Mentor’s investment reaps two 50-year ministries
Only three pastors in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention have started a church and then stayed with that church for the next 50 years. Two of these pastors, Tommy French and John Morgan, were spiritually mentored by the same man—L.D. Morgan.
Tommy French founded Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La., in 1959 and remained there until his retirement in 2009. John Morgan founded Sagemont Church in Houston, Texas, in 1966 and celebrated his (and the church’s) 50th anniversary in 2016. Over the decades, these churches have seen significant growth, and many people have come to know the Lord through their ministries and then been discipled, commissioned, and mobilized for Gospel service.
Thus, the Kingdom of God has been greatly expanded as a result of God’s blessing upon these two men, and it all began with God using L.D. Morgan to lead them to the Christ, baptize them, license and ordain them for ministry, and prayerfully and financially support their church plants. He also officiated their weddings and helped them get into college and seminary. Put simply, Morgan invested his life in theirs. The full scope of L.D. Morgan’s spiritual legacy cannot be determined, but what can be known is that, even 33 years after his death, the fruits of his labor are still visible today.
An “Uncommon” Preacher
Laburn Deloid Morgan came to Southwestern Seminary from the cotton fields of Mississippi with a glass eye and a stutter. He received the call to ministry in second grade, and from then on, he knew God wanted him to preach. In light of his stuttering problem, however, people often said to him, “Laburn, you can serve God without being a preacher. There are a lot of ways to serve God.” John Morgan, L.D.’s son, explains, “They were trying to be nice to him, but what they were really saying was, ‘Nobody wants to listen to a stuttering preacher!’”
Nevertheless, Morgan came to Southwestern, and during a preaching class, he stood up and preached his first-ever sermon. He never missed a syllable.
After graduating in 1939, Morgan served in two pastorates over the next several decades, and he never once stuttered in the pulpit. Though he continued to stutter in everyday conversations, as a preacher, Morgan was known for his loud, methodical and distinctive voice as he clearly delivered every syllable.
Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson, who knew the elder Morgan, says, “L.D. Morgan was what many clerics would call a common preacher. He was, in fact, uncommon to the point of extraordinary. Chaste, faithful, in love with Christ, tutoring young preachers, exhibiting the ‘arts’ of the pastoral work, leading men and women to Christ on a regular basis, he was one remarkable preacher.”
As a pastor, Morgan remained actively engaged with every aspect of church life. This allowed him to personally invest in numerous people’s lives and lead many of them to the Lord.
One of these people was Tommy French’s father, whom Morgan evangelized in an East Texas oil field where the elder French was a roughneck. With Tommy sitting on his father’s knee, Morgan shared the Gospel with both, and after his father prayed to receive Christ, the 5-year-old Tommy declared his desire to do the same.
Morgan led his own son to the Lord several years later. After attending a revival service, John, age 7, told his father that he wanted to be saved. The elder Morgan talked him through this decision, and then the two knelt together in Morgan’s office, and John prayed a prayer of salvation. Morgan baptized him a few weeks later.
A Minister of Ministers
When Tommy and John received their respective calls to ministry in their teenage years, they immediately shared the news with Morgan. Morgan proceeded to help both of them enroll in Baylor University and then Southwestern Seminary. Tommy graduated from Southwestern with his Bachelor of Divinity in 1957 and his Master of Divinity in 1969; John completed with his Bachelor of Divinity in 1966.
Morgan continued to advise and counsel both young ministers as they began pastoring their burgeoning church plants. A key piece of advice that remained pertinent for each of the pastors was this: “You better make sure God’s called you into this, because the day will come where that’s the only thing that will keep you in the ministry.”
Tommy likely found this to be true when an economic recession caused 140 people to leave his church within the span of a year. John also affirms that many such days occurred in his ministry context. Despite these difficulties, however, both Tommy and John persevered in their respective ministries, and more than five decades later, Jefferson Baptist Church and Sagemont Church continue to thrive today.
Following his retirement, Morgan began attending Sagemont Church to sit under his son’s preaching. “He would always be very complimentary of my preaching,” John says, “but he would say, ‘If you ever do that sermon again, let me give you an illustration for the next time.’ I loved that I could call him and say, ‘Dad, I am going to preach on the 116th Psalm, and I know that it’s one of your favorite passages, do you have any advice?’”
Morgan died in 1984 at the age of 76, but a quarter of a century later, the influence of this stuttering, one-eyed minister can still be felt. Tommy and John attribute much of their success in ministry—beyond the active role of the Holy Spirit, of course—to the investment of L.D. Morgan in their lives.
“His dad was my spiritual mentor before John was born,” Tommy says. “His dad mentored both of us, baptized both of us, ordained both of us, married both of us, and just put his life into us and taught us those lessons that we’ve learned across the years as we’ve served the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The third pastor was Jerry Falwell Sr., who founded Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., in 1956 and pastored there until his death in 2007.