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double trouble

by John Arlon Hawke

THEY LOOK LIKE A PAIR OF GRAYING HIGH SCHOOL FULLBACKS in dark suits, white shirts, matching ties, and wing-tipped shoes they once purchased from the Progressive Shoe Store in Pontotoc, Mississippi.

Converted in a tent revival on June 11, 1954, they answered the call to preach in 1956 and were ordained together at age 20 in 1957. Two years ago, after nearly five decades in ministry, they retired, came home, and began co-pastoring Liberty FWB Church in Ayden, North Carolina.

The irrepressible Worthington twins, Milton and Melvin, built homes on the 600-acre farm where they grew up—Peaceful Acres. The 68-year-old grandfathers still greet each day with the energy of beagle pups on a rabbit trail.

M & M Magic

Their double-trouble image began in the first grade when a teacher demanded the twins’ middle names. Since neither had one, their mother invented names for them to take back to school. Milton got his father’s first name, Melvin his father’s middle name—which is how they became Milton Wilbur and Melvin LeroyWorthington.

The brothers tag-team preached more than 250 revivals and conferences, sometimes dazzling audiences by switching pulpit roles in mid-sermon.

Older brother Milton (by about 15 seconds) pastored five churches in five states, finishing with 26 years at Central FWB Church in Royal Oak, Michigan. Melvin also pastored five churches in five states before serving 23 years as executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists.

The harmonizing twins are half of the Musical Messengers, a quartet they joined in 1956. But what they do best is preach expository sermons laced with alliteration.

Farmers and Doctors

The gentlemen farmers cast long shadows on the denominational landscape. Milton served 12 years on the Sunday School and Church Training Board and now chairs the Board of International Missions. Melvin was assistant moderator of the National Association and secretary of the International Association of Free Will Baptist Churches.

Both brothers earned doctorates. Melvin sports two—the Doctor of Theology (1974) and the Doctor of Education (1998). Milton took the scenic route before claiming his Doctor of Ministry degree (2004).

The fiercely competitive M&M boys, who might have made the pro golf circuit if they had not given themselves to ministry, live a long tee shot from Ayden Golf Club and hit the greens five days a week...after mending fences, cutting hay and chasing stray calves.

Both won the FFA’s North Carolina Farmer (1955) and American Farmer degrees (1957), the only time members of the same family won both awards. While in Kansas City
to receive their American Farmer degrees, they rode in an elevator with Elvis Presley.  Milton denies stepping on Elvis’ blue suede shoes.

Now that the doctor-farmers are co-pastors, Melvin says, “At least we have good preaching every other Sunday!”

Paying the Mortgage

Thirty years ago Milton, Melvin, and Anne (Mrs. Melvin) Worthington chose to participate in the Free Will Baptist retirement plan. When the three retired at age 65, they took joint lifetime annuities.

Milton says, “The money was tax-free going in, and it’s tax-free coming out as long as we use it for housing. That’s what my retirement check does every month—it underwrites my housing costs. If I could do it over again, I would and gladly.”

Melvin responds, “I got in the program because I did not have an IRA and needed a retirement plan. After I became executive secretary, I promoted the denominational retirement plan among our people. I just wish I’d gotten in 20 years sooner.”

Anne worked in the Executive Office while Melvin was executive secretary. She says, “My retirement check will provide monthly income for me as long as I live.”

Dick Tracy Element

The M&M twins mirror each other with but a single exception. One twin earned a diploma from the Imperial Detective Academy. Which one? Why, Dr. Worthington, of course.

John Arlon Hawke is a freelance writer and journalist with a wide range of publishing experience. He currently makes his home just south of Nashville, TN.

To find out more about the Free Will Baptist Board of Retirement, call them at (877) 767-7738.

©2005 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists