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Loveless Park’s Sims passes baton after year and a half of mentorshipcomment (0)

January 5, 2006

By Grace Thornton

Frank Sims was a keeper. At least, that’s the way members of Loveless Park Baptist Church, Bessemer, felt. 
After two years of having Sims as interim pastor, the members of his Bessemer Baptist Association church decided they just couldn’t part with the beloved leader. They talked him out of retirement and into the senior pastor position in mid-2004.
But they hired Sims with an unusual stipulation — that he come as part of a package deal.
Sims, then 70, agreed to serve as pastor of Loveless Park Baptist in tandem with 30-year-old Joel Frederick, who would serve the church full time as pastor evangelist and prepare to be the church’s next senior pastor.
Frederick, a former youth pastor of the church, said he had felt his heart being tugged toward the open pastor’s position while serving as area director of First Priority of Alabama, a job that took him all over the state speaking to youth. But Frederick had misgivings about putting his resumé in the pile — he felt he didn’t have the pastoral experience yet to carry the load alone.
“I was sitting in church one Sunday listening to Bro. Frank, and I thought, ‘I can learn from him. He’d be good to work with,’” Frederick said. “I knew I would love to have him as a mentor.”
Unbeknowst to Frederick, the search committee was having the same vision. Soon his resumé was not only in the pile but at the top of it — all agreeing that it was contingent on his tag teaming the position with Sims until he felt ready to ease into the senior pastorate.
Two pastors. One pulpit.
It worked.
“It may not work in every church, but it sure has worked at Loveless Park. It was a team effort, and we bathed everything we did in prayer,” said Sims, who served as a Baptist pastor for 45 years before retiring in 1998. “Our people never knew who was going to be preaching that morning until one of us stood up, and it really didn’t make any difference to them either way.”
Over the past 18 months, the two have prayed together over the phone and in person. Sims has advised and Frederick has cast visions. Loveless Park — now averaging 325 on Sundays — has moved into a new, larger sanctuary; bought 62 acres of land; and continued a growth spurt of all ages that began under Sims’ leadership in 2002.
“It has been an interesting journey for all of us. Frank certainly has a gift of a pastor’s heart and the leadership skills that help inspire a church to regroup, stand strong and head toward the next stage in their church’s life and ministry,” said Sharon Holland, church secretary.
It’s amazing, she added, the way God led the search committee and the two pastors to think outside of the box on what God’s will might be for the growing church.
“It should help others consider the extraordinary rather than assume the traditional path is their only option,” Holland said.
The two took turns preaching until the sermon load became 50–50, then 75–25 and then 90–10. And Dec. 31, Sims turned the pulpit over completely.
“It was a natural progression, but I am going to miss having him here in the capacity he’s been in. I got a pastor out of the deal and everybody needs a pastor — even other pastors,” Frederick said.
Jamie Jones, church member and member of the pastor search committee, said the mix between the two was wonderful and added to Frederick’s sentiment, saying Sims saw him as his pastor, too.
“Bro. Frank was always good to call Joel ‘my pastor’ from the pulpit,” she said. “The two of them made a great pair, and the consistency of Bro. Frank getting to stay made it a smooth transition.”
Sims said Frederick has become like a son to him and that the two have the utmost respect for each other. “I wanted to be so close to him that there would be no shadow for him to have to walk in. We tried to keep that type relationship.”
He added that he has no doubt Frederick will lead the church as he knows and feels God’s will. Sims and his wife, Frances, plan to keep their membership at Loveless Park for now but are open to God’s leading to another interim position.
“I want to keep preaching and working with churches until the Lord stops it — until He calls me home,” Sims said.
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