Winton R. Anderson's first calling in the church was music.
But, about a decade ago, while attending LSU and working as a church music minister, Anderson felt God wanted him to do more.
"I knew then," he said. "I was in music, but the Lord was calling me to preach."
Anderson went on to graduate from LSU with a bachelor's degree in communication studies and earned a master's in theological studies at Dallas Baptist University.
Now the 33-year-old has been in the preaching ministry for about three years, and Sunday he will be installed as the pastor of the 140-year-old Greater Philadelphia Baptist Church in Slaughter.
The installation service is set for 3 p.m. at the church, 24497 Cook Road.
Anderson took over at the church in January. The installation was originally planned for April but postponed due to COVID concerns.
"I think we needed to do this to move forward," Anderson said. "I think this is the best time. Even though some of the (COVID) numbers are creeping up, I think it's the best time to really get this done. … Thank God for the members who were really, really pushing for this to happen."
Anderson had to wait several months for his installation day, but he's used to waiting — particularly on God.
Without hesitation, he cited Psalm 27:14 — "Wait on the Lord: Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: Wait, I say, on the Lord." — as his life verse.
"It's really something that I find comfort in," he said. "It teaches me in a world that kind of demands that you constantly remain on the go and constantly are moving … how to really actually be still and wait on God. One of my personal ministry models is that while a lot of people got to take the elevator, God always made me take the stairs. So I had to learn how to wait on him."
Greater Philadelphia didn't wait long to get back to in-person services after the initial state's coronavirus lockdown, continuing to meet at 25% capacity in accordance with the Phase 1 reopening in June.
"To pastor in a pandemic has been a challenge within itself. We've had to reimagine church. We've had to reimagine how we do church," said Anderson, who has also served for two years as pastor of Praise Temple of Baton Rouge. "It was important for us to offer people an opportunity who felt comfortable to come into worship."
Worship has always been a part of life for Anderson.
"My biggest mentors were always my grandmother and my mother (a church musician)," he said. "(My mother) was definitely the driving force. Then my grandmother really taught us about faith, and what it was to really trust in God."
At 9, Anderson had his own encounter with God.
"I knew that something different had happened in my life. I had asked to be baptized during that time," he said. "That was my honest conversion moment. I felt something as a kid that I could not explain. And thank God for a pastor who was able to help me walk through the pulling that I was feeling of God in my life."
Anderson first felt a pull to ministry at about 15. In 2009, at 22, he preached his first sermon.
Born in Oakland, California, Anderson moved to Natchez, Mississippi, where his grandmother and other family lived. After graduating from LSU, he moved back to the Bay Area, working and enrolling online at Dallas Baptist in 2015.
In December of that year, Anderson lost his father suddenly to a heart attack.
"My parents were not married at the time. They were divorced, but it was a blow to me and my sisters. It was a major blow to my wife. … It was a major low point of my life," he said. "I knew it was a will of God, but in my flesh I still struggled with the details of how things happened, why they happened, the timing of it happening."
After his father died, Anderson and his family — including wife Andriette and a child — moved to Texas, where he attended Dallas Baptist.
"It was a God thing," he said. "There was really no driving force to get to Dallas. We didn't have a job. It was literally my faith journey similar to Abraham in Genesis 12. So that was my journey, and we got there with little to nothing, but I heard God clearly."
After two years in Dallas, Anderson moved to Baton Rouge to work for the LSU Foundation, along with his wife. They were laid off in April after the coronavirus shutdowns, but Anderson soon found a job as the assistant director of student leadership and engagement.
With two churches, two children and a full-time job, Anderson balances his life by learning to take time to rest.
"It has to be God," he said. "It's not me. Some practical stuff that I do is I make sure to that have personal sabbaths. I just take a day that I'm able to do nothing, days that I really rest. It's really about time management. To be completely honest, I wouldn't be able to do it without the help of my wife."
As he prepares to "officially" become pastor of Greater Philadelphia, Anderson is looking forward to what God has in store for the historic East Feliciana Parish church.
"Even in a pandemic and even though these are uncertain times, we're still experiencing the favor of God. I see the church even moving heavier as a beacon of light into our community, especially since we're kind of in a rural area," he said. "So I'm definitely excited about the influx of young people. I'm definitely excited about our seasoned saints who are the backbone and the pillars of our church. I think we're moving into an extremely progressive model as it relates to how we do ministry."
Anderson is also excited about his latest book, "Heart People: Explained & Accepted," available on Amazon. Email Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Facebook at Greater Philadelphia Baptist Church Family or Praise Temple of Baton Rouge.
These 7 words
Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
If we are willing to accept it, God has a plan and purpose for us. It's specific. It's tailor-made. It is a plan to take care of us, a plan to not abandon us, a plan not to leave us lost, a plan to give us hope and a future. We could all use some hope in these trying times.
God has it all planned out for YOU — but a loving God won't force his plans on you. Rather, he gives each of us free will to chose whether we will trust in him enough to walk in that plan or choose another path.
Unlike a lot of us, God doesn't do last-minute planning. He knew us and loved us before the foundation of the world. Contrary to what many may even feel in their own hearts, we were no accidents or mistakes but purposely created in the image of Almighty God for a purpose. All humans. Black or White. Rich or poor. Democrat or Republican.
I'm reminded of a favorite section from the bestselling book "Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren: "Your birth was no mistake or mishap, and your life is no fluke of nature. Your parents may not have planned you, but God did. He was not at all surprised by your birth. In fact, he expected it. Long before you were conceived by your parents, you were conceived in the mind of God. It is not fate, nor chance, nor luck, nor coincidence that you are breathing at this very moment. You are alive because God wanted to create you! The Bible says, The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me. God prescribed every single detail of your body. He deliberately chose your race, the color of your skin, your hair, and every other feature. He custom-made your body just the way he wanted it."
Be encouraged by these wonderful and hopefully life-changing seven words: "God has a purpose for your life."