When he began his career in the ministry, the Rev. Allan Lockerman was preaching at a 17-member church in Northeast Georgia.From that Elberton, Ga., community church — Bethany Baptist Church — …
When he began his career in the ministry, the Rev. Allan Lockerman was preaching at a 17-member church in Northeast Georgia.
From that Elberton, Ga., community church — Bethany Baptist Church — and at a few other North Georgia churches, he ended up at First Baptist Church of Cleveland, which now has nearly 6,000 members.
"This time of the year, I would guess we average around 3,200 to 3,300 attending," he said.
He is very proud of the number of people who attend First Baptist Church, and will always remember that the church was there for everyone, not just in this community but in surrounding areas.
Those will be just some of the memories that Rev. Lockerman will carry with him as he begins his retirement from the church. After preaching at First Baptist for nearly 24 years, he retired this summer, and now holds the title of Pastor Emeritus.
"I came to First Baptist in August 1992, and was here for eight years," he remembered. He left the church to preach in Mobile, Ala., but was asked after a few years if he would return to First Baptist, and he has been back around 16 years.
Even with thousands of members, he still calls First Baptist "the best kept secret" in the community.
How he got into the ministry was quite an adventure.
"I came back off active duty (in the Army) and joined the National Guard," the Rev. Lockerman explained. "I had a wife (Alice), and was wondering what I was going to do, and prayed for God to open the door for me. I said if You will open the door for me, I will go through whatever door You open."
He said the small church in Elbeton was looking for a preacher, and asked him he would come and be their pastor. It was at what he said was a "halftime" church, which would meet every other week.
"We only met every other week, because in these very rural areas, you couldn't find preachers," the Rev. Lockerman said.
Following some time at Emmanuel College and the University of Georgia, he eventually began preaching at some churches in North Georgia, where members from First Baptist Church saw him and asked him to come to Cleveland.
He has thoroughly enjoyed his time in the pulpit at First Baptist Church, he said, and calls his method of preaching "more conversational than oratorical. I feel I am more of a communicator."
It could be his skill in conversation that won over the heart of his wife Alice. The pair have been married for 46 years, and have three children
The two were high school sweethearts, though oddly at two different high schools.
"She was a cheerleader (at Elbert County High), and I was a football player (at Franklin County High)," he said.
She has been such a special part of the Rev. Lockerman's life, especially through several medical issues he has had to contend with over the years.
"But she still smiles all the time. You hardly never see her not smiling," he said. The reverend joked that, "I tell people she smiles so much because she is married to me."
She has been his rock through his medical problems, which have including dealing with cancer (he has been cancer-free for five years), liver failure and most recently major back surgery. He also mentioned that he is dealing with Parkinson's disease.
"The church has been so great to us through this. They support us, and pray for us," he said.
The Rev. Lockerman said that he does not have his retirement planned out, though he did say that he will probably read more than normal, which is one of his passions.
He said he will continue to attend First Baptist Church, and is very impressed with the new senior pastor, the Rev. Jordan Easley. He said that the church has many in the administration that are very special to him, especially Senior Executive Pastor Jim Gibson.
"Much of what has been accomplished in the past 16 years is due to Jim Gibson," the Rev. Lockerman said.
He will turn 65 in October, but that is about the only plan he has right now for the future, except he and his wife will remain in this community that they have learned to love over the years.
"What will I do in retirement?," he said. "I guess I will wait for God to open the next door."
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