Alapaha Baptist preacher Darryl McHan believes in the man in the sky

Image for post
Image for post
Image Credit: The Jamie McHan Collection

The Community Worship Service prevails as the Alapaha Station Celebration’s ultimate event on the second Sunday morning of each November inside the Alapaha Gym. Directed by Gail Powell, the Alapaha Community Choir, kids’ choir, and soloist Valerie Horten provided musical accompaniment and unequivocally demonstrated the Lord’s blessings upon the rural South Georgia neighborhood. Irregardless of denomination, Berrien County residents demonstrated a little faith and community spirit in these turbulent times. Alapaha Baptist Church pastor Darryl McHan was the occasion’s guest speaker and spells out exclusively below how his spiritual journey to Alapaha began just prior to Christmas 2017.

The Darryl McHan Interview

I was born in Birmingham, Alabama, but my hometown is Snead, Alabama. I have an older and younger brother. We were raised in church. More importantly, we were raised in Christ. I played sports all of my life and now enjoy coaching and teaching my children fundamentals of athletics. I enjoy singing for the Lord every chance I get. My family and I sing in services whenever we are afforded the opportunity.

On September 26, 1991, I died of myself and became a Christ follower. I was in a revival service and held on to the pew until my white knuckles could resist no more. Philadelphia Baptist Church Revival with my pastor and Uncle Dennis Martin is where it all began.

I knew in my early teenage years that God was calling me to preach. I remember being terrified because of the responsibility that came with such a calling. My pastor at the time told me that if it was a call from God at my young age that I should just forget about it. If it was really the Holy Spirit calling me, the desire would not leave me.

Time passed by. I remember listening to preaching in services, and I would burn to be up there preaching. Yet I continued to run from the calling. After high school and college I took a job with Woodmen of the World as a fraternal coordinator and lived in Texas and Mississippi. While in Texas I served in a church as a youth director for some time. God stayed with me but a time came in establishing a career when God seemed quiet. I came back to Alabama in 2002 and was really feeling the weight of whatever it was God was cultivating within me.

A church in Hanceville, Alabama, called me to serve as their youth minister. I was not interested. I told them I would pray about it and would call them if I felt led in that direction. I didn’t call, but a month later they called me again. This time I felt an urging from the Lord. I became the youth pastor of this small church in rural Alabama.

A few months down the road our pastor was at an associational meeting and requested for the summer missionary in the area to come and assist our youth with a backyard Bible club. He told me to call the number and get it all set up. I called, and Jamie answered. I set up a time for her to come talk to our youth and get the Bible club going.

Jamie showed up on a Sunday afternoon. I’ll never forget it. It was raining. I stood on the church porch and fumbled with an umbrella that would not open. She sat in her car, not waiting on me to come get her with the umbrella, but being kind because she saw that I was trying to come shield her from the rain. She came to the porch and introduced herself. I’m not sure that I expected her or what God would do next. We met about the Bible club and only one of the youth showed up. We spent the next four hours discussing faith and where we were in God’s great big plan.

The next week we were together from sun up to sundown with the Bible club, and our evenings were spent at Subway and a local pizza place eating and fellowshipping. The second time we ate I looked at this girl and told her I was going to marry her. She popped back quickly with “No, you are not. I am supposed to marry a pastor.” Could she know I had been running from the call to preach for 10 years at this point? This would not be the night I would submit to that calling!

Time marched on. Jamie never went back home. She enrolled in the nursing program at our local college and became the dorm director. She and I worked with the youth together. She held firm to the calling that she had to marry a pastor. She even went to China on another mission trip for a month because she needed to hear God’s voice on the matter of us feeling led to one another, but me not being a pastor at the time.

One year later we were married. We had our first son 10 months later. On Mother’s Day of that year I could take no more. I stood up and announced my call to preach. I hadn’t told Jamie it was coming. At that moment she knew God had been preparing her and us for this time.

In ministry we have seen God’s hand all over our lives. We are not a typical family. We live for Christ daily. It’s in our genetic makeup. It is who we are all of the time. Our desire to follow Christ dictates every decision we make.

