UPDATE: The pastor of one of the largest Chattanooga churches unexpectedly died Monday. Pastor Wayne Barber, a longtime pastor and community leader in Chattanooga, died weeks short of his 73rd birthday. He had been on medical leave since June, when he underwent spinal cord surgery. He was expected to begin preaching again in December.

For over 20 years, Wayne Barber devoted his life to the Woodland Park Baptist Church, the congregation, and the Chattanooga community. For the people who knew him best, they say there is more to celebrate than grieve.

Pastor Wayne Barber's final sermon included a lesson Jan Silvious will carry with her the rest of her life, a lesson on being strong and courageous. “He taught that sitting in a chair where his body was already giving way, he was sitting and his voice was not as strong, but his last words were strong and courageous,” said Silvious.

The long time pastor died Monday while on medical leave. For 20 years he officiated weddings, funerals and weekly church services. “Very unique, brilliant in the scriptures but very gifted in communications with the average person,” said Senior Associate Pastor Eddie Rasnake.

It didn't matter who you were. He welcomed people from all walks of life into his church and into his own life. “He was just walking love, if he came into a room you knew you were going to be loved and accepted,” said Silvious. “He did life with a very positive mind and trusting God was going to do something special because God had a plan and he was going along with that plan.”

He was a people person who developed genuine friendships. “Often shared stories of goofy things he has done and mistakes he made. People identified with that very well,” said Rasnake.

It is a heartbreaking loss for many as they come together where their faith is the strongest. “Whatever trial comes our way we know that God has grace and wisdom to go along with it. He is enough to go through all those things.”

As they fulfill their pastor's final wish, “so what can we be? We are going on. We are going to be strong and courageous,” said Silvious.

Funeral arrangements are still pending but church officials say it will be held Woodland Park Baptist Church and it will be open to the public.

The pastor of one of the largest Chattanooga churches unexpectedly died Monday.

According to Woodland Park Baptist Church's Facebook page. Sr. Pastor Dr. Wayne Barber died on Monday morning. The church says they did not have details on how Barber died, but will update the community through the family. 

The church says they have dedicated room 169 at the church as a prayer space for Tuesday and Wednesday from 8am-6pm.

Dr. Wayne Barber is survived by his wife, Diana, son, Steven, and daughter, Stephanie.