Journey continues for Early pastor, church
Let us not grow weary or become discouraged in doing good, for at the property time we will reap, if we do not give in.
EARLY — Speaking with a visitor In the small, comfortable sanctuary at Life Point Baptist Church in Early on a recent afternoon, Leland Acker referred to the scripture in the New Testament book of Galatians.
“That’s been the definition of my ministry,” Acker said as he seamlessly covered a wide range of topics including the Bible, the history of the 12-year-old Life Point church and a dash of politics.
On Sunday mornings, Acker, 42, is in the pulpit, preaching. He’s been the church’s pastor since it started in 2008 — known then as Grace Point Baptist Church — with a group of families meeting in Leland and Jessica Acker’s living room.
Acker has soldiered on through pastoring and career changes, struggles and blessings. Acker has never stood before large congregations but he’s never given up on what he sees as the church’s mission: “to fulfill the Great Commission by preaching the gospel to all people, baptizing the believers and then discipling the believers to follow the Lord and to learn all things that the Lord has taught us,” Acker said.
After moving out of the Acker family’s home, the congregation met in several locations before settling in October 2018 into its current home, a 3,200-square-foot metal building on Sunrise Drive. It is near the Early middle school and elementary school campuses.
The congregation is small, with attendance on Sunday mornings around 20.
Acker, who previously worked in radio, works at the State Farm Insurance office of Matt Williams, where he specializes in life insurance, financial services and health products. He is pursuing an online business degree through Stephen F. Austin University and is a member of the Early City Council.
A friendly, humorous man, Acker became serious — not preachy — as he noted the only solution for a divided nation and wounded, hurting people is the gospel.
“The gospel teaches we have been cleansed and delivered from sins if we repent and believe,” Acker said.
Acker is still influenced by a speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1957 in an Alabama church titled “Love Your Enemies.”
The speech was “powerful,” Acker said, noting that “love has within it a certain redemptive quality. What’s happening in today’s political discourse is not love.”
Republicans and Democrats alike are no longer trying to “persuade and convince,” but are caught up in efforts to “defeat and destroy each other,” Acker said.
“I don’t think either party can claim itself as God’s party.”
Acker grew up in the East Texas town of Jacksonville. He and Jessica were students at Stephen F. Austin when they met in 1998.
He knows exactly when they actually became a couple: while riding in a church van in December 1998. They were among a group that traveled to see a display of Christmas lights in the town of Marshall.
“We just sat next to each other,” Acker said, noting that there was a “mutual understanding” that they were going to be a couple. In Marshall, Acker held Jessica’s hand and even managed to book a carriage ride.
Leland and Jessica were married in 1999 and are the parents of six, including three adopted children.
In 2004, Acker believed God was calling him to ministry, and Acker enrolled in the Texas Baptist Institute. He graduated in 2006 with an associate degree in Bible.
After pastoring a small East Texas church, Acker believed God was calling the family to Brownwood, where Acker has had ties and has an ancestor buried at Greenleaf Cemetery.
The Life Point building on Sunrise was constructed thanks to a large helping of volunteer labor. Not all of the tasks, of course, could be completed by volunteers. Without the volunteer labor, the building would have cost around $400,000 to construct. Because of the free labor, the congregation — which operated on a “pay as you go” basis and did not incur debt — was able to move in for about $100,000, Acker said.
“God continues to bless us,” he said.