Image for post
Image for post
Alapaha Baptist Church pastor Darryl McHan, wife Jamie, and children Jaxson, Brooke, and Cody gamely descend along a majestic winding staircase. Image Credit: The Jamie McHan Collection

Our son Jaxson is now 13 years old. He loves the Lord. He accepted the gift of salvation with a broken heart and contrite spirit at the age of eight. We were around the campfire at our favorite park, and a tearful boy’s life changed that night. He announced his calling to preach this year.

Our daughter Brooke was saved at the age of six. At the end of a church service she took herself to the altar. When she got up she knew God had called her to salvation. At six she understood that she had been grafted into God’s family.

Our children are spiritual little people. It’s common for us to listen to a Gaither’s song and for tears to flow and for Thanksgiving to start rolling up to the Lord. For us, salvation does not stop the moment we are drawn in by the Holy Spirit. It is a daily pursuit of Christ for our children and ourselves. The scripture says if we continue in God’s commands we really are His disciples.

I was ordained shortly after I announced my calling to preach, and the church I youth pastored at called me to pastor shortly thereafter. When God called us away from that church there was not another church on the horizon. We were certain that God would show us when and where. Giving in to God’s call is still a huge responsibility that I do not take lightly. I am so thankful for this opportunity to share God’s word.

We were in waiting for about two years and then God called us to another church where He just called me away from after four and a half years. We don’t have a plan B. God leads us. God shows us where and when to go. We are open to move wherever God will use us.

Jamie is passionate about women’s ministry and the study of the Bible. She teaches women in Nicaragua one week out of the year. She loves Vacation Bible School and teaching children. Our children love to worship. They often participate in church services by singing, testifying, and playing piano. They are eager to be involved. In 2014 God blessed us with a four-year-old son. Our prayer is that he becomes a warrior for the Kingdom.

I’m not a water-it-down kind of pastor. I am passionate about serving the church. I love people. I love difficult people. I love to comfort and counsel. I love people who don’t know much about being a Christ follower. I love to teach the Bible. I love to shepherd God’s flock.

I want to encourage believers right where they are in their faith and to see them reach their potential In Christ. I want to unify God’s people. I want to lead the church in true worship. I long to be a part of the church coming under the authority of God and watching him use the church in whatever way He wants to use us.

Loving people is the easy part. If we love God, then we’ll love the community and everyone in it. I desire to ignite a passion for Christ in others like God intends for us. He is so worth the sacrifice. I just love God and I am sure of my calling and election. My daily drive is in studying to show myself approved unto God, a workman of His who does not want to stand ashamed before Him.

When Alapaha Baptist Church contacted me about a pastoral vacancy, I was excited about the possibility of moving to a new area where we would have to learn the ways of the people and how to correctly pronounce the word “pecan.” We got the opportunity to come for a visit the week before the inaugural Alapaha Country Christmas event. The town was already decorated. The people were so kind to our family. God’s presence could definitely be felt here.

Jamie had told me that she was praying for a full-time pastorate, with a parsonage with rooms for each of us, a town that supported homeschooling, and had sidewalks. I told her that didn’t exist anymore. To our surprise and never ending amazement of how God works, all of those things were here in Alapaha. God is so amazing. It just goes to show that when our desires change to become what God wants for us we get to live in the center of His perfect will.

Our ride home following the service where I guest preached at Alapaha Baptist was very quiet. We were in amazement that God could be plucking our family up and moving us. The night they called to offer us the pastorate, we had already prayed and asked God to open the door so wide that our only choice would be to walk through it.

We accepted the call to come to Alapaha Baptist Church. We left Alabama on Christmas night and drove until we reached a ministry center full of welcoming faces and helpful hands. They unloaded the moving truck and trailer within a couple of hours. It was really such an honor to have people be willing to help us settle in.

