We must have had some ornery ancestors among our early church members!! Of our first five pastors, not one of them stayed longer than two years! (In September 2011, Dr. Setzer broke the record as our longest serving pastor during a single term!) However, the nature of our church rather than the character of our ancestors caused the short pastorates. In our earliest years, our church was little more than a preaching station. The preacher would ride his horse to our place once a month. So I am not surprised that pastoral tenures were brief in light of the fact that we had no settled ministry.
Our first pastor, John M. Gray, is a pastor about whom I wish we knew more. Born in March, 1773, he served our church for two years, 1826-1828. One of only eight delegates, Gray helped Jesse Mercer and others to form the Georgia Baptist Convention in 1822, four years before our church organized in 1826. This tells us something critically important about our first pastor. Any minister identified with Jesse Mercer worked on behalf of missions, ministerial education, publications, and Baptist cooperation.
John Gray, a Jesse Mercer kind of Baptist, preached in associations and churches throughout middle Georgia, advocating the ministry of missions, ministerial education and other causes. Many Baptists of the day, however, zealously opposed these causes. Gray swam upstream!
In 1831 Gray became the second pastor of the First Baptist Church of Columbus. In 1834, he died while on a preaching tour. The 1834 Minutes of the Columbus Association described him as one of her most active and able ministers. Say a silent prayer of thanksgiving this morning for John M. Gray and those who founded our church in 1826.