After serving what has been 23 years at Terrell First Assembly of God church, Pastor Lonnie Harris is stepping down as Pastor.
“I’m 72 years old. I’ll be 73 in January. It is time for the next generation to take the church further … to carry on the vision,” said Pastor Harris.
Steven McKnight, who once served as an assistant under Pastor Harris, will step in as the new Pastor of Terrell First Assembly and preach on July 14. Pastor Harris’ last sermon as Pastor will be July 7.
“This was from when we first came. That’s from the Terrell Tribune,” said Pastor Harris’ wife, Carolyn Harris, referring to a photo that she’s been holding onto for more than two decades. The item was a Terrell Tribune newspaper ad that invited Terrell residents to come to Terrell First Assembly, and to welcome Pastor Harris and his wife and family.
Though Pastor Harris and his wife and family are not from Terrell, the years they’ve spent in the city and with the church have made them feel like they are a part of a big family.
“I’m from the panhandle of Texas and she’s from Oklahoma. I grew up around the Pampa border near Amarillo. I came from a little town called Skelly town,” said Pastor Harris.
“I was raised in western Oklahoma which is Hammon … about two hours west of there,” said Carolyn.
Carolyn is a retired teacher from Terrell ISD. Now, she and Pastor Harris will finally be able to make the most of retirement together.
Before Pastor Harris and his family came to Terrell, he made is way through Oklahoma and Colorado. But his stop in Texas as a Pastor in Terrell appeared to be the culmination of the experiences he had over the years, serving God, helping people and reaching souls for Christ.
A young man with humble beginnings, he heard God’s call to Pastor early.
“I graduated from White Deer High School. And then I thought I was going to be a football coach. I went to Cook County Junior College. And on a Sunday morning I got called to preach. I was the only person in the altar. I got a vision that I was going to be a minister of the Gospel. And that’s what happened. I was, probably, 18,” said Harris. “Its been great. When you’re called to do something it’s the greatest thing that could ever happen to you … you listen to the voice of God,” said Pastor Harris. “One of the highest callings there is, is to be a preacher of the Gospel. Some don’t understand that at all. And we believe, the Assembly of God, believes in a God-called ministry. Not someone who wants to be just a hireling. It’s a definite calling.”
When Pastor Harris came to Terrell First Assembly, he came during a time that the church needed a lot of love and leadership.
“The first year I was here I saw 200 people come to Christ. It was overwhelming because … I said, ‘I got to see people get saved.’ That year I got a box, and I put an old dead tree there, and every time someone got saved I hung white ribbons on an old dead tree. And got to bring people to Christ. I have had multiple people saved over the years and that’s the greatest thing. That’s what we’re about,” said Pastor Harris. “When I came here, brother D.R. Pulley was with them for 42 years, the previous Pastor. They were hurting because he died of Leukemia. He was a legendary preacher. He’s a legend in this town. And what I decided to do was embrace brother Pulley and help them get through a bad time. I put a big V, victory, and I preached on victory in Jesus for a solid year.”
Pastor attributes much of his success in ministry to loving people and remembering the names of people he comes in contact with.
“My passion is loving people. There’s no challenge, no color, no creed, and God’s no respect of person. I see you … I know your name. And that’s what is going to be written in the lamb’s book of life. That’s good enough for Jesus. That’s good enough for me,” said Pastor Harris. “I was in East Texas, which was pretty prejudice, and a lady brought a van load of African-American children, little kids, and so I had this one kid who was in my church for one year. And I said to him, and I couldn’t remember him, and I said, ‘this little boy here,’ and he raises his hand, and he didn’t think I was prejudice. He said, “Pastor, I do have a name!” So that little boy taught me something … that his name, not ‘little boy’, his name, was important. Our names is as important to Jesus as he wrote it in the lamb’s book of life. He didn’t write down black or white or brown like they do on our licenses, or Hispanic or Asian, we classify people. Jesus doesn’t. You’re my brother,” said Pastor Harris.
Carolyn said that the past 23 years have been great and they see the future for Terrell First Assembly to be as bright as it was when they first started.
“It’s been great. I tell them all the time … this is the best church he’s ever Pastored. We have the best church family anywhere around. We are very blessed … these people are our family. They have been great. They have supported Pastor Harris whenever we had outreaches. They jump in and they help and volunteer. They really are the best!” said Carolyn.
Pastor Harris said that what he would miss while on retirement is the opportunity to preach every Sunday and to gaze across the sanctuary to see and hear all of the people who are in need of a Word from God.