Owens honored for lifetime of ministry

by BSCNC Communications
Thursday, November 14, 2013 | 307 days old

At age 100 M.O. Owens Jr. has invested his life in advancing the gospel, serving Southern Baptists and serving North Carolina Baptists.

Owens came to North Carolina to pastor in 1944, and has been doing so ever since. He still preaches Sunday mornings at Parkwood Baptist Church in Gastonia, where he serves as pastor emeritus of the church he founded in 1963.  

Describing Owens as a “living legend,” Milton A. Hollifield Jr. presented Owens with a lifetime achievement award during a special time of recognition during the recent Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) Annual Meeting in Greensboro. Hollifield serves as BSCNC executive director-treasurer.

“M.O. Owens Jr. is one of my great heroes. I have respected and appreciated him through the years,” Hollifield said. “I am grateful for what he has meant to us as North Carolina Baptists and to the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Owens pastored First Baptist Church in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and a church in Florida before moving to North Carolina. He served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Marion for 10 years before becoming pastor of First Baptist Church in Lenoir, where he served until he moved to Gastonia to pastor East Side Baptist Church.

A South Carolina native, Owens is a graduate of Furman University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Few people have had more influence in helping move the Southern Baptist Convention, its seminaries and the BSCNC back to its conservative theological roots than Owens.

“I am grateful to have served Southern Baptist churches for 75 years and the privilege God has given me,” Owens said. “I am grateful for so many friends across the country. God has blessed us. God has been so good to me.”

Don Warren, a member of Parkwood, called Owens a man of integrity. “When I think of M.O. Owens I think of a man who lives his Christian life by not compromising before God and man. People see that in him and recognize that he is a follower of Jesus Christ.”

Warren is grateful for the dedicated, visionary leadership of Owens. “Every church M.O. has ever pastored has grown, and every church he pastored exceeded its budget,” he said.

Warren encouraged North Carolina Baptists to follow Owens’ example of loving and treasuring God’s Word.

“The biggest thing that any pastor could learn from M.O. is to follow the Word of God without deviation, and not try to make it adaptable to the trends of the day,” Warren said. “M.O. believes every single word in the Bible. He lives it. He preaches it. And that is the basis of his success.”

Jeff Long, senior pastor of Parkwood, said leaders such as Owens paved the way for the current generation, taking risks for the sake of the gospel.

“The way he treats people, the way he preaches the Word, the way he approaches life with grace and dignity - he is truly a godly man,” he said. “If you ever interact with him it’s evident from the very beginning. And it’s not age; it’s having spent a life walking with God.”

Owens has served on the BSCNC Board of Directors and its various committees, and also served as president of the Pastors’ Conference for two years. Owens was instrumental in the process of buying property for the NC Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell and for Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, where he taught for a number of years. On the national level, Owens was engaged with the ministries of the Baptist Sunday School Board, Home Mission Board and Education Commission.

Throughout his ministry, Owens never strayed from his commitment and passion to tell people about the life-transforming message of the gospel.

“Just preach the gospel,” he said. “That’s all that matters.”