Ian Wright shares a testimony of being mentored fifty years ago.

Invercargill Central Baptist Church pastor Keith Harrington asked me to write a brief testimony of serving with my Baptist pastor Roland Browning in Invercargill in my late teens. This was around 1972/73.

I joined the Invercargill Central Baptist Church following an epiphany of sorts in a Youth for Christ camp meeting with evangelist Muri Thompson. I first met Roland & Rita Browning and their family as I started to be involved with youth meetings and street outreach in the city.

A small group of us started raising money and started a coffee bar called ‘Crossroads’ where we served bad coffee but a great Gospel. We saw many people give their lives to Christ over the years and all of the founding members went into ministry calls in the following years.

I was a bit of a smart aleck with the elders and pastor, and was teasing ‘Rolly’, as we called Mr Browning, one day, suggesting that his job as a pastor would be a breeze as he only worked one day a week! I remember well as he stuck his finger in my face, and challenged me to work with him for two weeks to see what pastoral care was really like.

I only had two weeks holiday a year at my job, so took them to meet Rolly’s challenge. I was still living at home and having a holiday sleep-in when my mother woke me on my first Monday ‘off’, and said that “Mr Browning was on the phone”.. I eventually went to phone and heard him say to me in very short terms, “Where are you?” “Having my day off Mr Browning” “Get around to the manse immediately”, he replied, and promptly hung up.

Golly I thought, these Baptists are a bit feisty.

However I started my two week stint following my pastor around in everything he did. What happened that week is another story, but the call on my own life was well and truly alive following those 14 days.

As I recently shared with pastor Keith Harrington, the one thing that still stands out to this day, was being mentored in pastoral prayer by pastor Browning. We would kneel at the start of each day (at that point I’d never kneeled in my life), and take one fifth of the address list for our church, and starting at the A’s would work our way through the people from Monday to Friday praying for every man, woman and child on that list.

This wasn’t a ‘members list’ this was Rolly’s list.

My pastor was a Pastor/Evangelist and a hero to so many of our youth, young adults, waifs and strays and members. If I learned anything that fortnight it was about fighting on my knees and valuing people. Many times we would stop over a name, or family.. and without Rolly sharing details with me he would target the need and look for breakthrough for them. We finished by praying for the lost… and we saw the lost come in, whether to the church, or the ‘Crossroads Cafe’, or on the street, or through personal connections. Sunday nights too were amazing, with regular altar calls, baptisms, passionate preaching, testimonies of changed lives, and the challenge to follow the call of God on your life.

In the many places I now go to preach, I still to this day honour three people who believed in a smart aleck teen and sowed an immeasurable harvest into both myself, and my wife Dayle’s. Rowland ‘Rolly’ Browning was one of those people.

Ian Wright is a Senior Leader at Invercargill Christian Centre.

Photo credits:

Rowland Browning: supplied by Invercargill Central Baptist Church

Background photo: Stephen Colebourne, Creative Commons, flickr 

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