Beaver Creek pastor finds joy in bivocational callingcomment (0)
January 24, 2013
By Gary Hardin
Thomas Anderson had no idea that his opportunity to supply preach for Beaver Creek Baptist Church, Thomasville, would eventually lead to his call to serve as pastor.
That was almost three years ago, and today God is using Anderson to bring about both numerical and spiritual growth in this small, rural Bethel Baptist Association church.
“It’s the best group of people I’ve ever been around,” Anderson, 27, said excitedly. “Anyone who attends the church for the first time is guaranteed to receive a warm welcome.”
The Sunday that Anderson first served as a supply preacher in 2010, less than 20 members were in attendance. In nearly three years, the church has seen attendance on some Sundays in the 30s or 40s.
Revival services, Homecoming Sundays, High Attendance Days, a Facebook page and lots of pastoral visitation have helped boost the church’s attendance.
The congregation meets on Sundays in the original building constructed 127 years ago. Bobby Hopper, Bethel Association’s director of missions, said Beaver Creek Baptist is “your typical, old, rural church in Alabama, and it’s located in an out-of-the-way community. But the church has good, solid and down-to-earth people.”
Anderson’s call to ministry came while serving in the U.S. Navy from 2004 to 2008.
“When I was stationed in Jacksonville, Fla., I attended First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, and volunteered in the church’s youth ministry. The preaching of Jerry Vines and Mac Brunson influenced me greatly,” he said.
Anderson’s next duty station was Norfolk, Va., where he attended First Baptist Church, Norfolk, and was involved in the church’s military ministry.
These two large-church experiences brought about spiritual renewal in Anderson’s walk with the Lord and later led to his call to preach.
“My call wasn’t all that surprising,” he said. “When I was a kid I was told many times I would probably be a preacher or a politician.”
Anderson, in his first pastorate, serves bivocationally at Beaver Creek, working 45 hours each week in an auto parts store. He does not live in the community near Beaver Creek, so he drives more than 90 miles round-trip on Sundays.
“I thought being a pastor was easy,” Anderson said. “I got a rude awakening. It’s hard work. Anyone can preach a sermon, but it takes a special quality to be an effective pastor, and that is love for your people.”
As Anderson has shown love for the people of Beaver Creek, the mostly older congregation has reciprocated.
“I did not know how much a church could love you back,” Anderson admitted.
Pete Bedsole, a member of Beaver Creek for 55 years and current deacon chairman, appreciates Anderson’s ministry.
“He’s a quality young man,” Bedsole said. “He gives his best. When he preaches, even a child can understand him.”
Elizabeth Etheridge, a 67-year member, regards Anderson as a “home boy” and has known his family for years.
“We’re excited to have him as our pastor,” she said. “He is very dedicated.”
Anderson expressed his dedication to God this way: “I made a promise to keep the Lord first. I live by Psalm 23:4. Sometimes I find myself in a dark valley, but God is with me. So I stay upbeat and maintain my faith in God. People don’t want to follow a complainer and whiner.”
Anderson has guided the church in making some improvements to its physical facilities.
He spoke with pride about the church’s new stained glass windows representing the stages of Christ’s life.
“For a small, country church, things are going well here,” he said.