February 9, 2020
By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist
Joe Ward says when his wife told him she thought God would put him in a pastorate one day, he laughed.
“I was a worship leader and a youth minister, not a pastor,” he said. He grew up playing guitar with his dad, Ralph Ward. Music was where he felt comfortable.
But now as he steps into the pulpit every Sunday at Mount Carmel Baptist Church, Coffee Springs, it makes him smile.
The family influence is apparent in more ways than one. At one time his grandfather, J.H. Ward, served as Mount Carmel’s pastor. His dad, at 88 years old, leads worship. And Joe Ward can feel the seeds of that family faith sprouting up and coming to life.
“I’m grateful to the Lord for giving me the parents that I had,” Joe Ward said. “My mom was active teaching Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, and Dad has always been active in church. He didn’t just send us to church — he took us to church.”
Ralph Ward said his own father passed that down.
“We had a big family and we’d get out on the porch at night and sing old gospel songs,” he said. “I grew up in church and gave my life to Christ at 12 or 13. I’m still in that same church now.”
James Preachers, director of missions for Sardis Baptist Association and also a former pastor of Mount Carmel, said he’s always been impressed with the way Ralph Ward has influenced the people around him to be committed to ministry and missions.
“He and his wife have always been dynamic workers for the Lord,” he said. “He’s a family man and he’s inspiring to be around. He’s very involved in ministry work.”
And Mount Carmel, the church he’s always loved, is growing. Around 30 come for worship on Sunday mornings, and they’re focusing on children’s ministry and young families. Right now, the church has four people waiting for baptism. They’ve just got to get the heater in the baptistry up and running again.
“It’s all going well,” said Joe Ward, who became Mount Carmel’s pastor in October 2019. “We’re seeing a lot of good things happening here.” (Grace Thornton)