As our nation commemorates Black History month, I’d like to introduce a stand-out follower of Jesus from early in our nation’s history.
George Lisle (or Liele), sometimes called George Sharp, was born a slave in Burke County, Virginia, in 1750 to parents Liele and Nancy. He was sold to a slave master in Georgia, Henry Sharp, who was a British loyalist that served as an officer during the American Revolution. Sharp was also a deacon of Buckhead Creek Baptist Church.
It was there, in 1773, while listening to his pastor Matthew Moore preach, that George Lisle came to put his trust in Jesus Christ. After being baptized, George began to read hymns and encourage fellow slaves in their faith.
Upon noticing George’s zeal for God’s Word and his leadership gifts, Buckhead Creek Baptist Church licensed George to preach, making Lisle the first black licensed Baptist preacher in America. Subsequently, in order to use his gifts more freely, Henry Sharp granted George his freedom from slavery. This eventually led to Lisle becoming the first Baptist foreign missionary.
George Lisle spent two years preaching to slaves on plantations along the Savannah River in Georgia and South Carolina. During that time, Lisle gathered a group of new believers in Savannah, GA, and formed what is believed to be the first black church in America. Lisle served as the first appointed elder and preacher.
At the close of the Revolutionary War, Lisle traveled to Jamaica as the servant of English officer Col. Kirkland. Accompanying him was his wife and four children. Upon arrival, he began preaching in the street. Eventually he organized a Baptist Church starting out with 4 other people. Seven years later he’d baptized 500 people and by 1791 the church purchased 3 acres of land in Kingsland.
In spite of a law in Jamaica from 1805 to 1814 forbidding preaching to slaves, Lisle continued to preach. It is said that by 1814, Lisle’s efforts led to about 8,000 people turning to Christ in Jamaica, earning him the name “slavery’s prophet of deliverance.” Lisle died in Jamaica in 1828.
Today we give thanks for a servant of God who lived boldly and overcame great odds. Because of George Lisle’s integrity and leadership, many more people will be in heaven.