Bowling Green—Nearly 50 years have passed since Bob Martin faced an intense ordination examination at Calvary Baptist Church, with the questioning lasting all afternoon.
At the end, the day’s speaker (O.G. Lawless) cut his sermon short, saying, “If you haven’t heard the gospel in the past three hours, I don’t think I can add anything to it.”
That is one of many memories that will fill the air Sunday, Nov. 16, when Calvary Baptist Church honors Martin and his brother-in-law, Bill Whittaker, on the eve of their golden anniversaries in ministry.
Whittaker was ordained Nov. 29, 1964, and Martin on Dec. 27, 1964.
Though interim pastor at Edmonton Baptist Church, Whittaker’s home church today is Glasgow Baptist, where he served from 2007-10. Martin is once again a member of Calvary Baptist after returning to the area because of a family member’s illness.
“I think seeing individuals who are faithful over an extended period of time is meaningful to any minister,” said David Gifford, Calvary’s pastor since 2002. “Recognizing they have faithfully filled many posts in church and denominational life is a challenge to stay with it.”
The two men—who remain active as pulpit supply preachers and interim pastors—feel blessed to be honored at the church where their careers began.
“It hardly seems possible it’s been 50 years,” Whittaker said. “Our spouses have been great partners and pastor’s wives. To celebrate together will be very special.”
Martin, who is married to Whittaker’s sister, Joyce, was part of the congregation when it was Barry Street Mission, sponsored by First Baptist Church of Bowling Green. The mission later relocated about seven blocks south of downtown, where attendance of about 75 eventually doubled.
Today attendance has doubled again following Calvary’s 1995 move to a site four miles south of town, just off the Natcher Parkway.
“Calvary has been the backbone of my ministry,” said Martin, who will deliver the sermon at the 10:30 a.m. service, prior to a 2 p.m. reception and Whittaker’s sermon at the 6 p.m. service.
“It’s a great thing,” Martin added. “But my sermon will be from John 3:30: ‘He must increase and I must decrease.’ I feel like John. It’s a pleasure to serve in ministry, and Calvary has backed me up.”
Although eight years older than his brother-in-law, Martin, 79, wound up being ordained a month later because of a nine-year stint in the U.S. Air Force. While in the military, he and Joyce had the first two of their three children, followed later by five grandchildren and one great-grandson.
After graduating from Western Kentucky University in 1966, Martin earned a master of divinity at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville in 1969.
From 1964-93, Martin’s pastorates included Plano Baptist, Graffenberg Baptist, Morganfield First Baptist and Pleasant Hill Baptist in Campbellsville.
He was director of missions for the Little River Baptist Association from 1993-2003. The following year Martin became a part-time DOM for the Gasper River Association in Morgantown until stepping down in 2012.
Martin served as an architectural consultant for the Kentucky Baptist Convention from 1995-2003. That experience came in handy during Calvary’s 2010 addition of a 13,000-square foot facility.
Ironically, when he did preliminary sketches Martin never expected that years later the building committee would accept most of his recommendations.
“Bob was invaluable with his background,” Gifford commented. “As a church member, he and Joyce have both been a blessing.”
Whittaker met his wife, Rebecca, then a member of nearby Eastwood Baptist Church, were both attended Western Kentucky University. They married in 1966, two years after Bill’s call to pastor Jackson Grove Baptist Church in Bristow.
The first of their three children would arrive after Whittaker moved to First Baptist Church of Sturgis in 1969. He later spent seven years at First Baptist Church of Murray, prior to serving as a missionary to the Philippines.
Though they only spent four years there, Whittaker calls his time in Manila the highlight of his career, particularly the opportunity to start a church in the north Manila community of Malabon.
“The church has since started three other churches and the pastor (Eduardo Caalim) was nurtured and ordained by the International Baptist Church,” Whittaker said. “He has called me on my birthday ever year since we returned to the States.”
After their return, Whittaker was pastor of Downtown Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., for nearly two years before his call to become president of Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in 1988.
During 19 years at the school, he helped Calvary set up the O.G. Lawless Scholarship (named after Martin’s ordination speaker), with members contributing $18,650 to establish it.
Managed by the Kentucky Baptist Foundation, the annual stipend has ranged from $775 to $950, with the most recent grant going to John Morgan of Knott County.
While few members were there 50 years ago, its current pastor said Sunday’s celebration will help newcomers appreciate the faithfulness that established Calvary.
“We had our 93rd anniversary as a church in August,” Gifford said. “This Sunday will give us a glimpse of where we’ve been and where we can go.” (WR)