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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

‘Energetic, caring’ pastor Cheek retires after three decades of ministry at Northridge Churchcomment (0)

March 19, 2009

By Scott Bush


A 30-year pastorate certainly has its joys — Ken Cheek would be the first to say so. Cheek retired Jan. 18 after three decades of ministry to Northridge Baptist Church, Northport, in Tuscaloosa Baptist Association.

“When a pastor stays for a long time, the people in the church become family,” he said. “We’ve seen children grow up and get married and have children of their own. It’s been wonderful to be part of their lives through the years.”

Cheek began his journey with the Northridge Baptist family in 1978, when the church was located in
inner-city Tuscaloosa.

Then known as West End Baptist Church, it had a thriving ministry that included a private school with more than 400 students. During the early days at West End Baptist, Cheek gained a reputation as a caring pastor and an energetic and innovative leader.

He launched new programs for children, senior adults and the homebound and led the church to record levels of missions giving and involvement. Through his ministry at the church and school, Cheek led more than 300 students to profess faith in Christ.

Chris Thaxton, a charter member and deacon at both West End and Northridge, said, “From the very beginning, Brother Ken has been a wonderful pastor, an excellent preacher and a man whose heart is to share the gospel.”

Thaxton was on the board of the school in 1988 when a gunman invaded the school and held 26 children and a teacher hostage for 12 hours. School and church officials worked alongside city, state and federal law enforcement and Gov. Guy Hunt’s office to resolve the incident without injury. Thaxton remembers Cheek’s calming influence during the crisis and his pastoral care of the community afterward.

In 1988, the church relocated to a 12-acre campus in Northport and changed its name to Northridge Baptist. Here Cheek started new ministries to care for families with special-needs children and reach out to new residents in the community.

He also organized a multihousing outreach to people living in local apartment complexes, deaf ministry and unique children’s program called Caraway Street.

His gifts for ministry also opened doors elsewhere.

From 1983 to 2004, Cheek served as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel before his retirement.

He held a number of positions with Tuscaloosa Association, the Alabama Baptist State Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention. Perhaps most notably, Cheek served for seven years as a trustee of the North American Mission Board, holding the posts of first vice chairman and chairman of the evangelism committee.

His love for missions also led him to become a key participant in the state convention’s partnership with Nigeria, culminating in a two-week revival in the city of Mubi.

A graduate of Mississippi College in Clinton, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Luther Rice Seminary in Lithonia, Ga., Cheek served as a pastor of churches in Louisville and Carthage, Miss., before coming to Alabama. He served briefly as a mission pastor at Central Baptist Church, Northport, before going to West End.

To honor Cheek upon his retirement, Northridge named him pastor emeritus and held a luncheon for him and his wife, Mary.

“The church was so loving to us for all of those years,” she said.

“As we look back, we can clearly see how God opened and closed doors as He moved us and our precious congregation through His plan.”

Cheek now looks forward to new opportunities for service. He recently completed the state’s certificate program for interim ministry and hopes to assist churches during times of transition.

The Cheeks also intend to stay involved in volunteer missions work.

Whatever the future holds, they plan to remain active in the service of the Lord and His people, because as Cheek observed, “Ministers don’t retire — they just redirect.”

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