than he will ever know. Today, he preached a very clear, powerful, and encouraging message from Job 30:23. I felt like shouting. I always get excited to hear about the Christians hope beyond the grave. And the message was clear that our times are in God’s hands, our deaths our in God’s hands, and our eternity is in God’s hands. Praise God!


    H.B. Charles Jr.

    Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.