A white Texas pastor and businessman who has been described as the “epitome of faithfulness” was recently chosen by a predominantly black congregation to be their leader.
"I thank God for this moment in time that is unique and different," Pastor Jack Teeler told NBCDFW at his inauguration to assume his new role at Harvey Avenue Baptist Church. "It's certainly different for me."
“I didn't even apply for the job. They called me. They said God put it in their heart,” recalled Teeler, who is also president and CEO of Eyecrafters in Fort Worth, an eyewear and eye care retailer.
For 53 years, the church was led by Rev. Robert Rogers, who passed away earlier this summer.
It was shortly after Rogers’ death that the deacons at Harvey Avenue Baptist Church reached out to Teeler who was serving as an assistant pastor at West Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Como. They asked him to preach for one Sunday and they were pleased. Members felt a strong connection.
"Pastor Teeler? I have to pack a sack lunch for you all," Shirley Mayes, 77, the church’s secretary who worked with Rogers for 50 years said. "I could tell you so much about him. He's a great, great, loving, caring man."
Rev. Wendell Campbell, who leads West Mount Moriah and has known Teeler for a decade called him “the epitome of faithfulness."
While working with Campbell, Teeler said they enjoyed a good relationship.
"I was happy," Teeler said. "I was doing what I needed to do. I was his (Campbell's) assistant."
Raised by a single mother, Teeler worked at a gas station as a youngster, earning $50 a week to help with the family income, the Fort Worth Business Press reported. In addition to his preaching, Teeler is also known to regularly do motivational speaking engagements. In 2016, he and his wife, Brenda, who is African American, donated 50 pairs of Ray Ban sunglasses to the Fort Worth Police Department.
While he was raised in a predominantly white church, Teeler, who got married to his wife more than 27 years ago, decided to visit a black church a few years after his marriage and it changed his life.
"The way an African-American preaches is harmonious," he said. "It has a different sound to it than being boring. 'God will do this, God will ...' They have a good way of saying, 'The Lord will be with you, no matter what you're going through.'"
Despite the uniqueness of his situation as the leader of a black church, Teeler believes society can learn to accept each other across racial lines.
“I believe here I'm a person, they're a person," Teeler said. "I don't believe they look at the color of the skin. If they had any prejudice in their mind or heart at all, I do not believe they would have called a white man here to preach."
He further added: "Our motto here is no matter what color your skin, we are all kin. We put the labels on them. We call it the white church, the black church, the Hispanic church. We call it that. In the Bible it's only called 'church.'"