The Rev. Douglas Slaughter kicked off the three-night revival at Second Baptist Church of Aiken by addressing critics of his decision to invite Wright.
Slaughter, who has known Wright since the 1980s, said people should "thank God for the spirit and the gift of God that is preaching the sermon for us."
Obama, who was a member of Wright's Chicago church for several years, distanced himself from Wright's remarks and eventually ended his relationship with his former pastor.
Wright shed some light on his moments in the media by weaving them into his message on Psalm 23 and how the story of King David is reflected in his own life.
"David had hopes that were not realized, and so have I. David had hurts that would not go away, and so have I. And guess what else: David had some haters that put him through hell. Folk who didn't like him for no reason at all. Folks who didn't like him, jealous of him, haters, because of what they heard about him, read about him, who looked down on him for what he did for a living, haters," he said. "And then some other folks who kissed up when he changed from being a keeper of animals to a king over Israel. ... Everybody hanging around you ain't pulling for you."
Slaughter said watching his friend go through difficult times has been painful. "He (Wright) carried me when I couldn't carry myself," said Slaughter.
He said Wright's ministry is prophetic and "prophets have never been popular."
"The real test isn't always what's popular," he said.
Wright's message on Psalm 23 will continue through Wednesday. Second Baptist Church of Aiken is at 425 Hampton Ave. N.W.