When Reverend Kenneth Kicklighter reached the bottom steps of the Alapaha Gym platform after delivering an awe-inspiring message, the crowd response floored him. A three-time keynote speaker for the annual Alapaha Station Celebration Community Worship Service in South Georgia, Kicklighter suddenly realized that God’s Word had generated a powerful spiritual bond that no man could tear asunder.
Regardless of denomination, folks wanted to join together in fellowship and address the fundamental lack of community spirit plaguing America. It might seem like a formidable task, but when two or three individuals set aside time, put aside minor differences, and ask for God’s leadership, considerably more is possible.
Kicklighter is the pastor of Orchard Church of God in Morven. From 2000 to February 2017 he presided over Alapaha Church of God until Bro. Don Fender, formerly of Fruitland Church of God in Echols County, assumed the leadership position. A resident of Tifton with devoted wife Rita, the good-natured preacher and unforeseen flam-bammin’ drummer clings to a burden for spiritual unity.
He graciously agreed to go on the record and explain what steps the little community with a big heart can take in order to remedy this universal issue. Along the well-trodden path, Kicklighter also sheds light on how he spent his Saturday afternoons coming of age in the segregated Deep South and his miraculous Christian transformation. The uplifting journey begins now.
The Kenneth Kicklighter Interview
Tell us about your childhood.
I was born and raised in a little town called Claxton, about 50 miles west of Savannah. My parents’ home was on the borderline with the black and white section. All my friends around there were black.
I’ve always enjoyed playing drums. On Saturday afternoons I’d get my drums and set ’em up on our big double wide carport. I’d be flam bammin’ around, incorporating that old black shuffle so popular in the ’60s. I’d get me a bass player and a keyboard player and we’d play all kind of funky soul. Folks would come out of the liquor store, located two doors up from us, and they’d be dancing out in the parking lot.
When and how did God call you to step into his ministry?
The calling was not miraculous but the conversion was. God saved me in the middle of a drug party when I was 19 years old. I walked in stoned but walked out changed. It was totally unexpected. That’s a story within itself.
During the next two years God just dealt with me about the ministry. It was nothing I sought, but it became something that just consumed my thoughts and I could not escape it. When I decided to accept the call there was a sweet peace in my soul. I knew then that it was real.
What impressed you the most about the Alapaha Station Celebration Community Worship Service?
The response. November 2013 was my third time preaching the service in about 13 years. Never have I witnessed the singleness of heart in spirit as I did this past time. People were excited.
I was swamped with people wanting to make plans and offer ideas of working together as soon as I reached the bottom step from the platform. They weren’t excited about me — they were excited about God’s Word.
There seemed to be a real spiritual connection with the people and the Holy Spirit’s message. It seemed that the crowd was not as good as it had been, but the spirit of unity and need for God was greater than I have ever witnessed.
How can Alapaha come together in unity?
Our church has been doing a lot of praying. I have personally been seeking God very, very strongly. One thing I believe the Holy Spirit really has planted in my spirit is that as long as we’re spiritually divided, we’ll be mince meat for the enemy. But if we can ever come together and consolidate as the body of Christ, we will be a formidable foe for the enemy.
For the short term, let’s start with various forms of unity services — some for the churches and some with an evangelistic motif. We can unify the body of Christ by getting to know one another better.
This can be accomplished mainly by fellowships to begin with. Let it be casual and on grounds we all find common. We all have different styles of worship, but there is common ground. We need to come together casually and express our Christian faith with one another in a controlled forum.
Even in any one given local church of the same denomination this reality exists. This is why there are splits and divisions. We need to focus on our commonalities and become familiar and comfortable with one another as fellow Christians and brothers and sisters in Christ.
I was raised in the Methodist and Baptist churches, respectively. As Baptists go, our family went to the Progressive Primitive Baptist Church in the morning and then attended the Hardshell in the afternoon. I have been in just about all the varieties of Baptist churches.
When I truly gave my life to Christ, I became associated with the Church of God and the Pentecostal movement. I believe I am a mix of everything I have been a part of. This is why I feel very comfortable wherever I go — because I am familiar with them. When we become familiar we become comfortable.
Have you considered doing a presentation of Pentecostalism for folks who know little about the religion?
Funny you should mention that. I would love to show others how and why we do things the way we do. Once I sat down with a Catholic priest and asked him, “Why do you believe what you do?” For three hours he talked and I listened. He never asked me why I believed the way I did, and neither of us tried to convert the other. A lot of things I never could digest doctrinally, but I came away with a healthy understanding.
I would like for people to hear why other churches do as they do and where it originated. In my studies I have come to realize that we are only separated by trivial things. O Lord, don’t get me started on narrow mindedness. It is killing our kingdom work.
Understanding one another is what we desperately need. When the Apostles entered the Jewish synagogues the Scripture states that they reasoned among them the Scriptures. Multitudes of souls were brought to Christ through this process. We cannot accept and be comfortable with what we understand.
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