Since the move, life has been fast and furious for the Kingdom. God is having His way. Lives are changing. Families are changing and growing in the Lord. People are working out their own salvation with fear and trembling. God has work for our family to do here in Georgia. We are thankful for the opportunity to be here. We praise the Lord for this journey.

Image for post
Image for post
Jamie and Darryl McHan are tickled pink to hold a cake acknowledging the Alapaha Baptist Church preacher’s birthday on October 21, 2018, inside the church’s Ministry Center. Kids Brooke, Jaxson, and Cody can’t help but smile, too. Photography by Norma Gaskins

Ministry is one of the greatest responsibilities I have ever been called into. In my ministry I have learned so much about who God is and how His integrity influences our daily lives. I have seen churches that like the look of their building so much that the focus for them is clear. I have been in churches where there are committees on committees that are more comforted by the organization of the infrastructure than the leading of the Holy Spirit at times.

But these things do not bother me. In ministry I have learned that we are not all in the same place of growth in the Lord at the same time in our lives. Many of us were raised in such a legalistic pattern of religion that we feel we have to earn our status with God. We have to read our Bible daily.We have to pray for a set amount of time daily. We have to do good deeds because it makes people see Christ in us.

In my ministry God has debunked all of those unhealthy religious rituals. I see God for who He is. He is infinitely happy with what He created. All of my sin was covered when Jesus died on the cross. His grace covers all of what happens from there. 1st John tells us that we should try to stop sinning. We have to learn what grace is and how to live and rest in it daily.

Early in my ministry I had not fully come to the knowledge of how big God’s grace really is. God’s grace gives me great joy in peaceful church members. It also gives me great joy in looking at a church member who is not living in the joy of Christ daily. Both types of people are beautiful and are teachable. My ministry is one that counsels the lost and the hurting.

I am afforded the opportunity to offer comfort and guidance through the Holy Spirit and the scriptures. In ministry I am able to teach about more than just a story in the Bible and go to the spiritual depths of the rich history and cultural influences of that era in order for the congregation to see the scriptures through new eyes.

Sometimes my ministry is a bit more somber as I sit with families who are losing children, husbands, and loved ones to sickness, death, and sin. This is a hard corner of the field in ministry but in these moments people are really able to see the love of Christ come through the church and see a living picture of who God created us to be.

In my ministry I have seen our son and daughter come to the saving grace of Jesus. We have seen God bring children into our home for awhile that we have been able to love on and live Christ in front of. Our ministry is our life. We do not work for earthly gain. Our occupations are appointed by God. During my ministry I have seen God take a man and open his heart and mind to grasp the spiritual truths that have changed the way I worship, and the things I have learned in ministry that God belongs in an exalted place above our thoughts and above the things we think Him to be. You take the old song “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so,” and in my ministry I have learned to change the words up a little bit to put God where He belongs. “Jesus knows me, this I love.”

We have barely even begun to embrace all of the power and tools God has for us to minister with here on this earth because American Christianity has become so casual and self absorbent. It is an easy fix though. God has given me such a joy in my heart and such a desire to share this with others. Many times in early ministry I could not get above what I did not know. There are churches full of people who just need to be fed, loved, and taught the deeper truths of God and His grace.

Image for post
Image for post
Left to right are Mabry Ford, her mom Jaclyn Dixon Ford, Jamie McHan, and Melissa Railey Knight on March 23, 2018, inside the Alapaha Baptist Church Ministry Center. McHan catered the Alapaha Easter Passion Play’s dress rehearsal supper consisting of spaghetti, oven-toasted bread, and grilled chicken fettuccine Alfredo. She spent roughly 12 hours making sure everything was super delicious. Her husband, Rev. Darryl McHan of Alapaha Baptist Chuch, delivered a welcome and invocation when “Majesty,” the 24th anniversary edition of the Passion Play, bowed two days later at the Alapaha Gym. Photography by Jeremy Roberts

© Jeremy Roberts, 2018. All rights reserved. To touch base, email jeremylr@windstream.net and mention which story led you my way. I appreciate it sincerely.

Written by

Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ someone fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store