When the Rev. Josh Hobbs, 39, presents his sermon, he emails the text to the congregation so they can follow along.
When preaching, the elder Hobbs wears a suit and tie; the younger, boots and blue jeans.
“He’s my role model,” says Josh Hobbs of his dad.
“He’s the boss,” says Clinton Hobbs of his son.
As pastors at the same Assemblies of God church in Saraland, the Hobbses are different in many ways, but in their devotion to ministry they are deeply the same.
Until March, when he set out to retire, Clinton Hobbs was the lead pastor with his son assisting as executive pastor; then Josh Hobbs was elected lead pastor. He asked his father to stay on, ministering to senior citizens.
Clinton Hobbs says he now submits to his son as faith leader; Josh Hobbs, in turn, says he looks to his father as mentor.
Each has traveled a rocky road to this sweet place in their relationship, and in their lives.
Clinton Hobbs grew up in north Florida, the son of sharecroppers.
His mother, “the spiritual leader of the family,” raised her children in a Holiness church, with its fervent prayer, faith healing and speaking in tongues, and emphasis on strict conduct, as Hobbs explains it.
Hobbs became an insurance agent and married Wanda Rowan. The couple, married 46 years, have three children in addition to Josh.
One night in 1969, driving in a bad storm, Hobbs skidded off the road and hit a mailbox. Lying in the car with broken ribs and blood in his mouth, he heard God call him.
He was 24 years old.
Three years later he answered the call to preach.
After study and ordination, he began his career as pastor of Assemblies of God churches in different towns.
Josh Hobbs, by then, was 3 years old.
Growing up as a “preacher’s kid, a ‘pk,’” says Josh, was both a blessing and a responsibility.
While he enjoyed the big, close extended family, he also felt they “lived in a glass house.”
At age 17, he signed on with the Air National Guard.
Soon after, Josh says, began a long period of “rebellious” living.
He wed, but the marriage was turbulent, painful. The couple eventually split.
Over the course of eight years, he says, his life was in turmoil.
“I wasn’t living God’s way,” he says.
And he was far afield from his mom and dad.
He fell into such despair, he says, that he grabbed his 16-gauge shotgun, went into a closet, and put the barrel under his chin.
His finger was on the trigger.
Inside his head he heard a voice, he recalls: “This isn’t the plan I have for you. I have a better plan for you.”
“I heard God,” he says.
“I knew it was the voice of God because of what my father taught me.”
He put away the shotgun and started his life anew.
Clinton Hobbs remembers the afternoon several years ago he was sitting in his pastor’s office — the one Josh now occupies — and the phone rang.
It was Josh, saying he was ready to change his ways, to journey home.
“He was,” says Clinton Hobbs, “my prodigal son.”
The journey was a challenge.
Josh enrolled at the University of Alabama in Birmingham and remarried. He and his wife, Angie, now have two children.
During that period, to pay the bills, he took a job as a janitor at a local church.
Cleaning one day at the church he felt an impulse to kneel to the floor.
“God broke me down,” he says.
He heard that voice again: “I’m calling you to the ministry. You’re an idiot if you don’t listen.”
After a period of resistance, like his dad he answered the call.
He had to study.
He also had to have his first marriage annulled by the Assemblies of God, as divorced men can not be clergy, he says.
And he had to live up to his father’s powerful image.
He soon developed his own ministry style, too.
Clinton Hobbs, for example, describes his own preaching as being “the generation after Billy Sunday, screaming, running up and down the aisle.
“I sweat, I spit, I’m a ball of fire.”
By contrast, Josh Hobbs, says his dad, “is more subdued, like a teacher.”
Each continues to learn from, and inspire, the other.
“I wear a size 11 shoe,” says the son.
“I’m size 12,” says the dad. “I can’t fill his shoes,” says the son, “but I can follow his footsteps."