Growing up a preacher’s kid can be a life under pressure that some children and young adults just can’t take.
There is the stress of trying not to embarrass their pastor father and the knowledge that any member of the community may quickly report back any public misstep before the son can confess it.
This strain can contribute to a son not being religious at all when they reach adulthood, but some South Jersey pastors are fortunate enough to see their sons not only maintain a spiritual path, but follow in their footsteps and become preachers themselves.
Dean F. Bult, 71, of Galloway Township, who is the pastor of Mainland Baptist Church in Galloway, has seen his son Mike, 40, become the associate pastor at his same church.
His older son, Dean Jr., 44, of Galloway Township, will be the pastor of his own church, Water’s Edge in Ventnor, which starts holding services in mid-July.
Bishop Luke Witherspoon Sr., 78, has seen son, Rev. Luke A. Witherspoon II, 51, become the pastor of his own church, Living Word of Faith International in Egg Harbor Township, and his grandson, Grammy-nominated music producer Luke A.H. Witherspoon III, 29, become the minister of music at his son’s church.
Bishop Witherspoon realized that his son liked preaching at an early age.
“We were at a revival when he was 4 or 5, and he reached over to me after the main pastor had sung quite a bit, and he says to me, ‘When is he going to preach?’ He was 5-years-old when he said that. Preaching, he was around preaching all his life, so the calling for preaching and pastoring wasn’t far from footstep,” Bishop Witherspoon said.
Dean F. Bult is a second-generation pastor in his family, following his father, Peter.
As the son of a pastor, Dean F. Bult was brought up following the Scriptures. He and the other members of large family tried to be decent people. He was raised that his mission in life was to help others.
“I was sitting in church one day as a youngster, and basically, God spoke to me. This is what he wanted me to do with my life, exactly like my dad was doing as he was in the pulpit,” Dean F. Bult said. “I never got away from that. I consider that a calling because I never considered anything else primary in my life.”
Once Luke Witherspoon Sr. decided to become a pastor, his accomplishments cast a long shadow that anyone would have a hard time living up to.
Witherspoon started the Westminster Evangelistic Church in Atlantic City. In 2015, Vermont and Madison avenues in Atlantic City was named Bishop Luke Witherspoon Sr. Way in his honor.
Even though Witherspoon Sr. was such a successful pastor, Luke A. Witherspoon II said neither his father nor his mother, Juanita, put any pressure on him to live up to an expectation.
“My father was larger than life,” Luke A. Witherspoon II said. “He saw my gifts and allowed me to operate with the gifts that I had. He was an administrative genius. At the time, I was more interested in preaching, teaching and singing. ... I really wasn’t interested in administration, but when I became a pastor, I realized I should have taken more of those classes.”
A dream that escaped the Bishop Luke Witherspoon Sr. that Luke A. Witherspoon would like to see become reality is a building for his QoLife Center. His father originally had the idea of a Christian Retreat Center.
Because his father allowed him to become his own man, Luke A.Witherspoon II followed the same example when it came to his son, Luke A. H. Witherspoon III.
Witherspoon III has played music at both his grandfather’s and his father’s churches. He received his first Grammy nomination last year and is building a recording studio in Absecon, which should be open in August.
“I get all my ideas for my occupation, being a music producer, at my church,” Witherspoon III said. “Money is not what keeps me here. It’s loyalty and family. This is the family business.”
Dean F. Jr. and Mike Bult also grew up in the family business that was started by their grandfather and continued with their father.
“His (Pastor Dean F. Bult and their mother, Patty Bult) whole ministry has been it’s not about building a club. It’s about really reaching an area. ... Mike and I grew up in this,” Dean F. Bult said. “We grew up in this world where it is not about you. It’s about people.”
When Mainland Baptist Church sent buses out to pick up children during the past 36 years in Pleasantville and Atlantic City and bring them to church, Pastor Dean F. Bult’s sons were on those buses when they were younger.
“That has been a huge, huge influence on us. Whether we are in the business world or in the spiritual world, it’s all about serving, helping people, helping them to become better,” Dean F. Bult said.
Some pastors may speak one way on the pulpit and live differently at home, but Dean F. Bult said that what his father spoke, he also lived, which was a huge example for him to be able to see growing up.
“Loving God and loving people is his greatest trait. ... He loves what he does, and it’s been an incredible example to be able to see,” said Mike Bult, who added his father and his mother are warriors who are committed to what they do. “It’s truly been an example to allow me to do what I do and carry on that legacy.”