Greene reaches 30-year mark at First Baptist Church
The Rev. Floyd Greene says his long relationship with First Baptist Church and its members has been built on mutual respect and trust. "Trust is the heart of any relationship," says Greene. "And we've been able to build that trusting relationship early-on, and build on it down through the years." Being patient and having a willingness to understand the dynamics of First Baptist Church and the entire community allowed Greene to nurture a long-lasting mutual trust, he says. Greene says he's always tried to respect the traditions and values of First Baptist Church, while also building core values that are compatible to Christianity. "We've tried to develop a holistic approach to ministry," explains Greene, 73. ".(We) try to do things that's going to bring us together into interpersonal relationships every day. And I think that's been one of the things that have kept me involved communitywide." One of his intentions as pastor at First Baptist Church was helping to build a cohesive community where everyone feels like they have a voice and opportunity. "What I've tried to do is open doors of access and equality to the point where we can collectively build mutual respect in the community," says Greene. He says the large economic disparity among families living in Versailles and Woodford County does challenge him as a church pastor trying to level the playing field. Anyone living at the lower-end of poverty - regardless of their race - has a variety of challenges in their lives. Still, Greene sees hope for future generations. "I'm very excited about the new, younger leadership (in the community) as (being) more aggressive, more open to transformation and change. And I'm very optimistic," says Greene. Yet, he also knows race remains an issue among those living in Woodford County and elsewhere. Given the recent racial upheaval in this country, Greene says people must understand that they need each other. "Once we come to realize how desperately we need each other then we'll better protect each other," he explains. As a former police officer himself, Greene understands how a crisis situation gives someone little or no time to think before taking action. "I've been put in situations where you just react," he says, "and sometimes those reactions are not the best decisions to make, but I think self-preservation is one of the laws of humankind." He also understands - through his own experiences in law enforcement - how some individuals do not have the self-discipline to manage power and react appropriately to a crisis situation, "and I think that happens a lot. That's why I'd like to see more diversity training and crisis intervention" to better prepare police officers for unforeseen situations. His ongoing involvement with the annual Martin Luther King Day march and service in Versailles, as well as his work with the Ministerial Association of Woodford County and other social ministries were great experiences that Greene has embraced during his 30 years at First Baptist Church. "At the end of the day," he says, "it's all about building family and community." First Baptist Church will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Rev. Greene and his wife, Drexel, during an appreciation banquet at Embassy Suites in Lexington on Friday, July 15, at 6 p.m. She has always been a vital part of his ministry in the community - most visibly as an assistant principal and interim principal at Woodford County High School. "We have found a common goal in that we are both concerned about building community and having a healthy place to live, and for our children and grandchildren," says Greene. He says family means everything to him, and he only wishes he had not sometimes put church ahead of his own family. Greene values any opportunity "to pour into them truth - especially in a culture where people come to believe there is no absolute truth. That's one of the big challenges of our time is to get people who are living in illusion to see the reality of truth." Growing up in Western Kentucky, Greene knew he didn't want to become a sharecropper like his father. So instead he chose to become the first person in his family to graduate from high school. He'd grown up knowing that church was more than a Sunday morning experience. It was a way of life. Being saved at age 13 became a transformational moment in Greene's life. But the Civil Rights movement was an anxious time for someone who graduated from high school in 1960. So when he was unsuccessful in finding a job, Greene joined the Army. "That was quite an experience for a 17-year-old who'd never been out of (his small) town before," he says. Greene was a police officer and a very successful insurance agent before an insatiable desire to share the love of God and the good news of salvation eventually overshadowed all of his other future plans. Greene says he served as a church deacon, a Sunday school superintendent and wrote sermons for other preachers before surrendering to the call to become a pastor in 1971. A native of Hopkinsville, Greene began his tenure as the eighth pastor of First Baptist Church in May 1986 - a year when tax reform was changing how churches could help people-in-need through benevolent ministries. Only two of his predecessors left First Baptist Church before their deaths during its 160-year history. So Greene's 30-year tenure isn't unusual, "not at all," he says. Because of what he describes as a divine call to the ministry, Greene says the long history of stability in pastors at First Baptist Church was appealing to him. "I didn't come with the intention of leaving," says Greene, who had been a pastor at The Greater Antioch Baptist Church in Fulton for 14 years before coming to First Baptist Church. "I had envisioned a greater ministry than has been able to unfold, but overall I think it's been a good run." First Baptist had planned to develop a new church campus on 25 acres along Clifton Road. In addition to much needed classrooms for educational programs, two transition centers - one for people with mental disabilities and another for crisis intervention - were planned for the campus. "There's still hope that, if not myself, then the person that follows me, will go ahead with that ministry," says Greene. The economic downturn of 2008 led to those relocation plans being put on hold. "So we've turned our focus then to refurbishing this (church facility built in 1927) as best we could and developing space," says Greene. He describes the recent installation of a $30,000 elevator as a blessing for those with physical disabilities. While First Baptist churches in most small communities were predominantly white, Greene says Versailles was unique - and confusing to some - because its First Baptist Church had an African-American congregation. "Now, it's not so bad," he explains, "because we have a diversified congregation. We have white members and some Hispanic folks come" to our Sunday morning service, with a typical turnout of 160 or 170 people. Even today, Greene says he's "scared to death" whenever he preaches on Sunday mornings. "You're speaking on behalf of God - the creator . That's an awesome task," he explains. Greene says he's been considering when he should retire over the last few years. "You don't want to turn loose too quick and you don't want to hold on too long," he says. ".When it becomes a burden rather than a blessing I think that's when I'll know it's time." And that has not happened yet. Greene's longtime friend, the Rev. C. B. Akins of First Baptist Church Bracktown in Lexington, will serve as guest preacher during this Sunday morning's worship service at First Baptist Church in Versailles beginning at 11. For tickets to Friday's banquet honoring the Rev. Greene and his wife, or additional information, call (859) 227-5274.