LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – A couple of days after retiring from 40 years of ministry and 34 years of being a pastor because of a disability, Marty Brown said God isn’t done with him.
“It’s hard after 34 years, knowing I’m not going to be there. I have a pastor’s heart. I care about the people,” said the longtime pastor. “The Lord’s got something out there. Pulpit supply maybe? I have a tracque sticking out of my throat, so I couldn’t preach twice, but I can do one Sunday service.”
Anybody who knows Brown wouldn’t be surprised to find him preaching whenever he can. However, his spine issues that have included eight surgeries on his neck will keep him from being a pastor.
Brown is only 58 but his disability that had him in a wheelchair and on a walker or cane when he could rise to his feet have made it too difficult for him to continue as the pastor at Newton Creek Baptist Church in Kevil, Kentucky. He’s been dealing with spine issues for 20 excruciating years.
“He accomplished more on a walker or a cane than many pastors do in full strength,” said Larry Purcell, the West Region consultant for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Brown’s retirement concluded 40 years in the ministry – six as a youth pastor and 34 as a pastor. Following his last surgery that hospitalized him for nearly three months, doctors told him he wasn’t going to rebound like he did 20 years ago. He was unable to make visits to the hospitals or homes like he knows a pastor needs to do.
So he is retiring from the ministry but will also likely be considered a pastor the rest of his life. He’s earned the title.
Brown preached at four churches, including Newton Creek for the past almost five years. He also had stints of five years, 17½ years and 7½ years. He was a fulltime pastor in the last two churches.
“Churches have been very patient with me,” Brown said. “The Lord has blessed every church. None of it was anything I did.”
Brown injured his back when he was delivering medical supplies 20 years’ ago. After lifting the back gate of a truck loaded with supplies “the spinal cord went snap, crackle, pop,” he said. Brown had herniated the 2-7 discs in his spine and it would be a lifelong pain.
“I knew something was bad wrong,” he said.
Following the first surgery, he woke up paralyzed and the problems continued from there. He’s had multiple neck surgeries, the last one at the first of 2020 that kept him in the hospital for 81 days, including during some of the COVID-19 spread.
“Going 81 days and not getting to see my grandkids was tough,” he said.
When Brown was the pastor of Oscar Baptist Church for 17½ years he developed the area’s first Hispanic Mission work.
“That was when tobacco was big in McCracken County,” he said. “One of my church members said, ‘I have some Mexicans I hired for the summer. Can I bring them to church?’ I said, ‘Well good night, yes!’ I’m so proud of my church. They welcome those guys in and our association did too.”
He said the church member who asked him about them learned how to speak Spanish by putting a copy of the English Bible and Spanish Bible side by side.
“The Holy Spirit taught that man Spanish,” Brown said. “Through a course of time, God gave us missionaries and other helpers. We saw 60 of those men come to Christ. We had a bilingual hymn book and those guys loved to sing. It was beautiful. Our church had no racial overtones and other churches came and supplied meals for them on Sundays. It was truly special.”
Brown said his wife Debbie is a “super wife and the best Christian I know and my caretaker for 20 years. Now her load is double.”
They have a grown daughter and son and two grandchildren.
“My charge to the church on Sunday was ‘Please do something not printed in the bulletin, a work only explained by the glory of God, the power of the Word and the magnification of Jesus Christ.’”
He said he and his wife would stay members at the church but when the new pastor was called, he would make himself scare for a month or more and maybe longer.
“He (the new pastor) doesn’t need to be looking in the corner for me and the members don’t need to be look over their shoulders at me,” Brown said. “God needs to put his hand on him there just like He did me.”