The first sermon the Rev. Chuck Nation ever preached to the congregation at First Baptist Church of Flowery Branch was about commitment. It was about God’s commitment to each and every person in the room.
Since he preached that sermon, Nation has shown his own commitment to the nearly 700 members of the church, too. At the beginning of May, he celebrated his 20th anniversary as the church’s pastor and 40th year in ministry. Sunday, May 20, the church showed its appreciation for that commitment.
“I was just overwhelmed and humbled by the church’s response,” Nation said. “I don’t take them for granted, but this is a very loving church and generous church and caring church, and I was humbled because I don’t deserve that kind of acknowledgement or recognition.”
During the surprise service, current members and old friends joined together to thank Nation for everything he has done over the years. Flowery Branch’s mayor, Mike Miller, showed up to issue a proclamation.
“We think he’s done a fantastic job of pastoring the church,” said Bill Beaty, vice chairman of deacons at the church. “He’s an excellent preacher. He loves people, and you’d think that after 20 years, he certainly deserved not only a surprise, but some appreciation awards.”
The church celebrated by offering him awards like a T-shirt that read “Lord of the Strings,” alluding to his knack for playing music. He was given a crystal award and money stacked in the shape of a cake. One of the more sentimental gifts was a memory jar filled with notes from church members.
The church gave his wife, who’s been by his side the entire time, a bouquet filled with candy from her home state of Louisiana.
“We’ve touched a lot of people through the years,” Nation said. “I tell people that everybody in Hall County has been a part of this church at some point in their lives. A lot of folks have come through these doors.”
He’s been there since 1998, when he said the South Hall area was beginning to “mushroom and grow population-wise.” After serving at Calvary Heights Baptist Church in Gainesville for seven years, he made the move to First Baptist and began his work in the area where he saw so much potential.
“This church was started in 1872, and I’ve been here the longest of any pastor they’ve ever had,” Nation said. “I love this area and I love this community. So I feel really at home here. There’s nowhere else I want to go, nowhere else I’d rather be.”
Since growing up near Chickamauga, Nation has been all over the place. He lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as a teenager but moved out to Louisville, Kentucky, to play music. He’s a member of the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame, a two-time Georgia state fiddle champion, Georgia state mandolin champion and a Louisiana state fiddle champion.
He became a Christian while in Louisville and started working at a church there right away.
“I told the Lord that I would do anything he wanted me to do, go anywhere he wanted me to go, say anything he wanted me to say,” Nation said.
And eventually, that commitment landed him back in Georgia where he has spent the past 20 years at First Baptist Church of Flowery Branch.
“I know as long as I’ve been in ministry, I’ve never had to ask for a place to preach or solicit invitations,” Nation said. “The Lord has always opened doors. So I always trust him.”