When Pastor Derlon Wilson met Pastors Phillip and Diana Downs, he was not very impressed with them. In fact, Wilson said he felt the couple was nosy and needed to mind their own business.
He said a wall went up between them almost immediately, and that wall remained for years. But several months ago that wall was torn down and restoration began. Wilson said God took two churches and combined them to become one. Several weeks ago, Restoration Tabernacle Church was established, and Pastors Phillip and Diana have chosen to serve under Wilson and his wife, Naomi.
“I love these people to death,” Wilson said tearing up. “I didn’t think it was possible to love somebody so much, but I do. It is just awesome what God has done.”
Wilson said the conflict between him and the Downs occurred when he decided to pursue Naomi. Several years ago, he went through a very bitter divorce. He said during that time many of his friends turned their backs on him, because pastors don’t get divorced.
“I was very devastated when this happened,” Wilson said. “I loved my wife, but she was very difficult to live with because she wouldn’t take her medication for bipolar disease.”
He said after a short time of living the single life, he met Naomi. She considered the Downs to be her spiritual parents and valued their opinion. When Naomi informed them about Wilson they weren’t comfortable with the situation. Wilson said that is when a mutual dislike of one another was born.
“I felt like I was justified in my dislike toward Phillip and Diana, because they were trying to convince my wife (Naomi) that I was too old for her,” Wilson said noting he is indeed years older than her. “I didn’t think they should be involving themselves in our business and should keep their noses out of things.”
He said that was the beginning of the animosity and things grew progressively worse from there. He said one of the elders knew he didn’t like the Downs and played on that dislike by feeding him information, which Wilson eventually found out to be lies.
“This guy would come back and tell me things that had (supposedly) been said or done by Phillip and Diana,” Wilson said. “It caused me to dislike them even more.”
In the midst of all of this, Wilson’s church was falling apart. He said the problems within the church continued to grow, and it eventually went through a split.
“I took the few church members that I had and tried to rebuild the ministry,” Wilson said. “The Lord caused me to see people in a different manner. I began reaching out to those that most would throw away and not have anything to do with. Honestly, they were people I normally wouldn’t have reached out to, but the Lord replaced my stony, cold heart with that of a true pastor’s heart.”
He said the day the Downs walked through the doors of his church he immediately broke down.
“Here I was preaching a message to my congregation, only to look up and see Diana and Phillip walking through the door. All I could do was cry,” Wilson said.
It was at that very moment Wilson chose to make things right with the Downs.
“I stopped preaching and took the time to ask them for their forgiveness,” he said. “I felt that wall between us fall down and a great friendship was birthed that day.”
After the service, the couples decided to go to lunch. The Downs took the opportunity to tell Wilson that the Lord had moved upon them too.
While Wilson was in the process of looking for a church building to help restore his ministry, the Downs were trying to sell a building, and here they are.
“I felt like the windows of heaven had been opened to me,” Wilson said. “They agreed to lease me the building and pay the electric bill.”
Diana Downs commented on their recent partnership with Wilson by saying, “through a series of events God has gotten us to this point, and he has fulfilled his purpose.”
Diana said when they were seeking God about what they should do concerning the church, she knew the Lord wanted them to step down and sell it to someone who would use it for God’s glory.
“Once we decided to sell the building, a gentleman came to me interested in buying it,” she said. “I told him the price and he showed great interest. I then set up a time to meet with him over here (at the church) to show him around.”
As they were walking through the building, she said the gentleman kept trying to renegotiate and coming up with excuses for why he needed her to lower the price. Diana said after spending some time with the gentleman, she realized he was not the one for the building.
“I felt in my spirit that he was not supposed to have this church,” she said. “Phillip and I continued to pray about it, and that’s when the Lord put Derlon and Naomi on my heart. I told my husband that the Lord said they are supposed to have this church.”
Wilson said that day the Lord’s plan of restoration was set into motion and he hasn’t turned back since.
“The important thing to keep in mind is this is not our church or their church, but this is God’s church,” Wilson said. “We are trying to build the kingdom of God and it’s going to take all of us to get that done.”
Wilson said it has already been an amazing journey and he believes the Lord is going to do great things through this partnership.
“We’re coming into the fullness of Christ,” Diana said. “I didn’t have a problem giving this church to Derlon and serving under his leadership, because it’s what God wants.”
The Downs serve as assistant pastors, praise and worship leaders, Sunday school teachers and board members.
Restoration Tabernacle is located at 507 I-35E Frontage Road in Waxahachie. Sunday service times: Sunday school 10 a.m.; worship 10:45 a.m.; Wednesday fellowship meal 7 p.m.; Bible study 7:30-8:30 p.m. Every third Sunday the church host Fellowship Sunday beginning with communion from 10-11 a.m.; church service to follow and a lunch after the service.
Follow Melissa on Facebook.com/MelissaCadeWDL. Contact her at 469-517-1450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.