When Reverend Kenneth Kicklighter reached the bottom steps of the Alapaha Gym platform after delivering an awe-inspiring message, the crowd response literally floored him. The keynote speaker for the annual Alapaha Station Celebration Community Worship Service, Kicklighter suddenly realized that the power of 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 lack of community spirit plaguing many small towns across America. It might seem like a formidable task, but when two or three individuals set aside some time, put aside minor differences, and ask for God’s leadership, much is possible.
Kicklighter has been the dedicated minister of Alapaha Community Church of God since 2000. Currently residing in Tifton with his devoted wife, Rita, the good-natured pastor and drummer in his spare time has been experiencing this burning desire for spiritual unity in his heart lately.
He graciously agreed to go on the record and explain exactly what steps Alapaha can take in order to remedy this burgeoning, almost universal issue. Along the well-trod path, Kicklighter also takes quality time to discuss how he spent his Saturday afternoons growing up and his miraculous Christian transformation. The uplifting journey begins below.
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. This is 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.
Regarding the short term, 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.
- DON’T GO ANYWHERE YET! Retired Alapaha Fire Chief Steve Brown risked his life on multiple occasions to protect innumerable citizens of South Georgia. Shortly after his family moved to the friendly Alapaha community and settled near the bustling town’s railroad tracks in the early ‘60s, early one morning his father was awakened by the whistle of an approaching train. Venturing inside their small living room, he quickly realized the house was on fire. The distinguished gentleman sheds further light on the rest of that excruciating morning in an engrossing feature entitled “Walk a Mile in His Shoes: In Step with Former Alapaha Fire Chief Steve Brown.”
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Exclusive Interview: Like Bro. Kenneth Kicklighter, Beach Boy Dennis Wilson honed his drumming skills during the swinging ’60s. Wilson was a late bloomer compared to his mega talented brothers (i.e. Brian and Carl), but he ultimately emerged as the Beach Boys’ most underrated songwriter, producer, and vocalist. A Dennis-led performance was an emotionally wrenching experience, combining deeply personal lyrics, a majestic yet delicate instrumental track, and a vocal so weathered as to be almost ravaged. On the anniversary of what would have been Dennis’ 68th birthday, a slew of Beach Boys experts documented the drummer’s tragic trajectory and legacy among modern musicians in “Like Heat from a Blast Furnace: The Sheer Raw Force of Beach Boy Dennis Wilson.” It is required reading into the window of a tortured yet extremely gifted soul.
Further Reading: The Sweet Inspirations were one of the premiere female vocal harmony quartets of the 20th century. The Sweets began their career backing other artists on tour and on record. Best known for supporting Elvis Presley in concert, along with Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and The Bee Gees, the group’s most unified statement as an album is “Estelle, Myrna and Sylvia”. Produced by David Porter (his songwriting partner was Isaac Hayes), the album was recorded at the nadir of Stax Records’ influence on popular music in 1973 and received little support from the label. To learn more about the definitely underrated album, as well as the Sweets’ essential songs, head on over to “‘Estelle, Myrna and Sylvia’: The Perfect Sweet Inspirations Playlist”.
- Exclusive Interview No. 3: Rodney Dillard was the lead singer of ’60s bluegrass-folk-rock band The Dillards, better known to classic television buffs as one quarter of the hillbilly Darling Family on the beloved Andy Griffith Show. He granted a heartfelt interview with this writer regarding his long and winding path to becoming a born-again Christian. Dillard originally grew up in a Baptist church in Salem, Mo. But the bright lights of show biz beckoned, and he lived the rock and roll lifestyle in Los Angeles for decades. In essence, he followed the example of the prodigal son, attempting to run away from God. For the rest of the story, visit “The Christian Walk: Rodney’s Life-Changing Experience.”
Exclusive Interview No. 4: Ken Mansfield’s name may not immediately ring a bell, but his notable accomplishments most certainly will. The proud son of an Idahoan lumberjack, Mansfield ultimately moved to California and became a highly respected A&R representative for Capitol Records, navigating the careers of such luminaries as The Beach Boys, The Band, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, Jimmy Buffett, Glen Campbell, and “Ode to Billie Joe” chanteuse Bobbie Gentry. The Beatles even befriended Mansfield and put him in charge of Apple Records’ American division in 1968. In a candid two-part conversation, the born-again Christian motivational speaker revisits his colorful past, along the way revealing the Elvis Presley meeting that nearly happened and his recent struggle with cancer.
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