40 years as a pastorAt 86, Miller still has 5 churches, is Baptist moderator

Published 11:13 pm Friday, June 15, 2012

When the Rev. Robert L. Miller was ordained a Baptist preacher in 1968, he couldn’t foresee a career that would lead to serving in three local churches for 40 years and two others for 37 and 26 years.

Miller, 86, is still going strong.

In addition to the five Missionary Baptist churches, he’s the moderator — the top job — of the Warren County Baptist Churches Association.

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For his long years of service, Miller will be honored Sunday with a special program and dinner at China Grove No. 1 M.B. Church, 5541 Rawhide Road, in the Oak Ridge community.

“We are very small in number but are anxious and waiting to show love for our pastor,” said member Agazine Jones.

Miller became the pastor at Holly Grove M.B. Church on Johnson Street in Vicksburg on April 7, 1972; China Grove on May 21, 1972; and Pleasant Valley M.B, Church in the Vickland community near Hollandale in July 23, 1972.

He has also led New Mount Zion M.B. Church on Feld Street since July 20, 1975, and Locust Grove M.B. Church on Mississippi 27 since June 8, 1986.

All together, Miller pastors nearly 500 people in the five churches, preaching, teaching, visiting, marrying and burying, leading services one or two times a month and Bible studies weekly.

“He is determined to work until his work is done,” said Jones.

Miller grew up in a home on Fort Hill and still lives “up there,” he said. His family attended Greater Mount Zion Church.

“My father didn’t ask if we were getting ready for church,” Miller said with a laugh. “If you didn’t get ready he would help you get ready.”

His parents raised him to read and love the Bible, and even in casual conversation he quotes it liberally – chapter, verse and line of scripture. Preaching is what he’s loved the most about his years serving the churches, he said.

“I try to help people understand, ‘thus saith the Lord,’” Miller said. “That’s the thing most needed today. Jesus told his disciples, ‘it is written,’ because God put it all down in the Bible. But people don’t read it anymore. Young people think that everything is all right. It is not all right.”

Jones, 62, has known Miller for nearly 50 years and said his congregations respect and love him for his care but also his leadership. “He’s a person that stands up for the right,” she said.

While age causes a health issue now and then, it doesn’t keep Miller from making the 55-mile trek up to Pleasant Valley every week for Bible study, and every fourth Sunday for church services, or from visiting shut-ins and the sick members of his congregations.

“I was lying in the ICU in Jackson last year, and I looked up and he was standing there,” said Bettye Brown, a member of Holly Grove M.B. Church. “We know he cares, and we all love him.”

In his role as moderator, he can be found at the Straughter building on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard every Wednesday and Saturday, praying with and helping pastors of Warren County’s 42 Baptist churches.

Asked if he ever takes a day off, Miller asked, “From what?”

If you go

The Rev. Robert L. Miller, pastor of Holly Grove M.B. Church, China Grove No. 1 M.B. Church, New Mount Zion M.B. Church and Locust Grove M.B. Church in Vicksburg and Pleasant Valley M.B. Church in Vickland, north of Rolling Fork, will be honored for 40 years of service with a service and dinner.

The program, which will feature the Rev. Richard Johnson, guest speaker, will begin at 2 p.m. at China Grove No. 1 in the Oak Ridge community, 5541 Rawhide Road.