East Texas pastor honored for 77 years of faithful ministry service

Roy Ford (left) presents a plaque to Charles Russell recognizing Russell's 77 years of ministry service at a meeting of the Enon Baptist Association this past week. SUBMITTED PHOTO

HUGHES SPRINGS—Charles Russell was still a teenager when he became the pastor of Lone Star Baptist Church (a little north of Mt. Pleasant) in 1945. He’s about 30 miles down the road now, pastoring Turkey Creek Baptist Church in Hughes Springs, 77 years later. He’s pastored Turkey Creek for 22 years.

This past week, Russell was honored for his nearly eight decades of service to the Lord during a meeting of the Enon Baptist Association, which covers deep Northeast Texas. Among the honors, Russell was given a plaque expressing gratitude for his ministry by Roy Ford, the Northeast Texas field representative for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

“I love my people,” said Russell, 93. “It’s a small, rural church, a very loving people. I enjoy the fellowship of working with a local church.”

With the exception of a pastorate in Bonham, Russell’s ministry has been in Northeast Texas. Returning east, he served as director of missions for three counties around Jacksonville.

He noted that he’s seen the most change over the years in the way churches worship—worship teams instead of choirs.

“I’ve mostly pastored rural churches, so the pastoral part of ministry has been pretty similar throughout the years,” he added.

He’s also noted a decline in people’s interest in attending church, a trend that has hit rural churches especially hard.

“The population [in Hughes Springs] has been pretty stable, but that doesn’t mean the churches are holding their own,” he said, “The interest in church is not as consistent as the population in small towns.”

Jeff Lynn, director of Church Health and Leadership for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, commended the ministries of pastors like Russell, even as these ministries face challenging days.

“Rural churches with long-term pastors are a stabilizing factor in these communities,” Lynn said. “The longevity of a pastor helps build a bridge and trust between the church and community.”

Although he was born in Tennessee, Russell’s family moved to Texas when he was a preschooler. His dad worked in the oil fields until he settled in a long-term job in Talco, where Charles graduated from high school. He went to college in Commerce and didn’t see much need to go to seminary, at first.

“I wasn’t really too excited about going to seminary after college,” he said of his time in his second pastorate, “but a pastor friend nearby encouraged me that I needed to go ahead and go. I went, and I thank God for him and his encouragement. It was a great decision; I enjoyed seminary a lot more than I did college.”

Russell graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1957.

His wife, Ola died in 2005, a few years after they came to Turkey Creek. They married after college, and she attended a year of seminary with Charles. The Russells raised two sons together and have four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

This past Sunday, Russell preached to his people about “Keeping on keeping on, faithful to the end,” from Revelation 2:20.

Charles Russell seems to know a little about that.


Gary Ledbetter
Southern Baptist Texan
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