CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Dozens lined up at Hickory Grove Baptist Church's North Campus Sunday morning to spend a few minutes with the man who many have called their pastor for decades.
Dr. Joe Brown stood in the front of the church, shaking hands with members, taking pictures and doing what he has done for 26 years.
Last year, Brown made the decision to step down as pastor of the church he has led since in 1984. At that time, the church's membership was around 2,100.
Brown leaves the church with more than 17,000 members, making it the largest Southern Baptist church in the Carolinas.
Once the Sunday service started, Brown was introduced by his youngest child, his son Timothy, who is the pastor of the McKee Road Baptist Church.
"I could never fill the shoes of my father, because as you can see he's still wearing them," Timothy Brown said.
The younger pastor, who was 4 when his father moved to Charlotte from Kentucky, also said his father has more integrity in his finger than most men have in their waists.
Pastor Joe Brown walked up to the pulpit to an emotional standing ovation, and said, "As I sat here this morning listening, here's what I thought: This is my life," referring to the congregation.
After an emotional and stirring last sermon, Brown and others ventured to the church's main campus on W.T. Harris for his final sermon as pastor. Brown and his wife Teresa were honored by the church he has lead for 26 years as a "Celebration of Faithfulness."