Last night, I had one of the most unique, special experiences of my life. I was invited by the Church Council members of Mt. Sinai – the church that I served for almost 18 years – to return to Los Angeles and moderate one more church meeting. In this meeting, the Church Council, functioning as the pastoral search committee for the congregation, unanimously recommended George E. Hurtt – the man who has served as my pastoral assistant the past several years – to be the next senior pastor of MSMBC. And the congregation, in a brief, prayerful, and joy-filled meeting, overwhelmingly elected George as its new pastor. Praise the Lord!
The last time MSMBC met to select a pastor was on November 5, 1990. The church had been without a pastor since June, 1989, when my father went to be with the Lord. During the intervening months, the congregation heard many pastoral “candidates.” More than I can remember. There were many contentious church meetings. And the church had remained “vacant” long enough for some unhealthy things to develop in the life of the congregation.
Fast forward eighteen years. After my final Sunday at MSMBC, the congregation lived without a senior pastor all of eight days! George preached this past Sunday. And yesterday, the church met to select him as the fourth pastor in this great congregation’s 66 year history. And this coming Sunday will be a very special Sunday at MSMBC, as George and the congregation celebrate their first Sunday together as pastor and people.
George Hurtt is a man of God. He is chronologically young, but spiritually mature. He lives a life of blameless integrity. He has a firm commitment to sound doctrine and Bible exposition. He loves the Lord Jesus Christ. He loves the church. And, more specifically, he loves Mt. Sinai. Born and raised in Detroit (We won’t hold that against him), George moved to California as an officer in the Navy. He joined Mt. Sinai while living 29 Palms, making a two or more hour drive to church – one way. And in a great step of faith, George laid aside a promising military career to go to seminary to prepare for pastoral service. During this time, George joined my staff on a part time basis. After George finished seminary, earning a Masters of Divinity Degree from the Masters’ Seminary, George took on full time responsibilities at the church.
During these past several years, it has been my great privilege to be a close-up witness of George’s spiritual and ministerial development. He has grown into a strong, solid preacher – as the Lord has opened many opportunities for George to preach at Mt. Sinai and many other churches. His leadership skills are sharp. For the past three years he has been a professor at the Los Angeles Bible Training School. The past two summers, he has participated in short-term mission trips to Haiti to train pastors. More specifically, he has been a capable assistant to me, who has borne the burden of the pastoral work at MSMBC with me. And his spiritual progress has been evident to the congregation (1 Tim. 4:13).
In the early months of this year, when people would ask me about George, I would say to them that my only complaint is that George would probably not be with me by the end of 2008. I fully expected some church to snatch George up by year’s end. The ironic providence of God is a funny thing, isn’t it?
George was the first to tell me about the pastoral vacancy at Shiloh. And when he did, I didn’t believe him. And I remember all of the (wrong) predictions we made about who would be the next pastor of Shiloh. Last night, as we had dinner together after the meeting, we reflected on the roller coaster events of these past months. Who would have thought that I would be the new pastor of Shiloh? Who would have thought that George would be the next pastor of Mt. Sinai. We didn’t. That’s for sure. But our God is an awesome God!
I am very proud of George. He is a cherished friend, true brother, fellow soldier, prayer partner, and trusted counselor. I am so excited about what God is doing in his life right now. And I am so proud of Mt. Sinai. To God be the glory for the maturity, prayerfulness, and unity of this beloved congregation! I believe they will be a witness to churches around the country for many years to come. And God be praised for the Church Council, a band of brothers who have demonstrated the importance and fruitfulness of the local church being led by a plurality of godly men.
As I make my way back home to my family and congregation in Jacksonville, I do so with fervent prayers and great confidence in the Lord for the future, growth, and ministry of MSMBC. May the Lord richly bless this new union of pastor and people. And may their dreams be even greater than their memories!
Please remember Pastor George E. Hurtt and the Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in your prayers.