Years ago, Pastor Roy Kittle stopped in a restaurant just outside of town when he was approached by a woman who was around 30 years old. She asked him if he remembered her, and when he admitted that he didn’t, she explained to him that she had gotten saved at one of the Vacation Bible Schools at his church when she was just a little girl.
“She said, ‘You led me to the Lord,’” Kittle remembered.
It wasn’t the first, nor the last time, he’d heard such a story. For more than 40 years now, Kittle has made leading others to the Lord his life’s work as pastor of Oak Grove Church, a place he describes as just a country church that the Lord has and still is blessing.
Kittle’s journey there began when he was in his early 40s and felt a calling to preach. He and his family were attending a small church in his hometown of Monroe back then. He knew the Lord was working on him, but he wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. He worked with another preacher at the time, and he began asking him how it is that one knows that he is being called into the ministry. Each time he asked, that preacher answered him in the same way.
“Don’t worry, you’ll know it,” he told him.
“And I knew it that Sunday night went I went down to the altar and prayed to God. He gave me the answer that night, and I’ve never been the same,” Kittle said.
Kittle didn’t know for sure what God had in store for him, but he began preaching occasionally in Monroe in 1977. As fate would have it, in 1979, a Pentecostal preacher from Texas named Carlton Lingo came to the Milledgeville area. He was a relative of Kittle’s wife, Clara, who was originally from Milledgeville.
Lingo had hopes of reopening Oak Grove United Methodist, an area church that had burned down in the early ‘70s. He got together with some folks from the Methodist Conference, and the church initially reopened as Oak Grove Community Church and then changed to Oak Grove Independent Methodist Church.
In early 1980, Kittle met Lingo while visiting Clara’s family in Milledgeville. Lingo told them about how Oak Grove had just started back up that February, and he told Kittle he might get him to come down from Monroe and fill in for him sometime. Not long after, Lingo went back to Texas to be with a sick family member, and Kittle began his first fill-in appointment for five weeks. That same year, he would be called to fill in again for five more months, making the 75-mile trip from Monroe each Sunday with Clara and their 7-year-old daughter.
In September of 1981, Kittle was called once again to fill in for three more months while Lingo took a leave of absence to go back to Texas. Two weeks after he arrived, Lingo had a massive heart attack and passed away.
Kittle was called on then to be the church’s official pastor.
“I was 45 years old at that time and now I’m 85, but God has been so good to us all these years,” Kittle said.
Since Kittle was a Baptist, the church then became Oak Grove Independent Church.
“I was a Baptist and was ordained a Baptist,” he explained. “Once, I was asked by someone did I know what I was, and my answer was, ‘Yes, I’m a Christian by faith, a Baptist by choice, but now a Methodist by the will of God.’”
When Kittle first took the job, he wasn’t paid anything more than having his light bill taken care of each month. He furnished and paid for his own home, also working as a school bus driver through the years and owning and operating a meat business for a while as well. He remembers a time when was doing all three jobs while also visiting hospitals in the evenings.
One of the first things he did when he took the appointment at Oak Grove was to begin holding gospel sings to pay off the loan the church owed. Those sings would become some of his favorite memories.
“These ladies would cook these big suppers, and everybody just loved to come and sing at Oak Grove Church because they knew they were gonna get fed good,” he said.
The next thing the church did was to install a baptistry, which has been used time and time again through the years. Seeing people led to the Lord and then leading others has been the highlight of Kittle’s ministry.
“It’s a joy to see people get saved, and it’s all been a good memory to be honest with you,” he said.
Later in the ‘80s, the church built a fellowship hall. They started out with about 33 members and now have about 100. Since COVID-19 began, the church averages about 30 or 40 on any given Sunday. They’ve had the same piano player since 1984.
“She still comes every Sunday to do her job,” Kittle said. “We’ve got some good people in our church.”
Kittle and Clara live just next door to the church, which is located at 121 Lingold Dr in Milledgeville. The two will celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary this November. They have four children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. And they have an abundance of wonderful memories together, many centered on the church they have called home for 40 years now.
“She’s my right-hand man you might want to say,” Kittle said of Clara. “Without her help and support, I’d have never been able to stay here. She has backed me all the way.”
Kittle does all of the bookwork for the church at the end of the month, makes all of the bulletins and cleans the church. Until recently, he still cut the grass, too, but he let his son take over the job not too long ago. The church has Sunday School, Sunday church and Wednesday night prayer meeting without fail each week.
So, does he ever think of retiring?
“No ma’am,” he said. “I’ve never read in the Bible where it says you retire from the ministry… I’ve never really thought about retiring. I knew when He called me and sent me down here, but He’s never told me to leave, so I’m here for the rest of my life as far as I’m concerned.”
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