Rev. Ronald L. Bobo – who delivered his last sermon at West Side Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday, January 13 after 32 years as its senior pastor and 40 years in the ministry overall – asked his son, Rev. Charles Bobo Sr., to join him on staff at West Side several years ago, looking toward this moment.
“One of the major reasons I am leaving – it’s not that anyone asked me to leave or for medical reasons – was I recognized the necessity of reaching the next generation,” Rev. Ronald L. Bobo told The American. “And, as we age, we are not able to reach that generation that is coming on as easily. I want this church not only to survive, but to thrive, so we need someone of that younger generation.”
His son, who had been the first African-American campus minister at Southeastern Missouri State University, left a church in St. Louis that he had founded, The Meeting Place, to apprentice at West Side. Early last year, the West Side congregation, which has an active membership of about 1,800, overwhelmingly elected him to succeed his father as senior pastor.
“He is able to reach people in an extraordinary way, especially younger people,” Rev. Bobo said of his son. “He is always inventive, imaginative, always doing something to catch people’s attention. He loves people, and people love him.”
Ironically, the elder Bobo has another church position lined up, but not as senior pastor. Rather, he will be supporting and guiding a younger pastor who is his son’s age, the Rev. John Tolbert, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Pontiac, Michigan. Tolbert was still a baby when Bobo left his hometown of Detroit, but he later became pastor of Bobo’s home church, People’s Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit. Their friendship grew from there.
“He offered me the opportunity to come work alongside him,” Bobo said. “I will be helping him as an older person on staff, doing some mentoring with him and doing whatever I can to be of help.”
In fact, Bobo has been training pastors all over the world for many years. He chairs the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc. and serves as executive secretary of the Foreign Mission Board of the Missionary Baptist State Convention of Missouri. He has licensed or ordained more than 125 preachers of the Gospel. That work continues.
Next month he will travel to the Republic Vanuatu, near Fiji in the South Pacific – “a country inhabited by black people in the middle of the Pacific,” Bobo said – to teach pastors homiletics, the art of preaching. He was recommended by his friend Miyon Chung of Morling College in Australia. “They needed people who are not pure academics, who been on the front line doing practical ministry, and I kind of fit that area,” Bobo said.
Later in the year, he will travel to Uganda to teach pastors along with a medical team that will include Dr. Denise Hooks-Anderson, The St. Louis American’s medical accuracy editor. He now has traveled to 32 nations (on every continent except Antarctica) “teaching, preaching training leaders and pastors in various aspects of ministry,” Bobo said. “I have been very fortunate to have been afforded a variety of opportunities in life and ministry to travel and to minister in various places around the world.”
But no place has meant quite as much to him as the church he is now leaving, at least in a leadership capacity.
“I love West Side,” Bobo said. “I am grateful for 32 years. The people at West Side and this community have been wonderful to me and my family.”
Bobo preached his last sermon as senior pastor on Sunday, January 13, at the 10 a.m. worship service at the church’s City Campus at 4675 Page Blvd.
For more information, call 314-535-9002 or visit http://www.westsidembc.org.