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Retired bivocational pastor ‘steadfast, determined’comment (0)

November 1, 2001

Like Paul and Timothy (1 Thess. 2:9), bivocational pastors work to prevent themselves from burdening any churches while they preach the gospel.

One such pastor is Olen Riles, who retired from Christian Grove Baptist Church in Barbour Association in May after serving as pastor there for 39 years. Riley and his wife, Sally, still live in the house they bought in Abbeville more than 30 years ago. The location was perfect for each of them to commute to their places of work. In addition to preaching, Riley taught special education for 22 years in Barbour and Henry counties. Sally worked at the Fort Gaines bank for 38 years.

Riley’s retirement marked a total of 52 years serving as pastor in Alabama. A native of Henry County, he went to Southeastern Bible College in Birmingham immediately after high school. While completing his bachelor of theology degree, Riley was a student pastor at the Christian Missionary Alliance Church in north Birmingham. Riley holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Troy State University and a master’s in religious education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Riley surrendered to preaching when he saw the need for ministry while serving in the Marine Corps during World War II. While serving as pastor at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, Pike County, Riley was asked to teach by the superintendent of Barbour County Schools. He taught for 22 years and served as one of Alabama’s 1,650 bivocational pastors until his retirement from teaching in 1990 due to health problems.

As a pastor, Riley most enjoyed the challenges when church members said, “It can’t be done.”

Pleasant Hill in Eufaula, and Belcher Bethel and Christian Grove Baptist in Abbeville had church members who said, “We cannot add another church building.” However, under Riley’s leadership, each church acquired new buildings.

Pleasant Hill built an educational building on the back of the existing sanctuary. Belcher Bethel was given a building that was moved to its site and refurbished. For $60, Christian Grove bought an old building that had been used as barracks for Fort Rucker.

Although Riley is retired from the pastorate, he leads weekly Bible studies at two assisted living facilities in Abbeville. His perseverance illustrates what R.C. Belcher, director of missions for Barbour Association, said about him.

“His greatest strength is his commitment to what he is doing and to the leadership of the Lord,” Belcher said. “He is steadfast and determined. The result is a roadmap of his achievement.”

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